Boyhood Memories

| May/June 1976

  • A cart load of manure

  • A cart load of manure

290 Appletree Drive, Media, Pa. 19063

The earliest recollection that I have of an automobile is that of playing in my Dad's 1925 Ford touring as it was parked under the big oak tree in the back yard down in Virginia. Dad was a farmer, and cared nothing for cars except to get around in, thus the state of the car was usually deplorable. I was about four years old and this perhaps launched me on a life long love of cars. At any rate, that Model T was finally replaced in 1929 by a Chevrolet Sedan, the new six cylinder model, and my mother learned to drive that, as she had never quite felt up to the rattle-trip 'T'. Dad promptly took to the fields and rutted roads of back woods Virginia with the new Chevrolet much to Mother's dismay and so the Chevrolet began to deteriorate also. He let the water get low on a trip to South Carolina which warped the head, necessitating a double gasket.

Along about 1933 came one of those unforseen and unsolicited blessings which occasionally befall us. It took the form of a 1926 Model T Roadster which had been neatly converted to a cute pick-up truck. It was an outright gift to Dad from a contractor friend who had graduated to a Model A, and it was in good running order, but needed a new battery and a couple of rear tires. But Dad, in the urgency of farm work, merely put it in the barn; and only at Mother's insistence because of the rapidly deteriorating Chevrolet, did he finally agree to fixing it to use for his running around. Sears duly furnished tires and battery by mail and this began my closest and longest Model T affection.

I was now about ten years old and already was getting greasy tinkering with the tractor and the three old horizontal farm engines used to drive a wood saw, water pump, and corn sheller. (But that's another story.) Naturally I took the 'T' pick-up on as my personal maintenance responsibility even though I could not yet drive it. I really loved it and kept it in peak of tune (or so I thought) mainly cleaning spark plugs, adjusting vibrators and seeing the oil and water were adequate, which Dad never gave a thought until the bearings rattled. I spent many happy hours with him in this truck every where on the farm and many times riding on the fender with a full load of crated strawberries and a crate on the seat beside him on the way to the strawberry auction in town.

Dad was rough on cars and the brake band went quickly, then the reverse began to be the brake, so relining the transmission bands was a too frequent job, as the rivets scored the drums before he got around to having them relined and then lining life was even shorter. I remember one occasion when Dad was having linings put in at the local garage. I was as usual getting a finger in it too. A big easy going Negro named Percy had put the bands in and gotten the nuts started against the springs. He now applied a special Ford rachet wrench made for tightening band nuts. The wrench was reversed by just turning it over. As Percy was tightening away, I came up and peered in a minute then shouted in boyish know-it-all; 'Hey Percy, you have the wrench on backwards and it is loosening the nut and it will fly off and fall in the case.' Percy glanced down, apparently agreed, and turned the wrench over. He pumped away at it a minute, then 'bang' the nut flew off and fell in the case, where it was unretrievable except by taking the whole sump casing off. I was the laughing stock and felt the size of a dime. In the urgency of Dad's need, he agreed to risk it and took the truck home. But after a couple of day's use the flywheel magnets had grabbed the nut and the transmission was a tangle of copper wire torn off the field coils. Another engine was picked up and put in.

The band wear problem, however, was finally licked by my persuading Dad to let me try an idea another old Negro mechanic told me about. He said that when the woven linings won't last on scored drums, just soak a white oak barrel hoop in water a couple of days until it can be curved inside the band, riveted and trimmed. This I did for low gear and brake. They took a while to seat in, but never did wear out again.


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