More Capable of Picking Up Fast Women

Finally, I got to see some really old cars, some of them older than me. What really surprised me Saturday were two Buick’s one year apart which were identical models. Both were immaculately restored to perfection. Sadly, the show was so well attended that getting great pictures was nearly impossible, but I tried nonetheless.

The seventy-five year old Buick convertible with twin side mount spare tires has a rumble seat and straight eight engine producing 140 HP. Owner Gordy bragged about how his car would get to 110 mph in eleven seconds. That is impressive for a heavy pile of metal. Gordy’s Century is the same age as me, but in better physical condition, and more capable of picking up fast women.

1938 Buick Century Convertible Coupe, one of 500 produced.

1938 Buick Century Convertible Coupe, one of 500 produced.

 

1939 Buick Century Convertible Coupe

1939 Buick Century Convertible Coupe

Oh yes, there were a few other cars at the show too. The cutest was the Pepto Bismol pink Studebaker with it companion pink golf cart.

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The Best Looking Golf Cart I’ve Seen

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The car that really got my juices flowing is a highly modified 1937 Ford convertible coupé done in gold. This car looks better than most 2014 models of today. I would take it in a second.

I am in love with this one

I am in love with this one

 

The rest of the show worth looking at.

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Another Job I Cannot Do

It has been a week since I posted an original piece and I can’t say that I care too much. I seem to be passing through a period of laziness, and writer’s block. I had fun in the past bashing Obama at every chance, but my effort to get rid of him as president failed.  Now that I am stuck with him I have sunk into despair. I don’t care what he does, nor do I want to know. I can’t do anything about it except to vote for someone different when that time comes. So, my desire to write has waned.

Writing is a hard job, and I don’t like to work hard anymore. My writing skills were never very good, and it showed throughout my education. There were so many obstacles along the way, like grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, modifiers, subjects, and logical thought. There were a few instances along the way when I wrote something good and a teacher recognized me for it. Like the piece I wrote in college for Professor Will McCarthy titled the “Green Beauty.” That story related a date when I took my Irish girlfriend to her Senior prom at the Del Prado Hotel in Chicago.  The Green Beauty referred to the car I used, my dad’s 1939 four door, dark green Buick Special. The name Green Beauty came to me from a radio show I listened to called “The Green Hornet.” The Green Hornet called his car the Black Beauty. My final grade for this course was “C”.

Dad’s Buick was already sixteen years old when I used it for this date. The door hinges were worn and when a door opened it dropped a couple of inches. If one was not aware of this phenomenon when opening the door it came as a surprise. I wrote about the reaction the Del Prado doorman had when he rushed up to open the door for my date. The look on his face is something that I still chuckle about when I think about it. In fact I’m chuckling as I write this. Professor McCarthy gave me an “A’ for that story. He even read it out loud to the class as an example of good writing.

The next year another prof named Holub gave us an assignment to find a picture of a piece of equipment and to write a short paragraph describing what it was. I don’t remember what piece of equipment I selected but I described it accurately. Again, Professor Holub read the piece in class as an example of good writing. My final grade for this course was “C”.

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It came time to transfer from Saint Joseph’s College to the University of Illinois and they required transferees to take a test to decide if someone doing into the school had proper English writing skill to be worthy of the University of Illinois.  I sweat that one because the idea of taking remedial english courses gave me the willies. The day of reckoning came and I showed up at the auditorium on the south end of the quad for the test. They told us to take a seat, but to leave a space between. We were handed a little blue examination tablet with lined paper, and a list of topics. The test was to write an essay on one of the twenty topics listed. Thankfully, I remember Professor Holub’s advice to turn any topic into what it is you want to write about. I don’t remember anymore which subject line I spotted, but it triggered me to write about the morality of abortion. The words flowed, and I filled the blue tablet with what I believed to be logical and moral arguments against abortion. In today’s world I would have been thrown out of the auditorium for picking such a topic.

Several days went by before I got the news that my essay was good enough to keep me from having to take remedial english, what a relief.

Since those few times when I got lucky with my writing the need to write seriously never occurred. There were many times when I had to write reports for experiments,  but I don’t count that as serious writing. For one thing report writing almost always uses passive voice because it refers to something that was done. In writing today, when I run the grammar check, it nearly always bongs me for using past tense. It seems that using phrases like “was done” are verboten because the reader finds them hard to decipher.

One of the things I realized this week as I struggled with my writer’s block, is that I would never have been able to make a living as a writer. The idea of having to produce essay’s of value on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis scares me to death. I guess it boils down to when it is fun, the words flow, but when it is required your brain goes into lockdown.

Note:  Grammar check found seven instances of passive voice within this essay. I did not rewrite those sentences. My lab report skill is still at work today.

CARS I HAVE KNOWN

The automobile is still a big part of my life.  My dad raised us with a car in the family just as I raised children with cars, and now my grandchildren are growing up cars.  Even though I used streetcars and buses to go everywhere, we always had a car in the family.

The earliest car I can remember was Dad’s 1929 Buick Century.  He also had an earlier Chrysler, and a Huppmobile before that.  He might have had others, too, but it is too late to ask him.

The 1929 Buick served him well for many years. I remember standing on the front seat as a toddler. I could barely see over the seat back. I was a teenager when he got rid of it.  He eventually sold the Buick to the welder who lived at the end of Avalon.  It seemed strange to watch the Buick drive past with someone else driving. Two years later, the welder cut it up for junk metal.

Dad’s  replacement was a 1937 Dodge.  He bought that car used too.  In fact, he didn’t buy a new car until 1959.  The Dodge only lasted a year when Dad sold it to buy a 1939 Buick Century.  I called it the Green Hornet after my favorite radio program.  This is the car I got my driver’s license in.  I was driving it by eighth grade.  The Buick lasted until my junior year in high school.  Two years after Dad bought it the Buick started making some horrible knocking noises. The rear universal joint needed new bearings.  Rather than spend money to fix the car, Dad traded it in on a two-year old 1954 Plymouth.  The Plymouth was beautiful. It had two toned paint with a white top and turquoise blue bottom, and lots of chrome.  The leatherette and cloth seat colors matched the exterior colors.  I moved back and forth to college with the Plymouth.

Finally, in 1959, dad bought a new Ford Fairlane. The Fairlane was also blue and white, with giant round tail lights; the front fenders hung over the top of the headlights. It had an automatic transmission and a radio that worked.  I was at the University of Illinois by this time and used it during the summers to go to work.  Dad walked to the Illinois Central yard on 95th and Cottage Grove so I could drive to International Harvester on 26th and Western.  Even though Dad hated the Ford because of it’s poor reliability, he kept it until another car hit him broadside while driving in a funeral cortege..  In l969 he traded it in for another Ford.

The ‘69 Ford lasted through most of his retirement.  He and Mom used it a lot to go back and forth to the farm in Michigan.  Dad’s final car was a 1983 Chevy Celebrity.  He began to slow down with this car, and eventually gave up driving when he reached his late eighties.  He sold the Celebrity to one of the grandchildren.

In a later episode I’ll tell about my first car, and every other car I have owned after that.  Each one played a role in my life as a transportation appliance.

The Thief Got Away With the Crime

Photo from myoldpostcards' photostream


During one of my jobs in high school I served as a soda jerk at the Woodlawn Café.  The owner, Joe Fejes let me work evenings.  My job was to make shakes, malts, sundaes, ice cream sodas, pour coffee, and serve pie. Near closing time, I cleaned the fountain and took out the trash.

On this particular night I drove Dad’s green Buick to work. This Buick was the newest car he ever owned even though it was ten years old when he bought it. The nineteen thirty-nine Buick became his favorite.

Woodlawn Cafe sat on the corner of Ninety-fifth Street and Woodlawn Avenue, less than a mile from home. On this dark, cool October night I got permission to drive to work. I wasn’t old enough for a license, but I was driving around the neighborhood on special occasions.  I parked the Buick on Woodlawn next to the restaurant, right in front of the back door.

The Buick had a defect which we tolerated.  The ignition did not work with the key.  All we had to do was turn the knob on the key port, and the starter jumped to life. We continued to stick the key into the switch as a security measure and as a place to keep it while driving.

That evening, business was normal.  It was never super busy at night, but a steady stream of customers came in for coffee and pie, or an ice cream soda.  I also filled some orders for banana splits and sundaes.

At eight p.m. it was time to take the garbage out to the alley.  I opened the door fully expecting to see the Buick standing there, but  it was gone!  My heart jumped into my throat.  Where was it?  I ran to the alley and to the parking lot around the other side of the building, but there was no car.

I rushed into the building and told Mrs. Fejes what happened.  She told me to call the police to report it stolen.  I ran home to make the call.  How would I tell Mom and Dad that someone stole the car?

I fumbled through the phone book to find the number for the Burnside Police Department and dialed. It seemed like forever before I got an answer.  The officer asked me a lot of questions about the car to get a description.  One thing they asked which I couldn’t answer was the license plate number.  I had to get Dad to find the number in his papers.  The police said they would keep their eyes open for it, but until I called them back with the number they couldn’t do much.

At nine o’clock, Mrs. Fejes called us from the restaurant. She saw a car like ours parked by the back door of the restaurant.  I ran all the way back there to check, and sure enough the Buick stood  right where I had originally left it.  I drove it home and parked it in the garage. Early the next morning, before I left for school, two detectives came to the front door. They were following up on the stolen car report.  I told them the story, and showed them the car in the garage before they closed out their report.

I never did find out who took it or why. The only story that makes sense to me is that someone who knew the about the quirky ignition switch took the car for a joy ride and quietly brought it back. They may have enjoyed the ride, but I sure as hell didn’t have any joy that night.

Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

This post is excerpted from “Jun-e-or” a book of my “Recollections of Life in the 1940’s and 50’s,” available from Amazon.com

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There is something about winter that sets me into recalling times from the past. In early 2010 I posted several stories about my Grampa Jim.  This year, I will do the same. Here is the first of a series.

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Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

Every summer, Dad packed us up and took us to the farm in Michigan to live with Mom’s dad Grampa. That twenty-acre spread like seemed a vast wilderness at the time. Gramps’s house was set back from the road and trees lined each side of the drive giving the feel of going through a tunnel. Three tall cedar trees stood in a row with two pear trees next to the ditch. They hid the house from the road.

The front door faced the road, and served to let a breeze flow through the house. Gramps never did finish building the front steps. The main entrance was from the side door facing the yard at the end of the drive. A huge willow tree, opposite the living room window, filled the side yard with shade. The weeping boughs nearly touched the ground, and my arms reached less than half way around its trunk. A few feet away stood a very mature mulberry tree that appeared tiny next to the willow

In early summer, the birds came to eat mulberries.  I climbed the low branches and sat in the tree with them. Mom knew what I was doing because my lips and hands were purple. The low branches were easy to climb, not like the tall willow whose first branch was many feet above my head. Dad used a ladder to climb up to that branch to make us a swing from a recycled tire from his 1929 Buick

The outhouse stood across the yard from the mulberry. Grampa Jim didn’t have running water, nor a bathtub or toilet. The outhouse was the third point on a trapezoidal yard formed by the side door, and the two trees.

Grampa Jim had a unique set of lawn furniture sliced from the trunk of a huge tree.  The Table was twenty-four inches in diameter, and just as tall.  The chairs were slightly smaller in diameter and were cut to form a seat with a backrest. The set was old, and gray with no signs of bark on the wood.

I spent endless hours playing on, and around that furniture. Sometimes, I sat on a chair and watched the big black ants run crazy patterns all over the table. Often, I tried counting the rings, but got lost in the weathered and worn grooves of the cut surface.

On the very hot listless days of summer, Grampa Jim, and his buddy Mr. Toth sat on the tree furniture in the shade drinking a beer. They chatted and smoked; Grampa dragged a hand rolled cigarette of Bull Durham while his friend puffed a corncob pipe filled with Prince Albert. Often, I sat with them and listened. They spoke in Hungarian, and I did not recognize many of their words, but I understood the gist of their thoughts.

I wondered then, and I still do now, if the table and chairs all came from one tree.  If they did, the tree had to be magnificent. I asked myself, how tall was that tree? How old was it? Why was it cut down? Did it fall down, or did it die of natural causes? All I know is that I loved sitting and playing on that furniture.

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