Wednesday, August 24, 2016

True Tales Of The Old Model T Jalopy

I came across this photo the other day and it really made me smile, for it reminded me of a story told to me in my teens by my step-dad, Richard Thomas. Now this photo is not of him nor his chums, in fact it came from a photo album once owned by grandpa Dick Scearce's younger sister, Caroline. The car in the photo is what reminded me of the story and since all efforts to identify the fellows in the picture have proved futile I shall use it as a prop for my own tale here today.

When I was about fourteen my step-dad took me out and taught me how to drive. He had a 1970 Ford F-10 pickup which was a 3 speed on the column. I can't say I hated that thing, but learning to drive a manual transmission was not at all easy. Oh the clutching and grinding of gears and false starts, to say nothing of backing into a barbed wire fence, due to sloping ground and letting out the clutch too soon. I think Dad in telling me this story about his early driving days was trying to make me feel better.

When Richard was in high school, he got his very first car, it was an old Model T Ford, which he referred to as his, "Old Jalopy." One sunny afternoon he and his chums, as well as his younger sister Donna and her best friend, Yvonne, (my future mother), all decided to take it out for a spin. It was a canvas top, so they put it down to better enjoy the summer breezes, and since it was dads car, he was driving. 

Now the roads around Snoqualmie Valley, Washington, where they grew up, were much like Hood River Valley in those days, and were mostly dirt and gravel, which made for a lot of dust and careful driving. They drove up over hill and dale at a merry clip, having a good time, when suddenly on a slight curve they started to spin out of control. One minute they were enjoying the ride, and the next they were headed for the ditch. Dad was new to driving so he gave the wheel a fast yank trying to correct  their direction, but instead, the car slewed around in a circle, and they went sliding down the road backwards. Just when they thought they were going to die, of a sudden their careening path was stopped and they were slung up into the air. The car had backed up a guy wire that was anchoring a power pole in place, on the side of the road. 

The car came to an abrupt halt, but was now hooked up on the wire and hung there wobbling in space and wouldn't come back down. Gripping what they could for dear life they hung on with all of their might, so as not to be flung out. At first they didn't know what had happened, but it didn't take long for them to figure it out. They were stuck up that pole wire, with the nose of the car in the dirt, and them desperately trying not to fall out on their heads. This was long days before the required use of seat belts, so it was some fun trying to stay put. Of course Yvonne and Donna were shrieking in terror, but Dad just climbed down and took a look underneath the car, to see what the trouble was and remained calm as a cucumber. 

He said there was nothing to be done, so he left his chums to take care of the girls, and hiked back to town to get a tow truck to come lift the car down off the wire. When they finally got it down, he made them all get back in it, and then drove off like nothing had happened. It made my mom fuming mad, she insisted he take her right home, and she wouldn't ride with him again for a very long time.
Here are these unknown fellows sitting in their, (I believe), 1923 Model T Ford. The picture was most likely taken in or around Hood River, Oregon. I think they were unlucky in their choice of rides, for you can see they are riding on a bare rim and the one fellow is holding the flat. Of course the blowout may have been due to a nail or do you think possibly a bit of overloading?! No wait, there is still room for people on the running boards. ha ha ha

Which reminds me, we used to play, "How many kids can you stuff in a Corvair?" Our top number was thirteen. The Corvair,  a bright red sports cars of diminutive size, was also owned by my step-father, just about the time he married my mother. He sold it afterwards, because she drove it like a maniac, and he thought she might kill us all. But that is a hair raising tale for another day.

UPDATE: The truncated part of my story. When speaking with my sis yesterday I realized I had left out a portion of my story. Since I was focusing on Dad's jalopy story I forgot to tell completely what had prompted it, and my sis said that in all fairness I should not have left it out, so here goes.

When Dad was teaching me how to drive that obnoxious stick driven pick-up truck, he asked me to do a maneuver I had never done before. We were driving on an old dirt road on the farm, that led from the big barn, back to the main road. Now this road was mostly straight, but it followed the fenced pastures, so at one point it turn a 45 degree corner. At this corner their was a fence opening with cedar fence posts and barbed wire fence, through which you could pass and go straight on to the irrigation pond. Just as I turned this corner, Dad asked me to stop and back up into the road leading to the pond.Then drive back the way we had come.

Remember this was my first time driving and I knew nothing about backing up at all, and that stupid truck had a very sensitive clutch. I put the truck into reverse, put my foot on the gas, and let out the clutch. Before I knew what happened, I had zoomed backwards and instead of turning enough to get between the posts onto the other road, I ran slam into one of the cedar fence posts at the edge of the gate opening, denting the back bumper and entangling it in barbed wire. Needless to say we came to a very abrupt halt.

I was pretty shook up, but Dad just calmly hopped out and went to assess the damage, got some wire cutters out of the tool box, cut loose the barbed wire, said he would hammer out the bumper, got back in the truck and away we went.

And that my dear friends is how it came about, that Dad told me his own, new driver accident story. I shall not go into detail about Mom hearing him telling me and reenacting the shrieking part, she and Donna did on that ride. I will just say here, listening to the two different ways they told that story was a real riot. He was so calm and she was so very effusive. ha ha ha

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