Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Backyard Mechanic




I saw the motto and knew instantly what was being advertised-- brand name and all.

http://blog.modernmechanix.com/mags/PopularMechanics/2-1941/tough.jpgHow long has it been since you saw an ad for piston rings?  Everyone, well, nearly everyone, owns some but no on gives them a second thought.  That is unless he is a combustion engine mechanic by profession.
Back in the. . .  Well, you know, when I was a lad it was not uncommon for the family vehicle to develop a bad habit of belching smoke due to worn piston rings, among possibly other causes.  It was also not uncommon for Pops, or Daddy by whatever moniker he was known in the household to purchase a set of piston rings and a few other things, pull the car under the shade of the elm, and proceed to correct the problem.

This just isn't done anymore.  Isn't necessary, and scarce is the man who has the know-how to accomplish the task.  We resolve our automotive issues in different ways these days.  But here is a brief story, true story, a memory from my kidhood, circa 1945.  Faithful reader Vee will verify or correct the date.

Little sister having been stricken ill was hospitalized and the appendix was removed.  Daddy had a real concern regarding payment of the accompanying medical bills.  I think I remember numbers, but in the interest of correctness in reporting I shall tell the story without naming dollar amounts.

Dad had access to a small amount of cash but not enough to meet the obligation.  A new neighbor recently moved into town had a 1934 Ford sedan he wished to sell.  But the little V-8 engine was afflicted with the problem cited above, along with other foibles.  Father bought the car, pulled it into a garage on the back alley, and disassembled the engine, laying the parts carefully on the workbench.  We were cautioned, nay warned, that to touch, move, knock over, or in any other manner disturb this arrangement was to put our very lives in peril.  Kidding.  Dad did not threaten our lives, but he made it clear that we might wish we were dead if we messed up his work.

He bought piston rings, some bearings, and whatever else he found he needed, cleaned the old engine, rebuilt it and reassembled it.  He sold the car for enough money to recover his investment and pay off the medical bills.

Hastings had nothing on my father who was also "tough but gentle."

10 comments:

Grace said...

My father was a truck driver, always owned a car, but I'd be willing to bet he couldn't even change a tire much less re-build an engine! On the other hand he was an excellent cook.

Lin said...

Wow. That is impressive that he could do that. You can't really work on cars anymore--everything is electronic and computerized. I guess everything is sort of that way now....you either toss the offending appliance or pay dearly to have someone come out to fix it.

vanilla said...

Grace, my father had skills, most of which he learned of necessity. Personally, I can neither rebuild an engine nor cook.

Lin, I never could rebuild an engine but back in the day I could change points and spark plugs, minor tuneup stuff. Today, as you say, it is call the computer guru.

Secondary Roads said...

A very resourceful fellow was your father. The most complicated thing I've done on a car was replace a bearing in the alternator.

vanilla said...

Chuck, Dad was resourceful. He always did what had to be done, not only for himself and family, but for others as well.

Secondary Roads said...

FWIW, it's about a 30 min drive to Hastings Mfg. Our assistant pastor just left that company to work for another--a plastics mfg company.

Sharkbytes said...

I'm not an engine monkey... but I always respect those who can take 'em apart and put 'em back together.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, I have to sort of be in awe of them, for I always seems to have at least one piece left over.

Vee said...

You are correct on the date. I did not know that was why Daddy was working on a car belonging to "someone else" but do remember how much overhearing conversations about not having money to pay the surgeon and the hospital made me feel - like maybe they should not have done the surgery.

If I recall correctly, the surgeon's fee was $100. (Dad often told about the surgeon who did his appendectomy without charge - because Dad was a minister - but the surgeon's assistant charged $100 for my surgery.) I have no idea about the hospital charges, however, I think just the surgeon's fee was roughly equivalent to one month's salary for Dad.

The folks always managed to take care of us. I did not always know how.

vanilla said...

Vee, the parents would have given the last drop of their life's blood for any of their kids, so a bit of labor in the backyard was a small enough price to pay for your survival. Look at you! All these years later and the world better for it.