I’m not making this up
“As I understand it, the ’41 Chevy was one of the most popular used-cars of all time. Others were the ’57 and the ’64.
Our family had a ’41 Chevy; we had it in the early ‘50s.
A ’41 Chevy in the early ‘50s is a bit of a stretch, but it was a very nice car, at least in appearance.
We bought it from a family in our church, who thought the world of it, and babied it.
It had a visor and spotlight, owner-installed add-ons.
It wasn’t a typical four-door sedan of six side-windows, a small window behind the rear door.
It was four doors, but only four side-windows; I think a ‘custom.’ I think all GM brands had ‘customs.’
Transferring a babied car to my father was like consigning it to the pits of Hell.
My father never maintained any of his automobiles. —Unless they didn’t start or run.
Death to my father’s cars was -a) if they blew up, or -b) if they failed inspection.
Some of my father’s cars were junked, but I think the ’41 made it to a hot-rodder.
The ’41 looked nice, but I don’t think its previous owner did maintenance. Oil maybe, but it overheated on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Pittsburgh.
My father, ignorant of car-maintenance, removed the thermostat — a bad move — and replaced the gasket with a cut-out from a Ritz cracker-box.
The radiator was probably later boiled out, the thermostat reinstalled with a proper gasket, and we continued without incident all the way to Arkansas — from south Jersey.
My sister always says ‘Name one car that didn’t break down on the first day of a vacation-trip.’
Well, there was one, our ’53 Chevy, otherwise known as ‘the Blue-Bomb’ (it was navy-blue), that went all the way to St. Paul and back without breakdown in 1960.
My father parked it illegally in a church parking-lot, declaring ‘The Lord will watch over it,’ while we took the train up into Canada for over a week.
I’m not making this up, dear readers. My father was a Bible-beating zealot.
The ’53 Chevy was the car I learned to drive in.
Our tires were always cast-off baldies picked up at a junkyard. He repaired exhaust-systems with Campbell soup-cans from our trash.
When I pointed out bald tires and tire-cord before a long journey from Rochester home to northern Delaware, I was angrily told the Lord would protect them.
They made it; which of course proved my father right, and that I was rebellious and ‘of-the-Devil.’
My mother was always incensed with my father’s cars, but he refused to buy dependable transportation or maintain what he had. It cost too much!”
I could go on-and-on. My younger brothers related various stories of misadventures with my father’s cars.
-A) They had driven up into Quebec with a camping-trailer, but came upon a road-block to their campground. A garbage-truck had flipped into a nearby lake. Their road was blocked trying to tow out the garbage-truck.
My father decided to drive around. He went off the side of the road, and blew two of the baldies.
Well, one spare, chillen. So the spare in their car got put on, along with a spare borrowed from another car. The bolt-pattern wasn’t right, but it was close enough.
They then continued to the campground, and my father had to go into town and buy two new tires. —I bet them tires cranked at least 60,000 miles.
My father was then able to return the borrowed spare.
My father also helped get the garbage-truck out of the lake (he was a good rigger), and was thereby declared a hero.
-B) My mother was taking my younger siblings up toward Philadelphia, and in so doing crossed the mighty Penrose Ave. Bridge across the Schuylkill (“skookul”) River south of Philadelphia. By then the area south of the Schuylkill was part of Philadelphia, and the Penrose Ave. Bridge was high enough to clear ocean-going ships.
The bridge was four lanes, but was being painted; such that one northbound lane was closed.
Traffic was crawling, and my mother had the air-conditioning on in a car my siblings called “The Tank.” The car was a 1964 Oldsmobile Dynamic-88, 394-cubic-inch two-barrel, but the AC wasn’t factory — it was an add-on.
As such, the AC radiator was installed in front of the car-radiator, compromising its effectiveness.
The car overheated, and blew its coolant all over the highway.
My mother then instructed my two younger brothers to walk across the bridge, and then back down to a gas-station on the far side of the bridge — to get water. In deepest, darkest Philadelphia at ages 8 and 9.
Meanwhile, the bridge-painters emptied a large drinking-jug into the car’s radiator, so my mother could get going again.
The boys made it to the gas-station, got water, and started back up the bridge.
My mother then drove to the gas-station, but apparently missed her boys.
My brothers, being Hugheses, attempted to spit on tug-boats far below going underneath the bridge.
A policeman stopped, queried my brothers, and corralled them into his cruiser — a Jeep Cherokee.
The policeman then proceeded to part traffic up and over the bridge, and then back, trying to find my mother.
My brothers were reunited with my mother in the gas-station.
To repeat, chillen, I’m not making this stuff up!
-C) At age-17 (1974) my younger brother (from Boston) was working at the same boys summer-camp in northeastern MD I worked at as a teenager 1959-’61.
He had a family-car known as “The CremePuff,” a white 1968 Oldsmobile Delmont-88 four-door hardtop.
For his day-off he decided to take some of his friends to Wildwood on the south-Jersey seashore. They went in that car.
In Wildwood the car’s timing-chain apparently jumped a couple teeth throwing off the valve and ignition timing.
That timing-chain was under a cover on the front of the engine, so was more-or-less inaccessible.
My brother, being mechanically-minded, installed a new condenser, and new points in the ignition-distributor. But the car still wouldn’t start.
My father was at home in northern DE, and my brother and his friends needed to get back to that boys-camp in northeastern MD.
My brother’s first phonecall to my father was to report he was gonna install the new ignition parts.
His second call was to report the car still wouldn’t start.
So my father said my brother and his friends should hitchhike back to the boys-camp.
By then it was dark, after 9 p.m. They were looking at a hitchhike of about 90 miles, through the pine-barrens of south Jersey, down the New Jersey Turnpike (where hitchhiking was illegal), up across the Delaware River on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, a huge suspension-bridge, then across northern DE on Interstate-95 (where hitchhiking was also illegal).
Granted, hitchhiking back then wasn’t the definite no-no it is now.
But it was after dark, and who knows what drunken ne’er-do-wells packing heat might pick them up.
My father lived the “life-is-tough” philosophy, and of course the Lord would protect.
Nowadays a helicopter-parent would drive to Wildwood to rescue their child.
In fact, who says ya hafta be a helicopter-parent? Perhaps my father could have rescued my brother.
My brother and his friends made it. They hitchhiked all the way back to that boys-camp. They got back about midnight.
-D) This final entry involves me, although by then I was out on my own, married and living in Rochester, NY. —I’m the oldest.
My parents and younger siblings decided to visit me, and would drive the so-called “Gutless Cutlass,” a 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a four-barrel 326 with dual exhausts — so it wasn’t gutless.
Notice all the cars mentioned later were Oldsmobiles. This was a step up for my father, but the car-dealer was Chevrolet-Oldsmobile.
They’d call him saying they had just got a trade he might be interested in. Quite a few were Chevrolets, not just Oldsmobiles.
I would take them on a day-long journey through scenic western New York, down into the nearby Finger-Lakes region.
Things went fine until the radiator sprung a leak, and the engine seized coming back to my house.
The engine cooled enough to unseize, but the radiator was still leaking.
The car got us home, but the leak had to be stopped to get back to DE. At which point my father suggested world-famous “Schmutzee.”
“Schmutzee” is apparently epoxy paste that hardens into a solid.
“Schmutzee” could plug the leak.
My father worked at an oil-refinery in northern DE where my second brother now works. He has to explain all the refinery repairs that were made by my father with “Schmutzee.”
So my father purchased a tube of “Schmutzee,” and thereby plugged the radiator-leak.
I’m sure the auto-parts clerk wondered was “Schmutzee” was, and was uneasy parrying religious fervor, if any.
And on the seventh day, not resting, the Lord invented “Schmutzee;” and I finally found a way to get that word into a blog.
• “Hughes” is my last name; them too. “Bob Hughes” = “BobbaLew.”
• A “helicopter-parent” is one who totally shepherds their child, getting involved in everything, supposedly to protect the child’s welfare.
• The Finger Lakes are a series of north-south lakes in Central New York that look like the imprint of a large hand. They were formed by the receding glacier. The area is very scenic, hilly, and heavily wooded.
• On the eighth day the Lord invented duct-tape.