The Ford Garden
by John Mooy
Friends of mine have a son who just received his driver’s permit. Now he is able to drive if he has an adult in the car with him. I so recall those first days of being behind the wheel and putting into play everything we learned in driver’s training from Miss Cobb.
I had the misfortune of having a dad whose occupation just happened to be that of a rural mail carrier. I must clarify that in fact it was a great fortune that was his job. I loved it. At any rate, the country roads and weather were so hard on a car that at the end of each year the car was so beat up Dad would trade it in for a new one.
When I turned sixteen it made a difference what kind of car we had in the event I could climb behind the wheel on a Saturday night and venture out to faraway places like Dowagiac, Three Rivers and on rare occasion, Kalamazoo. If I knew I was going to be able to use the car, I would spend the day cleaning it, washing and drying the outside and vacuuming and shining the inside.
Dad never saw the value of having white sidewall tires or a radio in the car, so I was never on the “A” list as far as having a cool car. I did my best to convince Dad how nice the car would look with white sidewalls and the comfort he would enjoy while driving down country roads and listening to the radio. His response to my plea was always the same. Let me know when sidewalls and a radio give you better gas mileage and I’ll have them both.
So, in 1960 we had a blue Ford Fairlane. Another thing that detracted from the coolness of this car was the fact that it was a four door. Remember the old saying, “beggars can’t be choosers.” So, I thought at least I have a car to use.
Two things remain in my mind about that Ford.
On a warm Saturday afternoon, my classmate and pal Ricky Copenhaver and myself decided we would go to Gravel Lake and just drive around and see what we would see. I know you’re probably thinking we were looking for young ladies. And you would be right. On our way to the lake we went down a gravel road and came to a sign that indicated the road was closed.
They were doing construction work and water had been involved. The road was extremely muddy. Being of high school age, we convinced ourselves the sign was meant to deter other folks, not us. So, I pulled out around the sign, and we had clearly gone all of fifty yards and we were stuck in the mud. And as soon as the car ceased to move, we recognized we had made a bad decision. We didn’t panic. Ricky (also known as Rex) told me he knew the guy who ran the farm which we could see from the car. Ricky climbed out through the window as we were stuck so deep we couldn’t open the doors. I waited in the car and in no time spotted Ricky atop the tractor he had borrowed from the farmer. In no time we had attached the chain to the car and pulled it out of the mud. Fortunately, Marcellus had what I believe was the first car wash in town located down next to the old Northrop gas station. In no time the car was spotless and we were the proud owners of a great story. (CAUTION for you young drivers, signs are put up for a reason, OBEY THEM )
This second short vignette is one of my favorites. I told you what a toll the roads took on Dad’s car and they were always filled with dirt and dust. It must have been in 1960 because he had the Fairlane. It was rather dry and there was an extreme amount of dust and dirt that built up in the back bumper. One day he stopped on the route to talk with Fred Knapp who was just a great guy. While he and Dad were talking, Fred noticed the dirt lodged in the back bumper and reached into the pocket of his bib overalls and pulled out some wheat seeds. He then scattered those seeds up and down the bumper. The conversation finished and Dad left.
A few days later, Dad was in Chet’s Citi Service gas station and Chet noticed these small sprouts popping through the dirt in the back bumper. So, Chet did what any good gas station attendant would do and watered the sprouts.
This continued throughout the growing season and the wheat grew taller. At one point the wheat was so high it had to be trimmed. This may have been the first ever CHIA mobile.
At any rate it made for another good story.
And Marcellus loves a good story.
Have a great week, Marcellus
you’re the best
From beginning to middle to end.