A few days ago, I was rummaging about in the cellar, looking for something, and I came across my X-C skis. They are the old wooden kind that you had to wax every time you used them depending on the weather and conditions. I also found my bamboo ski poles that I had used occasionally, when the ice replaced the snow in the yard. Then, there were my old shoes that I could never fit into now!
Over the next few weeks I started to think about all the X-C skiing that I once did. Mostly here in town, with friends, the kids or the dogs, on ski trails or bush-whacking here on our property (before the era of cell phones, horrors!) I recall one specific winter when we had purchased an old VW bug from a neighbor. It was orange and beat up enough so that a few more dents or scratches didn’t make any difference. A good car for us! For a number of years a friend and I ran a Bill Koch ski club here in town for kids and we would meet every Saturday at the local school. From there we would ski all over, on ski trails that were in existence everywhere then. Somehow, we managed to fit three to four people in the VW along with our ski equipment. No big deal! One particular Saturday, Gael was getting ready to drive to Florida to visit his brother and the kids and I were getting ready to go to the Bill Koch Club to go skiing. Gael’s parting comment went something like this… “If the car won’t start, crawl under the car and hit the starter with a hammer”. No problem. It sounded easy enough. Gael leaves and we get into the VW. It won’t start. So I crawled under the car and looked for the starter. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, so I called a neighbor who came over and we proceeded to crawl under the car together with a hammer. He showed me where the starter was, hit it and I crawled out, got into the car and it started. Whew! I thanked him and we drove off to our skiing afternoon.
For the next few weeks, I carried a blanket and a hammer in the car and had to use it quite a few times, but it always worked. I also dis-covered that, with a push from someone or something, I could usually jump start the car that way. Another reason for having kids! If I had to venture out of town to the grocery store, I usually took our son and quite often a friend of his with me, just in case! I would park in the grocery store parking lot in such a way that, with a push from the two boys, the car would start. It usually meant that the boys would have to go into the store with me, but we separated when inside, me to get the groceries and them to do something to kill time. One time I happened to see rolls of toilet paper being tossed over isles and I know they had found something to amuse themselves. I don’t remember what happened to that car or what replaced it. It might have been another VW bug with the driver’s seat on a piece of plywood or a Saab that came from Joe Kaelin. Both of these cars have unique stories to go with them. I’ll save those for another time.
To the editor…..
I don’t know if you take reader’s responses to articles, but Nancy’s article brought back vivid memories of sliding down the “Mary Fletcher Hospital” hill in Burlington. We used to go down to Sears on Church St. and get cardboard washing machine boxes, pile in 2 or 3 of us and blindly bomb down the steepest part of the hill, trying to see if we could make it all the way to Colchester Ave. and possibly get run over. Ah, the good olé days of being put out with the dog and told “don’t come back till dinner time!”
It’s December 1st. The calendars have been changed, all the leaves raked up, the gardening tools put away, the snow shovels are out, the snow tires are on the cars, the chains are on the tractor that Gael plows the driveway with, the wood is on the porch, the storm windows are on and the winter coats, boots and mittens are out. It seems to take longer to do this than it used to. I can’t imagine why??
Oh, one more thing. The summer cars (Owen’s BMW and the VW Thing) are put away for the winter. Something about having a long winter’s nap. We even watched The Grinch the other night, our favorite Christmas program, can’t miss it.
It has been fun to have the Thing back after having it away visiting for a number of years. It’s interesting to hear the stories the kids tell us about. They all drove the Thing at some time in their teen years. There probably are stories that we will never hear about for one reason or another!! We drove to an event here in Underhill this past summer and I was telling a few people about my maiden trip with it. It was our daughter Susan’s birthday and I was taking a few of her friends and Susan to the Morgan Horse Farm near Middlebury (it was the little girl and horse love affair that Susan has never gotten over). One of the people I was sharing the story with, was one of the girls who made the trip on that June day many years ago. She remembered the trip well.
We hadn’t had the car more than a few months when on Halloween I was returning a few kids to their homes after trick or treating and I hit a bear. I stopped to see if it was all right (it was) but our kids were quite upset, not about hitting the bear, but because their Halloween candy had spilled on the floor and got mixed up with their sibling’s candy. We drove the Thing during the winter months for a few years and nearly froze. Ever try driving with a blanket wrapped around your legs? Actually, probably some of you have. Our son shared a story about having the whole Rice HS football team in the car one day! I used to take our goats to visit the vet in Jeffersonville in the Thing. They loved to ride in it. We have had pigs in the car too, but that’s a long story that I’ll share with you some other day.
So, the Thing deserves to be having it’s long winter nap where it’s dry and out of the weather until Spring…..when we can think about warm weather and day trips we’ll be taking in our well beloved Thing.
I’ve been giving this, my first article for Wheel Tracks, some thought in recent weeks and with that a lot of reminiscing.
It all starts with my first encounter with my husband Gael and his 1937 Packard many, many years ago. Then Peveril Peake enters the picture with his 1956 VW Bug. I logged more than a few miles in the back seat of that car, often wrapped in a blanket. Fortunately, Pevie always had to stop for coffee and a meal or two. I had no idea where we were going or what we were looking for in many of those rides. One trip took us to upstate New York to visit John Hawkinson. I do remember a delicious German meal we had on the way. We might have been in a Hupmobile that time.
Then there was the firetruck that Gael and Mahlon Teachout bought in St Albans. We hadn’t been married more than a few weeks and Gael was always disappearing to some shop to work on this project with Mahlon. I don’t remember that sitting so well with me. But in the end, when the firetruck became a speedster, it was fun to see and ride in, or on.
I do remember Mahlon and I taking it to Stowe for a car meet one year, 1961. Gael had to work and met us there later. I watched the chain drive something and just hoped the chain wouldn’t break and decapitate us.
Then there was the 1927 Chevrolet (named Edward) which was actually easy and fun to drive. I don’t think it was legally registered when I stalled it on a hill at a red light in St Albans. I hadn’t been driving too long. A policeman came to my assistance and saved me. That could be another article, driving cars that weren’t registered or inspected and how easy the inspection stickers were to remove and put on another car. License plates were duck soup. Actually, I think our kids could add some stories of their own along these lines.
I will never forget seeing Steve Dana driving down our road in his Kissel and his dog sitting on the seat next to him. What a sight. Another article might be about the Volkswagons that we drove over the years, including the Thing that seems to be back in our barn. Maybe I’ll even get to drive it next summer, if the shifting gets easier. The top needs to be replaced, but the family drove it one summer without a top, rain or shine. We did get some funny looks.
Oh my, the more I think about the stuff we drove, the more stories I have. And, I don’t think it’s over yet. Thanks, Gael (and Pev, Maholn and Steve).