Two Ladies & A Gent!

As you may be aware, my husband won the prestigious 2013 Presidents Restoration Award for his 1971 MG Midget. You may have read the article and saw the project pictures published in a previous issue of Wheel Tracks. I have decided to share the untold story; what you do not know, the details that my husband does not share.

My husband has been tinkering with cars, for as long as I have known him. This was the first time I took an active part in one of his projects. I was drafted at the start of the reassembly phase. How hard could this be, only time would tell?

He quickly put me to work cleaning, scouring, painting and polishing parts. I quickly discovered that steel wool and bare finger tips were not a good combination. Note to self: wear gardening gloves when doing this type of work.

One afternoon, I am busy working in my home office, my husband’s out working in the garage. I hear something that sounds like, possible domestic abuse? Yelling, cursing, more yelling, more cursing; I go outside to investigate when it hits me. It’s not my neighbors, but my husband and his British lady having a disagreement. I went into the garage and told him to simmer it down; someone just might call the police. There is no doubt that this car will be the death of my husband!

Our next task was testing the back-up light switch. It was not working and we did not have a wiring diagram. After hours of unproductive painful tinkering, I suggest using the internet to see if anyone else has had this problem. He looks skeptical, I get a couple of key words out of him, and I am off. Twenty minutes later, I am back with a list of potential faulty parts and directions. The internet is our new best friend! He sends me off frequently to do his research: replacing the head light switch, downloading a wiring diagram, how to install the window door weather strip clips, and installation of the side door glass windows. It was all there, imagine that!

There were moments when I was not sure that the three of us would make it, but we did and we are all a little better off for it.

I have a new found appreciation for the car restoration process; My husband thinks me clever and worthy of a wrench; and the MG Midget is enjoying her new face lift.

We look forward to seeing you on the open road, hopefully not attached to a tow strap. I have more stories, please ask and I will be happy to share.

Signing off from the Softer Side, Christine Stone

Finding a Nugget in Colorado

forney museumIn November, Wendell and I were in Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter and family. Her son and I prepared the turkey as our Martha is a vegetarian – we baked the stuffing separately, of course! We had a good visit, which included checking out cats at a local animal shelter. Their much beloved cat had recently died. But for Wendell, the big deal was a car museum in Denver he had read about in the Plymouth Bulletin, the Forney Museum. The article was about a 1932 Plymouth PB roadster and its radiator cap which had been stolen; unfortunately accessories are frequently stolen from displayed cars, the article pointed out. Wendell had shown the article to the person issuing our tickets when we reached the museum. She made a copy of it, as they had not seen it. After a thorough tour of the museum, we failed to find that car. We were about to explore a recently restored railroad train, complete with a dining car featuring white tablecloths and fancy place settings, an elaborate sleeper car and a huge steam locomotive which had been restored by the museum. Then a volunteer guide asked if we would like to hear a talk about the train car, because she was bored and things were slow. She mentioned her own cars, which were stored in a museum warehouse, five, as I recall, and that she would get the key and show us through it.

The Plymouth roadster was also there. The warehouse was filled (crammed) with vintage cars, pickups, motorcycles and an old airplane being worked on. Quite a few were owned by local people who needed a place to store their cars. We admired her cars, saw the Plymouth, and much to the joy of our grandson, Mustangs. This remarkable lady even had a drag racer and had drag raced since she was 19. She reminded us of our own VAE friend, Doris Bailey. Martha and I were almost “car’d” out, but the gift shop restored us. As we were leaving, we told our guide we would be sending Vermont maple syrup to her as she took us into the warehouse for a tour that usually required a much larger group.

I realize that this “Softer Side” is a bit car heavy, but the Forney Museum is truly an impressive and interesting place. Look out, Nancy!!!

Living Easy

vermont ice stormA couple of weeks ago we had an ice storm that knocked the electricity off at our place for 30 hours. While lying under a thick quilt, double shirts, socks and a wool hat on my head, it brought thoughts of our forefathers and mothers who went through the whole winter without electricity and of course, no central heat, electric blankets, heaters, lights, indoor plumbing, electric stoves, dryers – get the picture? I barely survived 30 hours and the temp outside wasn’t that bad. The house temp got to 50 but the worst part was no hot tea or coffee on demand. To top off the insult, it was almost Christmas! I was brought up with no dryer, no central heat but did have a good heat source, hot water and a great radio. What I am getting at is that I have become so “soft” in such a short time. How did they do it? Get up in the freezing cold, start a fire (not turn up the thermostat), bundle up and run to the well or river – break the ice on top and get a bucket of water. The first water hauled maybe wasn’t for you but for the animals. After chores, then you get some breakfast which might be plentiful or not depending on what you did to put up provisions in the fall. I’m sure there was-n’t any fresh fruit or great coffee. I have been trying to think of something that you cannot get year round now. Sure you may have to pay more for something ‘out of season’ but you can have it if you are willing to pay the price. Fifty years ago we were eating only what was in season at the time. We all have grandparents who had never had a banana when they were children. It boggles the mind! Now having ram-bled on about my hardships, I want to talk about all the people that make our lives so comfortable. Behind every convenience that fills most of our houses, there are many bright, hardworking people. Just think about what and who is behind getting that banana on the table and that is just one tiny thing that makes life (or Gary’s cereal) better. Right now my hat goes off to all the men and women who worked hours and hours in freezing rain and snow and cold to get my electricity back on. Some of them traveled from miles away to help the Vermont crew in our hour of need. Also, thanks to those who came to cut downed trees, branches and clear roads, lines for the electrical workers. I would add that these jobs were done in what were very dangerous situations and done round the clock and some gave up their Christmas with their families to see to it that we had a bright, warm Christmas with our families. So I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all those behind the scene that make life ‘living easy’ for me.

Fond Farewell

There are, as I’ve said before, some of the nicest, kindest, interesting and unique, members of our VAE club. It seems appropriate to pay tribute to Joe Kaelin and Gene Towne whom we lost recently. I didn’t know Joe as well as I knew Gene, but always thought he had the kindest face and demeanor about him. Meeting his family at his memorial service illustrated what a great parent and grandfather he was. One of his daughters told us how Joe was always available to watch over grandchildren and she shared with us a “Joe moment”. A granddaughter was crying and carrying on when he turned to her and said, “You need to stop that noise – it is Sunday and therefore not your day to cry”, and then went back to what he was doing. She was so busy trying to figure out what had just happened that the crying ceased. Joe had such courage and always kept his subtle sense of humor, indeed, a unique gentleman.

We first met Gene when we bought his house in Milton located on what was appropriately called Swamp Road. We had to walk to the house, as the road was impassable by car, truck or tractor, a real mud bog in the spring. We bought the house anyway as it was brick and surrounded by beautiful countryside. One day in mid winter, Gene stopped by to ask what we were using for water. I answered, “the faucet” and he said, “I’ll be darned; that water pipe under the road usually is frozen by now”. Sure enough, two days later, it did freeze, so we called Gene and asked what do we do now. “Oh, you call the local “go-to” guy who will bring out his arc welder, hook it onto that wire next to the road and thaw out that pipe.” Wendell knew the wire he meant, because he had cut it off the previous sum-mer. After much poking into frozen ground with crowbars, shovels, etc., we finally located the pipe and had it thawed. This was in the 1970’s and over the years we met the entire Towne family and were made to feel part of it. Then there were the phone calls from Gene: “Wendell, want to go to an auction or sale and/or check out a car, boat, tractor, or, let’s go to Dearborn for Ford’s anniversary celebration.” “Mary, how do you make rice pudding?” “What’s that guy’s name? You know, the one that lives on the hill?” He was always sure that I needed something he happened to have (many “somethings”), and I should come over and take a look. I’m not sure that we ever saw him wearing anything but his trademark overalls, slouch hat, and suspenders, of course. We will miss Joe and Gene and feel privileged to have had them in our lives. They were true Auto Enthusiasts!

End of Summer

I would be lying if I said I was sorry that summer is over but I am! Now it would be a bigger lie if I said I was looking forward to what is coming, winter! I have never enjoyed winter. I tolerated it better when I was younger but couldn’t say I really enjoyed it. Do find that with winter, if you can get out and do something like ski, sledding, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, you are less apt to hate the season. Should have included snow-shoveling (one of Gary’s favorite sports!) I have done all these in years past but no more. My focus is now on trying to stay upright and not going down on the ice!

Summer- this was supposed to be the summer of sitting at camp, swimming and growing heirloom tomatoes! I stayed one night at camp, went swimming twice and those tomatoes – nota!

We started in May preparing for a yard sale, helped plan the VAE Bennington tour, had the yard sale, greeted our grandchildren and son from Montana, took our son to airport for trip back to Montana, grandkids stayed, took in our Vermont grandchildren (now we have two granddaughters 5 and 7, two grandsons 8 and 9). We hosted the group for a couple of weeks. It was fun but so much harder than I remember. On July 20, we head west with the Montana grandkids in the big red truck with the ‘old’ basic pickup camper. First highlight was Niagara Falls with a ride on ‘Maid of the Mist’, then onto Ontario to a Butterfly Sanctuary, so far so good. Back to the USA and headed toward Mt. Rushmore, stopping at the largest truck stop on I-80 in Iowa. Can’t think of anything you can’t get or do there! (legal or illegal), about half way to Montana, Grace and Quinn decided that going by airplane was the way to go! There was quite a discussion on the fact they would be home and with family and friends and this way they would probably never get there! Thankfully, these thoughts were short lived as Grandpa found something fun and interesting to stop and see. We stopped and explored places, went through the Badlands and many, many more. We camped all the way out and back (about 6000 miles). Have to say that the ride back was extremely quiet. Some thought we were crazy and I guess we were a little. But, looking back, we are so glad we went this way. There were some tense times, some tears (mostly mine), a lot of laughs and a lot of talking (on their part and ours), we traded a lot of stories and tried to solve many world problems. Our wish is that a cross country trip with Grandma and Grandpa will be remembered and passed on to their children (with or without embellish-ments!) Should be good for a few laughs in years to come.
Now you would think that after a trip like that you could kick back and relax- not if you are ‘car people’! Just back and we headed to New York State for the ‘Slowspokes’ tour planned by Bill and Jan Sander. Great tour including train ride, boat ride on the Erie Canal and many wonderful sites. A great time was had by all. Is it over? No way. After a short time to clean your clothes, get a new toothbrush and pack, we were off for a 4 cylinder Plymouth tour, planned by Gary and Wendell. Beautiful tour of Ludlow, Grafton, Bellows Falls area (my home area). I think there were 31 people (from VT, NH, NY, Ohio, Texas and Ontario), there were 9 Plymouths and again, a great time was had by all. As I write this, Gary is on his yearly pilgrimage to Hershey with 2 batches of brownies and 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies. I’ve gone back to work.

We will still have to put the cars to bed for winter and there are leaves to rake, camp to close and then all that will be left is to find the perfect piece of cardboard and just wait for that first snowfall!

A Family Vacation

It was now 1928; and our family had never all been away together. In fact, Dad had not been away from the ranch since he came there from St. Albans with a carload of Vermont Jerseys in 1910. My Mother’s family worked for the railroad and always had vacations. Dad finally agreed to make arrangements to be away from the Ranch and it was decided to go to Colorado. Mrs. Coe, of the family that ran the general store, contacted her father, Mr. Shoemaker, who lived in Denver and he agreed to arrange a trip from Denver up onto the mountains and rented a cabin for us. We packed suitcases (no trunks, of course, in our old Dodge sedan) and stuffed them into racks on one side of the car. Inside we had a small case of eggs and a box filled with a double boiler, frying pan, and box of oatmeal. Our little sister, age 4, sat between the parents in the front seat and the other four of us sat in the back seat with our feet on top of the boxes on the floor.

The first day we got only as far as the Colorado border, a distance of 200 miles. It rained, making the gravel highway slippery. The roads always had ditches on each side for drainage, for often rains were heavy. We called that kind cloud bursts. On this day, every so often there would be a car in the ditch and we would have to stop to help them get back on the road. We stopped at the first group of cabins (the name for motels then) that we came to. Mother went in first and quickly pulled back the bedding to make sure there were no bedbugs! In the morning we had our oatmeal and fried eggs before we resumed our journey. The route was through the eastern flat land of Colorado and we noticed large fields of lettuce. Dad was curious and stopped to investigate – and ended up buying a small crate, which had to be crowded in with the other paraphernalia on the floor of the back seat!

It was late afternoon when we drove into Denver. At one point we came to a long line of cars in our lane. Dad just pulled over and drove up to the head of the line and went through. Mr. Shoemaker put us up for the night in sort of a loft in the building where he lived. We probably had another oatmeal and eggs breakfast before we started for the mountains; Mr. Shoemaker squeezed in with us in the back seat. We got back on the highway we had come in on, and Mr. Shoemak-er pointed out that there was a red traffic light ahead, and we were supposed to stop! This was the first time we had ever seen such a thing and, of course, we realized what had accounted for the long line of stopped cars when we came into Denver!

We soon got on to Long Mountain and were amazed at the narrow, winding road. Sometimes when meeting an approaching car, one would have to back up to a wider space. It was pretty scary. We arrived at the cabin safely, overwhelmed with the scenery, the like of which we had never seen before. The next day we explored the surrounding area, making snowballs when we found patches of snow. As we anticipated leaving for Denver, Mother announced that she would not go down in the car. “How will you get home?” Dad asked. Mother, coming from a railroad-oriented family said “There must be a train!” Needless to say she joined us for the trip down which we made safely. At one point when Dad remarked about the view, Mother told him “We’ll look at the scenery, you watch the road”.

After leaving Mr. Shoemaker off in Denver, we made a side trip but were advised not to try Pike’s Peak in our old Dodge. We found a park with charcoal cookers. Dad bought some ham and eggs which Mother fried in the skillet and of course we had lettuce too. The trip home across Colorado flats was extremely hot, and the patches on the inner tubes kept melting off, resulting in flats. After many repair stops, we finally got to Garden City, KS and bought replacements. We also decided to keep on driving through the night for the rest of the way home. Mother and I took turns sitting next to Dad to make sure he didn’t doze. It was daybreak before we arrived home. John and Catharine were sleeping soundly, so the rest of us rushed into the house and our beds. They had their own stories to tell about when they woke up, such as eating berries off the back porch vine.

We were so impressed with our “vacation” that very soon thereafter, I went to Dad’s typewriter and wrote a long account with carbon copies for the family back east.

Mary this Month

Have just returned from working in the Courtesy Booth at the 56th Stowe Show and again was totally amazed by the dedication of all the workers involved. Thanks to huge efforts and some adjustments, the weather Thursday night and Friday, for instance, from what I’m hearing, the Show was quite successful. Bob Chase, Duane and Marnita Leach, the leaders of the pack, did it again! Thanks to Andy and Marty Barnett covering for me at the Courtesy Booth, I was able to ride in the parade with Wendell in the Roadster and to enjoy the obvious appreciation of spectators along the parade route for our vehicles. It’s now back to the realities of weeding the gardens, haying, and hopefully, doing some harvesting of whatever grew in the garden. The weeds at least are doing extremely well! Those who know my husband will perhaps be shocked to learn that we now have a riding lawn mower – into the 21st century at last!! I guess he must see it as some kind of a suburban status symbol. This will, of course, leave me more time for weeding – yippee!

I was once again asked by one of my friends if I get tired of going to car related meetings and on tours, but, again, said that I have met so many truly lovely people I would not have met otherwise, it is just pleasurable, rewarding and fun. The VAE members truly rock, to use an old term, have led such interesting lives, done so many and varied things and are just plain nice. This is a trait (niceness) that seems to be getting lost in much of our world. With all of the digital technical devices being used today, folks can’t look up from their virtual world to view the real world. Writing on paper with a pen, or, gasp, a pencil, or face- to- face conversation with real people, smiling at others, (I do this and get blank, or puzzled looks) – you get the idea. Saw a cartoon recently that showed a person mentioning what they had read in the newspaper, and those present were using electronic devices trying to figure out what a newspaper is/was. Oops, maybe I/m ranting again – sorry. The bottom line here is that I feel fortunate to be a member of the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts and the old car hobby in general… Happy Fall everyone!

Old Age – Comes At A Bad Time

To be honest, my age never really mattered to me until last December when I received my Medicare card in the mail and I was informed that as of February 1st, 2013 I was eligible! I didn’t want it but there it was and now there was no turning back or trying to fool myself. That small little card was staring me in the face saying ‘you are getting old’!! Isn’t it amazing how ‘old’ 70 was when we were 40! But, how young it really is, right? When I found a few gray hairs, I found a great hairdresser. When I told Gary I was coloring my hair, his comment was “Emmylou Harris let her hair go gray” – my comment back “when I can sing like Emmylou I’ll go gray”! I can’t get over how age just creeps up on most of us. One day you are working 40-60 hours/week, shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, gardening, raising vegetables and two boys. Then, the boys were the first to go! I didn’t throw them out they just somehow grew up and left. Or maybe it was the cleaning first, but the garden was next, reasoning that the ‘Farmers Market’ does a great job and we DO need to support it, next, Gary took over the laundry (I wash – he dries and folds), he also took over the dishes, then the 40-60 hour/week job went to about 10 hours a week and the paycheck disappeared!, still shopping and cooking (but far less of both). Unbelievable, one day I was doing it all and with what seemed like overnight, my body feels like it still is, but certainly isn’t! My question is when did I cross ‘the line’? Maybe it was back when I realized I needed singing lessons. Got to close, I have a 4 o’clock audition to sing back up for Emmylou. Just think of the time and money I’ll save not coloring my hair!

The Day I Didn’t Quit Smoking

A friend told me about a man down in New Hampshire who could hypnotize you to quit smoking. I had been smoking for a few years and this seemed like a good idea. Also, our son Clark had mentioned he wanted to quit, so I called him at Lyndon State, where he was a student, and he said yes he did want to quit, so I made an appointment with the hypnotist for the next Saturday. We agreed to meet at exit 19 or 18, and after some confusion about getting to the right exit, we finally met there. We parked my Camaro in a parking lot near a mom-and-pop store and gas station and both rode to the hypnotist’s in Clark’s old ”winter-beater” Cadillac.

When we got to the hypnotist, it was a simple office set-up with an inner room. I paid $50.00 for both of us and Clark went first. This session lasted about half an hour. Then it was my turn. A darkened room and I began to wonder if the man had to say the same thing over and over, or did he use a tape recorder? So, instead of concentrating on what he was saying, I kept listening for the hiss of the tape being played. I didn’t get hypnotized at all.

After we left, I realized I had just wasted $25.00. Clark said he seemed to have been hypnotized. Anyway we found a place to eat lunch and afterwards drove back to the Camaro. I took the keys out of my purse and was going to unlock the trunk to get my jacket. I inserted the key in the trunk lock, started to turn it and the whole key assembly fell into the trunk, including the keys! I expressed rage and frustration in language “not suitable for a family magazine” and agreed with Clark that maybe we could at least open the car with a coat hanger. He went over to the nearby store to borrow a coat hanger. He was gone quite a while. What’s keeping him, I thought. Finally he returned with a coat hanger and this explanation: he went over to the store and as he opened the door, he looked up and realized a man was robbing the store, pointing a gun at the clerk behind the counter. She was unloading the cash register into a bag he had on the counter. Neither of them saw Clark, who quietly and quickly withdrew. There was a sort of niche next to the door and he was able to hide in there. He couldn’t see the robber and the robber couldn’t see him. He waited, and soon the man came tear-ing by him, ran out and jumped into the car his accomplice had waiting. They roared out of the gas station and disappeared. Clark went into the store and after the clerk calmed down and called the police, she found a coat hanger and Clark returned.
“You could have been killed!” I shrieked. “I know it” said Clark, “but anyway here’s the coat hanger” he said, with a grin. We couldn’t open the trunk with the coat hanger so we fiddled with the door peg, managed to pull it up and opened the car. The only way to get to the trunk was to take the back seat out. After a fierce struggle, Clark managed to get it out and I squeezed in and grabbed the lock and keys.

After all this, we both were a little shook, so we talked for a while and then said good bye. Clark went back up to Lyndon and I headed for Burlington. I hadn’t had a cigarette since the night before, and my nerves were screaming. I pulled over at the Richmond exit and bought a pack of cigarettes. (After all, Clark could have been killed!) I happily started smoking once more. The best part of this story (which happened nearly 40 years ago) was that Clark never smoked again.

Sad(ly) Missed

I tentatively decided not to go on about my hang up with the loss of adverbs these days, like I once went on about the lack of manual transmissions. This is the “Softer Side” after all. BUT, how many times a day do I see a sign saying “Eat local”. What’s with that? What’s local? Is it something to eat? What’s it taste like? Or is it local? “Buy local”, “Drive Slow”? Is Slow some new kind of car imported from China? I drive a Ford. Whatever happened to adverbs? They “modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or preposition, a quality, place, time, degree, cause, opposition, affirmation or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content”, according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. As an old English major, I, get a little frustrated, literal(ly), reading the Burlington Free Press, for instance, unlike our Wheel Tracks publication. Oops, I did it again, when I’d meant to just mar-vel at the welcome arrival of Spring: the cheery daffodils, crocuses, tulips, lilacs, fiddlehead greens and green leaves, and of course, the “peepers” in our swamp. It also means raking, lawn mowing, garden preparation, spring cleaning (what?). Uh oh, is this the start of negativity?? This being Vermont, we’ll have a rainy spell, but great(ly) needed. Dang, I finally gave up and faced the fact that this is another tirade – sorry. The adverb was my friend. I could use it to helpfully point out to my husband that he was sloppily dressed, rudely sarcastic and usually both. But that friend has sadly passed away – I actual feel real bad about that.

And, by the way, sloppy and sarcastic did some goodly things. He rototilled the garden, readied the lawn mower for me, split wood I could (hopeful) lift, put his dishes in the sink, helped make our bed, didn’t complain, too much, when I left the curry out of curried rice, and always comes home, eventual. After all, there is always a glass of wine waiting. In short, I real miss adverbs; they are great needed.