Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Tin-Lizzie Days!

Again, I am taking you on a little journey back in time, the thirties in fact. This memory is as clear and picturesque today as it was the day it all took place.

It all started with my fathers old flivver not wanting to cooperate, it had not been running right for quite some time , but with little cash available it seemed that this was a problem best left on the back burner. Lucky for my father I had an uncle Sidney, who like my dad felt that he was entitled to his weekly reward, so the fact that dad’s old tin-lizzie refused to cooperate wasn’t really as big problem as it might have been, had my uncle not been willing to take my father along for his weekly purchase of beer. Otherwise back then it was not a necessity to own a car. One could go most anywhere on foot, the grocery market was handy and all the necessities of life seem to be close at hand even the church was near by.

As time went by and my father longingly looked out the window at his old flivver, the more he felt that it would be nice to have one of his own that would run. I was just a kid but I listened to my parents discuss the possibility of trying to get his old tin-lizzie fixed, but my uncle Sidney who was an automobile mechanic advised him if he should be lucky enough to get it going, he’d better go see Oren Young. Oren was one of those used car dealers who thought every car he owned was a peach, but never a lemon. So my uncle Sidney and my dad worked on his tin-lizzie weekends until they got it to run. It was at this point that the real fun began. My mother was against the idea at first because of their money situation. But my father was eager to get a car of his own, that he felt he could depend on. Then my mother said, “If you do this, you will have to teach me how to drive”. He agreed. Then he decided to go up to see Mr. Young. I begged him to take me with him, he said ok, but my mother said “no, what if the damn thing won’t make it up there. What are you going to do with Margaret”, but he insisted, he was sure it would be alright. So he took me with him. We made it up there ok.

I remember when we got there my father knocked on the door and when Mr. Young opened the door he said “well, hello Eddie come on in.” Mr. Young was a funny old man, I can remember he was real short and he had a big bubble behind his ear, it looked like bubble gum and it was all red and blue I was afraid of him. He had a deep voice he said “Well Eddie what can I do for you” I had a hold of my fathers hand while he and Mr. Young talked about cars. His yard was full of old cars. There was all kinds of old junk everywhere in his yard. He asked my father “what do you have in mind, what do you want to pay” and my father said “well I was hoping to get a trade in on my car and maybe get something a little newer.” Mr. Young said “ let’s go out and see what I have,” he took us down in back of a big barn and showed my father an old car that was out there , it wouldn’t even start. Mr. Young went somewhere and got a battery, and still it didn’t want to start. He said “don’t worry Eddie it’s the damn spark, it’s been setting out here for a long time.” Then he got inside of the car and did something with the spark which was a lever on the steering wheel. He said to my father “give it a crank” so my father turn this handle in the front of the car, I remember he turned it a lot of times and my dad said to Mr. Young, “I don’t think I want to have to do this every time, to get it started”, and Mr. Young said “once you get it going it will be alright, it’s because it hasn’t been run for awhile”. Well my father couldn’t seem to get it to start, so Mr. Young grabbed hold of that handle in the front and he gave it a big turn and he told my father to work the spark. Well it made a big bang and I started to cry, I was so scared I thought someone had a gun. Before long the car started to shake and it made some more bangs and then he said to my father “drive it up in front of the house” so my father and I got in and Mr. Young walked up to where my father parked the car. He told my father to keep it running. Then my father asked him “what happened to back seat” he said that “he had sold it to John Gear, but don’t let that bother you, if you buy it I should be able to find one in a few days”. Then my father said “where is my kid going to sit when my wife is with me”? Mr. Young said “don’t let that bother you I’ll just put a couple of wooden boxes in there for now until I find you a back seat. Get your wife to put a couple of pillows in there and it will be just as good”. While my dad and Mr. Young talked about how my father wanted to pay for it, the car kept on running. My father seemed please. So dad and I started for home. The car started shaking and it kept on making a banging noise and it was like it was going to stop. I was afraid, but my father said “it’s ok it will be all right” and after awhile it stopped shaking and making that banging noise.  By the time we got home it was running like a new car.

This is a picture ford2901  of a similar car only this is how it would have looked when it was new.  Long before my father got  one like it.

My mother saw us when we were coming up the drive and she came outside to see it. She was upset because there was no back seat but my father said that Oren was going to get him one and she said “it will never happen” and she was right. Then she said “Margaret go in the house, your father is going to show me how to drive” I went inside and stood up in my father’s old leather chair that someone had given him and I watched out the window as my mother kept stopping and starting. Then she hit the clothes pole and broke it and kept on going. I ran into the bed room, got up on a chair so I could see out and my mother had stopped right in the middle of our garden, the car was stuck there. I watched as she got out and hollered at my father “You don’t know a damn thing about teaching me how to drive”. She was very up set. I kept watching to see what my father was going to do, after awhile he got the car out of the garden and he drove right passed the house, I said “where is daddy going”. She said “up to Oren Young’s to see if he can get a new headlight, the damn clothes pole broke it.” I watched for my father to come home he was gone for a long time, when he did come home my mother was waiting for him and said “well, how much extra did that cost you”? It didn’t, he gave it to me instead of the back seat.

My father and my uncle Mike had to cut a piece of wood to put between the two wooden boxes so that they wouldn’t move around. My mother covered them with an old comforter. My father had that car for along long, long time, we never did get a back seat, but we sure had lots of rides to Gray and Falmouth. They continued, until Yarmouth was no longer dry. My mother never did learn how to drive.

My dad had a lot of old clunkers in his day. He died in 1991 having had only one new car in his life time, a 1972 Ford Station Wagon,

When we were young we were wrapped in the arms of contentment and simplicity. Today we have to look up these words to see what they mean; there is no simplicity today its utter confusion just trying to keep up with the Jones, Smiths, Browns etc..


  1. A wonderful story! Loved every bit of it!

  2. Ahhh, Margaret, I laughed and got tearful at the same time. What a fantastic story! It read like a thing my beloved 'Frenchie' would do. And, you ... what a precious little girl you were! How trusting and loving ... OMG! Good thing I don't drive anymore and I drove like your mother and that was after I got my license! Yahoo!

    Great story, my friend ...
    Love, GeeGee ...

  3. What a great story Margaret! You really should write a book of short stories, especially since you have such recall of memories. You could call it..."My Yarmouth Adventures" or...I am sure you could come up with a more fitting title! I have never been good at that. My favortie part was the headlight and back seat exchange! I can picture little Margaret standing on the chair watching all the commotion out the window and Uncle Edmund and Aunt Olice outside like a comedy routine with the car. Terrific writing as always. Would you dare write about the manequin escape? That was hilarious too! Great stuff my friend....your cuz.

  4. Debbie is right. What an entertaining story. Things were so different back then and how I love to remember. Did you ever own a Willies, Margaret? I think that is how you spell it.
    I learned to drive..but it's a wonder since no one would let me drive their car.
    Parents wouldn't, husband wouldn't..but..I finally did. What freedom! I have always been sensitive to loud noises..and you...right next to a backfire! Poor little girl. I loved your story, Margaret.
    We are always creating memories...always.
    I'll be back for more.