A Model A Ford to the Rescue
It was 1945, I was soon to enter 1st grade, the war was reaching it’s climax, Lowell Thomas was the “voice” on the radio, and grandma came running out of the farmhouse hollering that the President was dead! Grandpa was in the barn milking the cows and I was playing with the kittens, so it must’ve been about 4:30 in the afternoon. It was one of those moments frozen in your memory like the old Brownie camera pictures that Mother took, pictures that were all in the daylight ‘cause there weren’t no newfangled flashbulbs like we used to lick the bottom of, before you stuck ‘em into the camera, to make sure they really went off, and now you look at ‘em and just wish she’d have taken about a hundred more! But film was expensive then and so was Red Man at 5 cents a package. That’s why Grandad’d park his chew before eatin’ and put it back in afterwards! (But that’s another story.)
I remember so much about that time, the “voice on the radio”, the war and the funeral of President Roosevelt, but I especially remember the cars we had. Grandma had the 1935 Ford 4-door slantback and Dad had a 1937 straight-eight Pontiac 4-door. I say “Grandma had the ‘35", because it’s that old classic story of poor old Grandpa trading in the 1924 Model T on the new fangled ‘35. He never could master the clutch and floor-shift. One day he came home, tossed the keys to Grandma and said “here, you drive the danged thing”, and that’s the way it was for the rest of his life. He never drove again.
Dad’s Pontiac was way too big for those rutty West Virginia roads. We’d drive down to Mole Hill (Ritchie County) where his folks lived and we could count on getting stuck at least once. Mole Hill’s since been name-changed to “Mountain” which was a senseless act of stupidity according to a lot of us, but they thought it would lend a tad of class to the community to change the name. Guess it’s like the adage, you can’t make a silk purse out’n a sow’s ear, ‘cause Mole Hill’s still the same to me, no matter what you call it.
I started first grade (there weren’t no such thing as pre-school or Kindergarten) and Grandma drove me to catch the school bus every day. It was only a mile and a half or so, but they thought it was a might far for me to be walkin’ I guess. Grandpa would be out in the barn milking the cows, Mom had never learned to drive so Grandma took me out around that West Virginia hillside lane, down the county dirt road to Weltner’s corner, then around to old Clel Andrew’s farm where the blacktop started and there was room for a school bus to turn around and pick me up, the last kid on the route. Grandma could never get that Ford out of first gear til we got to Weltner’s corner, even after the road graders would come by. Those West Virginia back-roads were just too hilly and crooked. But once we hit the county road, even though it was gravel, second gear was just about right and I can still hear that old Ford transmission singin’ it’s tune all the way to the bus corner. (Seems like the only time we’d get to go in high gear was on Sundays when we’d go all the way to Route 2, hit the big-time blacktop and into Chester for Sunday Meeting.)
I could always count on Grandma to be there waiting for to pick me up in the evening also. According to my Mother's diary, it was December 12, 1945, one of those rare West Virginia snowstorms, the bus driver was upset and running late and those of us kids left on the bus knew enough to keep real quiet. Finally it was just me on the bus, the last kid on the route. You could hardly see the front of the hood, the windows were steamed up good, the driver kept wipin’ the glass with an old towel and when we finally reached Clel Andrew’s turn-around, “little Teddy” gets off the bus and there was no Grandma!. I remember the bus disappearing, the blowing wind and snow and I felt terribly alone and very scared! I don’t remember how long I stood there, but it seemed like an hour til a sound I’d never heard before came closer and closer out of the now grey and darkening storm. There were two big round lights, a funny sounding horn and wait.... that’s my Dad hollering for me out the window. It was a 1930 Model A Ford Coupe and we made it with ease back the 4 miles of blowing and drifting snow, down the lane to our farm past Grandma’s car, which had slid off the lane and was barely visible underneath a snow bank, and up into the barnyard.
Come to find out, Dad had headed to work that morning in the ‘37 Pontiac and somebody smashed into him, so the garage where he had it towed to gave him the Model A as a loaner. It is because of THAT DAY I shall always love old cars. Especially those big round beautiful headlights of a Model A Ford, and every time I drive mine, to this day I'm taken back to West Virginia and a very warm feeling comes over me, ‘cause I know this little jewel will carry me home, just like the Gordon Lightfoot song “Steel Rail Blues” says.... (with a little modification)
My good old Pontiac, she done broke down
'Cause I drove it into the ground
And the “Old Model A” gonna carry me home to the one I love.
oo whu hu hoo
Ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo oo