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Avoiding Washboard Roads…Or How To Prevent Fall Out

Story ID:8249
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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My appologies to those who think my stories are too long and wordy, but this is the way I tell them.

Avoiding Washboard Roads…Or How To Prevent Fall Out
By Chuck Dishno

When I was born in 1934, our family car was a 1927 Model A Ford sedan. The old Ford served its purpose as there was ample room for the five of us, Mom, Pop, Frank, Bud and me. We usually made the 53-mile trip to Klamath Falls once a month to pick up groceries and other things Mom needed to keep the home running smoothly. It also meant a trip to Newbury’s or Woolworth’s toy department for me.

The biggest drawback of our transportation was, it had no heat and the winters in Bly could get down to 30 below not to mention the blizzards that seemed to materialize about the time we were getting low on supplies.

In 1940 the great depression had ended and Pop had a good job falling timber. He decided it was time to retire the Ford and get something better.

We were all excited and piled into the old Ford for the last time, then drove the 53 miles to Klamath. I remember my two brothers, who were 10 and 12 years older than me wanted their say in picking out the replacement. I think my oldest brother, Shad, envisioned a large back seat for some of his romantic escapades. I’m not sure what Bud had in mind. Pop was looking forward to having more room to bring back more groceries and supplies and Mom was just glad to have a car with a heater.

When we got to Klamath Falls, Pop drove around to the several car dealers to see what they had to offer. He knew he couldn’t afford a new car and probably wouldn’t get much for the old Ford. After spending the morning looking around, he settled for a 1936 Pontiac 4 door sedan. We were all delighted at his choice and piled in for the ride home. The new car had a large trunk; you know the kind that bulges out in back. Pop then told us he would take us to Bing’s Café and buy us a nice lunch before heading home. He circled the block several times until he found a parking place by a window so he could admire his new purchase and I’m sure to make sure no one stole it.

After lunch, we piled back in and headed home but soon found that Pop wasn’t done yet. He had to make a stop at Park’s Groceries and fill up all the available space in the back seat and trunk. As I recall, the trunk was bulging and I was sitting on a 100 lb sack of flower next to my beaming brothers. I remember Pop saying, it only took $25.00 to fill the car with groceries. After our shopping spree, we headed home. On the way, Pop decided to try out the horn. We were used to the old ah-oogh horn on the Model A and when Pop hit the horn button on the Pontiac we were greeted by a loud blast that Pop said could probably be heard for miles. Of course we all had to take turns blasting that horn.

That new Pontiac was Pop’s pride and joy for many years. I think Shad got his use out of it too.

The next year the 2nd World War broke out and it became almost impossible to buy a new or used car as all production was shut down for the war effort.

In 1943, Shad enlisted in the Army Air Force and the next year Bud did the same. I remember Pop driving them to Klamath Falls to catch the train and me standing there crying, thinking I would never see my brothers again as they went off to war. I am happy to say that I needn’t have cried as they both came back safely.

During the war, there was an urgent need for scrap metal, in particularly, chromium. Pop helped the cause by taking the two chromium bumpers off the Pontiac and donated them to the cause. He said he didn’t need them anyway since the speed limit during wartime was only 35mph and that combined with gas and tire rationing, we wouldn’t be traveling that much anyway. I don’t think Pop ever replaced those two bumpers.

It was in that car that I learned to drive. I had driven a little in the Model A but I was too short to reach the pedals properly so my learning, except for a few choice words to be use at the proper time was limited. When we got the Pontiac, Shad said he would teach me to drive if I would keep quiet about his late night dates.

After a few scary trips with me behind the wheel, Shad told me it was time to solo. I put a pillow on the seat and drove the 5 miles to the dump and back. By that time I thought I could probably qualify for the Indy race.

Every day while Pop was at work, I would practice a little with the Pontiac. I would never go anywhere but just practice backing it in and out of the shed Pop and built for it. One day when I was feeling pretty frisky I backed it out and down the driveway. I wondered of I could put my right foot on the clutch and my left foot on the brake and drive it back in the shed. After all I had convinced myself that I was a pretty good driver so I decided to try.

Now the old Pontiac had a hand throttle so I set the engine speed just above and idle, crossed my legs with my left foot on the brake and the right one on the clutch. It was about 50 feet to the shed and when I let out the clutch the car shot out like a rabbit. (I think I may have had too much throttle). At any rate I was going at a pretty good clip when I reached the shed door. I instinctively pushed hard with my right foot, which was of course on the clutch and didn’t slow me down one bit. I hit the back wall of the shed at a pretty good clip and pushed it out about 10 feet. When I got out to access the damage, I found that all I had done was push the bottom of the wall out and off the foundation. The shed was slightly askew on the cinder blocks that were used to keep it level.

Being the resourceful guy that I am, I found a piece of chain, hooked it to the wall and to where the bumper had been. I then slowly backed out and miraculously the wall came right back into position. I figured that was enough driving for the day but I had to do something to straighten the shed back on the blocks. I rummaged around in Pop’s tools and found a large spud bar that I could stick under the corners of the shed and inch it back into position. By the time Pop got home from work I had it all repaired and he never knew of my ride until many years later. He said, he thought something was wrong that day but just couldn’t put his finger in it. Needles to say, I never tried that trick again but have done my share of dumb things.

The old Pontiac served us well but by 1949 it was beginning to show its age. Of course we made our monthly trips to Klamath Falls and Pop took it out hunting or fishing almost every day.

In the spring of 1950, we made our usual monthly trip to Klamath Falls and after we had loaded the car with groceries we headed home. It had been a particularly hard and cold winter and when we were about 20 miles of town, Pop was driving down a long hill on Highway 66. At the bottom of the hill there were a series of frost heaves that Pop took fairly fast. As soon as we hit those frost heaves, the Pontiac began to shake and jump, then a loud clunk came from under the car and I heard Pop let out one of his famous expletives, saying, “I think the motor just fell out. We coasted to a stop and sure enough about 50 feet behind us, lying right in the middle of the road, sat our engine. Pop didn’t seem too worried and as soon as he cooled down he walked a short distance to a small store and told his friend, the proprietor, he was in trouble. The old man agreed and said he would help.

The man then went behind the store and came out with a tractor and trailer. He and Pop struggled to get the Pontiac loaded while Mom and I watched from a bench in front of the store. I think the air was slightly blue from the remarks from those two gentlemen but Mom didn’t say a word.

After the Pontiac was securely chained to the trailer, we all piled in and the man took off, towing us at a very slow rate back to Klamath. It was getting late in the day and Pop’s concern was that there would be no dealers open. As it turned out, the tractor driver knew just where to go. He pulled right up in front of Balsinger Motors on Main Street. It wasn’t long before a salesman came out to access the situation. I was apparent that the Pontiac wasn’t going anywhere and he seemed to be sure he had a sale.
The war had been over for 5 years and there was no waiting list for a new car so I’m sure the salesman was salivating at the prospect of selling Pop a new Oldsmobile. Of course, Mom and I were hopping for a new one too but knowing, Pop, it would never happen.

After a little haggling the salesman showed us a 1947 Oldsmobile sedan with not too many miles on it. It seemed to fit right into Pop’s idea and price range. After haggling over how much he would get for the Pontiac, without front and rear bumpers and minus a motor, a deal was struck.

While Pop and the salesman were writing up the paperwork, Mom, the tractor driver, and I began to transfer the month’s groceries to the new car. Pop came out just as we were finishing and offered to take the 4 of us to dinner. The tractor driver declined since he had to get the tractor and trailer home before dark. I think Pop tried to pay him for his services but was told that that what friends were for. Those were the days when friendship and a handshake meant something.

After we had a dinner at Bing’s Café we headed home. Pop said we should stop at Park’s Grocery store on the way home again since there was so much more room in the new car, he was sure he could fit in the next month’s groceries without any problem. Mom and I both balked and Pop’s idea was soon vetoed.

On the way home, Pop couldn’t resist honking the horn and was disappointed that it didn’t have near the volume as the one on the Pontiac. I think the horses in the fields on the way home were relieved, as were we.

The new Olds was a Godsend from the Pontiac just as the Pontiac was from the Ford. We were keeping up with progress.

Our new Oldsmobile had much less stress on it since Frank and Bud were married and I had not learned the virtues of the back seat…Yet!

To be continued…sometime.