Sunday, October 01, 2006


The 50's in California were a great time to be a "car guy". Even though I was very young I was very much a car guy. There were hotrods and mild custom cars everywhere. I must had gotten it from my brother "Bob", who was the only car guy in our family.

I could recognize the brand of car as far away as I could see it. Even at night the headlights cast their light on chrome grills that made then easy to identify. Bob had a 1950 Ford that he modified with a "love shift". The streering column shifter were reversed so it now was shifted with the left hand. He said he could keep his arm around a girl and still shift gears. Dual exhaust with SMITTY mufflers were all the rage at the time but that was before muffler shops and you had to have factory pipes. Bob's car had single exhaust and to replace it with factory duals was cost prohibitive. At the time you could cut the pipe behind the muffler and buy a "Y" with two flexible pipes to run on each side of your rear bumper, add a couple of chrome tips and you had DUAL EXHAUST. Replace the stock muffler with a SMITTY and you "almost" had the sound.

My dad was not mechanically minded when it came to cars and he would buy $100 Buicks that never lasted very long. At one time we had 3 in our yard besides the one he was driving. He never wanted to buy anything on the credit but was finally convinced to purchase a like new 1950 Plymouth and he drove it until his death in 1959.

He was always building something so he bought a 1940 Packard limousine for his work car. He took the back seat out and could put lumber inside and close the trunk lid. I just loved that old car. It was black with that big chrome grill and lots of chrome down the side.

Bob bought a 1938 Chevy coupe hotrod from the son of the man that owned the sawmill where he worked. It was white with pink flames and black and white "tuck and roll" interior. The hotrod 6 cylinder engine was blown and he gave $550 for it and paid it out $50 a week. Bob, my brother Wilson, and my dad worked at the HEATH sawmill and were making $150 a week in 1957.

The Heath sawmill was what is normally referred to as a "cross tie sawmill". It was located beside a Douglas Fir Plywood Plant. They bought the logs not fit for plywood and the round cores off the lathes at the plywood plant. You may use pine cores in your yard. That is what your landscape timbers are. Cores are now about 8 inch in diameter but in the 1950's cores were only turned down to 32 or 36 inches. The sawmill would take 4 even slices off the sides, sell them as cheap siding, and make lumber and cross ties out of the rest of the log.

My dad did not hunt or fish and as best I can remember his only hobby besides building things was "visiting". Seems we were always going over to someone's home to visit. We had several friends and relatives in the area so there was never a shortage of places to go.

On one such visit to my Aunt Rosie's home over in Booneville, I heard my first rumors of the aunts not so secret life. She was showing my mom her car that she had just bought in Santa Rosa. My aunt never worked outside of the home, and Uncle Frank (like most men of the era) handled the money from his paycheck. But here was my aunt with this beautiful Ford coupe.

Seems my aunt had a few boyfriends that were generous with their money. I loved my Aunt Rosie but she was not an attractive woman and was in her 40's at the time. Her and Uncle Frank were "oil and water" and no one knew why she stayed with a man that was overbearing and mean. I never saw him hit Aunt Rosie but their adopted son was his personal punching bag.