After I graduated in 1951 from Mohawk High School, Marcola, Oregon, about 20 miles east of Eugene, I was thrown into the world of the unemployed. It was a summer of change, not only in Oregon but also in the country, as America was bogged down in the Korean War.
Some family members had worked for Manerud-Huntington Fuel Company in Eugene, so I met foreman
George Drake at the yard office, applied for work, and he hired me in August 1951. My first assignment was to haul firewood from the Eugene Plywood Mill. The wood came from what they called "pond lilies,” cuttings from the ends of logs that were headed for the big plywood lathe.
Dents, scrapes and rust
My delivery truck was a late 1930s Ford ton-and-a-half that could haul a cord of wood, which I loaded from the mill dock. The truck had its share of dents, scrapes and rust, and the driver's side door was missing; most of the time it was reliable. I remember the incident when I almost put it out to pasture. The truck had a mechanical problem, can’t remember what. Art, our mechanic, pulled it into the shop. While he worked on it, I either piled wood or sacked coal in the fuel yard.
George rescued me from the yard work and said the Ford was ready and that I should drive to the downtown office at 10th and Oak to pick up wood orders.
As I drove toward the office, the engine quit every time I came to a red light or stop sign. I finally made it to the office and picked up the orders, but then I couldn't get the old Ford started. Shy Huntington, one of the partners in the firm, came out and kindly offered to give me a pull in his green GMC pickup. He got me started, and I sailed north on Oak toward the courthouse. The engine quit when I stopped at several intersections. I managed to get it started each time, until I arrived at the light at 6th and Olive.
Behind me sat an 18-wheeler. The driver saw my problem: a greenhorn kid and a wreck of an old Ford. He got out and suggested his big rig push me. That was great because I was holding up traffic and wanted to get the truck to the shop. I coaxed the truck back to the yard office. George saw me limp in and came out to see what ailed the old Ford. Trailing behind him was our rotund mechanic, Art.
With a stern look on his face, Art opened the hood as I explained the many times I had stalled. Art spit on one of the smoldering heads. As his spittle sizzled, he glared at me.
“Didja put water in the radiator before goin’ downtown?” he asked. I had not.
“Didn't know it needed water,” I said.
I can't repeat in this story what Art said next. To say he was mad is understating the moment. I brought into question his mechanical skills, and he was hot as the old Ford.
Somehow, I kept my job, but I think Art always suspected I didn't know too much about Ford trucks and that he would have to keep an eye on me. George probably felt sorry for me, knowing I needed that $1.27 per hour job.
That truck engine was sturdy. We let it cool, added water, and it ran at least until I left for the army in March 1953.
Wayne Warner is the retired director of the Assemblies of God Archives and Museum. He has written and compiles books and written hundreds of articles. He lives in Springfield, Missouri
Photo courtesy Wayne Warner
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