1950s North Main merchants, jacking up car

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I sometimes get requests to repeat columns I wrote years ago. One lady told me she had some information about those 1950s North Main Street merchants. She wanted me to add her information and use it to rehash that North Main story that I wrote a few years ago. I told her to send it to me this week and I would write that column next week. Another reader stood me down that I was in error when I wrote that the Jitney Jungle Food store was never located on North Main Street.

Of course most of you know that it was located on North Main prior to its moving to another Atmore location.

I will tell you that location and clear it all this up next week in that column about all those North Main Street merchants.

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In this day and time, mechanics need a college degree in engineering or electronics to work on modern, late model and new cars and trucks, especially those vehicles with all the computerized gadgets on them.

You need a catalog listing just to recognize and identify all these models. Just a few days ago, I passed a car parked along the interstate. I had no idea what make it was. I stopped and offered my help, but the driver yelled, “it’s the computer.”

You know, I wish all cars were like they those back in the 1950s. Fords, Chevrolets, Chryslers, Buicks, Pontiacs, Mercury’s, a few Studebakers and Hudson’s were the main makes in those days. Most came equipped with ‘straight shifts,” a few with automatic transmissions, roll down windows and a “wind up” jack to place under the axel in the event of a flat tire. Cars were plain, solid, dependable and easy to work on. Cost of repairs then was nothing compared to today’s cost.

For me, take away all those unnecessary gadgets because when they fail to function, you pay big to get them repaired. Yet, so many people want “loaded automobiles.”

They want two-to-three color paint jobs and paint designs, a “computer map” that show them how to reach certain destinations, seats that fold into a half-dozen positions, radios that turn on with the clap of a hand and, believe it or not, a TV that backseat riders can watch while riding down the highway. I wouldn’t be surprised to see personal computers added to the gadgetry list in the near future.

Again, when these items break down you can expect to “pay through the nose” to get them repaired.

Have you ever tried to put a jack under one of these newer cars? I did a couple of years ago, only to discover I was jacking up my floorboard. I missed the hole the jack went into. Actually, I did not know where the hole was. And, my car was about seven years old when this happened. I had to get a 16-year-old boy to show me where to insert that jack. Had I continued pumping the jack, my passenger floorboard would have ascended to the soft top lining of my interior. I am sure the floorboard would have burst wide open.

Many mechanics, who knew how to work on “old time” cars, can now no longer work on these new ones.

It is no wonder the automobile industry is having so many problems these days. Some cars cost as much as homes and mobile homes. Many cannot afford such luxuries, yet they still buy them. Some engage in payments, I am told, that spread out over 10 years.

I think many times how much I liked those old 1950 type dependable automobiles that would go miles and miles without repairs. And, give me those “shade tree” mechanics who could get you back up and running without paying the cost of an arm or a leg. I never had one breakdown back in 1954-55 as I drove from Tuscaloosa to Atmore every weekend to my job at WATM. That dependable car was a Fleetline 1950 Chevrolet. Air conditioning, however, would have been a welcomed luxury. The only maintenance, other than keeping it properly oiled and greased, was making sure my recap tires were in good condition.

Going back to the 1940s, I remember a man in Perdido who bought wrecked 1939-40 model Ford hoods. He would take these hoods and weld two of them together and make canoes or boats. When property joined, the two hoods did, indeed, resemble and perform like a boat. He apparently had a good market for these boats because he traveled throughout several surrounding counties buying up wrecked hoods. Do you suppose anyone could make a boat from hoods on today’s cars?

Several years ago, I wrote a column titled “Riding backwards In an Ambulance.” In that piece, I tried to paint a picture of words depicting my being transported to a Mobile hospital in an ambulance.

I wrote of seeing familiar objects, homes, trees and landmarks passing away from me as I looked out the back window of the ambulance. Seeing all this pass away from me brought about a chilling feeling that only the capable EMCs could soothe. They talked to me, administered to me and one sang to me. I could not have been in more capable hands.

You never know when you will be a patient like this. I have taken three similar rides like this over the years and each time I credit those wonderful EMT members for making those trips so endurable.

Next week, we will have more news from years gone by.

Email Lowell McGill at exam@frontiernet.net.