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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When driving required forbearance—winter war stories


The earliest I remember being in a car and knowing it was a moving vehicle was after the 1936 Dodge coupe needed a back seat, about the time my brother became a toddler and was awarded the space between my parents. I've written of the misery of that back seat, but I have other memories of that car, too. Winter memories.



Ours was green

We lived on North Hill in Akron. The operative word is hill. In order to visit half my relatives, as my parents did about every weekend, my father drove that little coupe into the same valley I still live on top of, back up the other side to visit my aunt and uncle in Richfield, or my grandmother in Cleveland.

Dad put chains on the tires in winter. The chains clanked on the roads across town, and crunched on the snow on the hills into the valley, over the river through the covered bridge, along the railroad track and back up Everett Road, off on our visit.

Snow that melted to slush was a problem. Other cars threw it up and dirtied the windshield. I remember a trip home, dad stopped several times on Riverview Road to wash the windshield with a handful of clean snow from the roadside.

I wonder how snow was removed from roads back then, especially residential roads. I remember the neighborhood men shoveling the hill on Gardendale and spreading ashes from the furnaces in order to get up the hill to go to work in the morning. I can think of close to ten families whose breadwinner had to get a car up the hill. My brother reminisced of times all the cars were parked along the cross street and Gardendale hill was the neighborhood sled run.

We did not have our garage on Gardendale until about 1950; dad parked in the drive at the front of the house. But since that drive went downhill, in the winter he parked next door, on the Cole’s level drive. He drove Helen Cole to work in the mornings.

Automobiles were “warmed up” back then, brought up to temperature. One morning Dad walked over to the Coles, started the car, came back for breakfast. A very few minutes later our phone rang. “John, John the car’s on fire!” I heard Helen’s voice through the phone, dad dropped the receiver and ran next door. The 1936 Dodge was a total loss!

My last childhood memory of cars and winter is 1955. Mom and I were downtown Akron and starting home in rush hour traffic.  It began to snow heavily, the traffic moved fitfully across the high level bridge onto North Street. Mom surmised the problem was no one could get up Dan Street Hill. She pulled into the yard of a construction company, locked the car and begin walking. Dan Street hill was indeed the problem, snarled with cars sliding every direction. It was the best route home, but too dangerous with cars, so she took the longer, easier slope up Home Avenue. We went straight up the middle of the road, walking the invisible center line.

Cars passed us, moving slowly, until one just abreast began fishtailing. We watched for a moment, Mom sizing up the situation. She went to the driver’s window, announced she would tell him how to get up the hill. She would push from his side, her daughter on the bumper, and he would follow her instructions for the accelerator. Mom always said what she meant and meant what she said; the driver fell in with her plan. I was just the twelve year old in saddle shoes in back; we walked that car to the top of the hill, to, I hope, undying gratitude of the long line behind.



A screen grab.
Shoveling snow at my grandma's house,
before there was a back seat in the Dodge coupe.

24 comments:

  1. I was driven to school in a Ford V8 Pilot for a while - I envied those huge, American cars. Snow chains - what adventurous times.

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  2. I remember the foul winter the UK experienced in 1967 .My grandmother and aunt had to rescued from their snowbound cottage...they couldn't return for weeks. My Dad drove an A60 ...it was like a tank in the snow.
    Jane x

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  3. I love reading about your memories... my own family didn't have a car when I was growing up... but those snow memories... I think 1950 was the BIG snow.. the day after Thanksgiving.... You bring it all back....

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    1. Wasn't that something. Grandma came for Thanksgiving wearing a spring coat and was snowbound for a week. Every sock was darned, every button sewed on, every floor scrubbed twice before she left.

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  4. Getting anywhere in winter was an adventure back in the day.

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  5. Holy Pilolly, that is a story to tell.

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  6. Ditto The Odd Essay, keep the memories coming.

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  7. Fun to remember things like being a kid bouncing around in the back seat, listening to tire chains clank, walking home in snow. Fun to remember but glad it's in the past.

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  8. Okay, now we know where you got at least one of your attributes, Joanne!

    Fun post. Not necessarily fun times, but a fun post. My father has told me of snow in his rural community so deep (before snow plows were common), the men worked together to shovel and break a trail for the horses and sleighs. That probably makes me sound older than I actually am ... but my father would have been only about fifteen when he helped his own father and the other men do that.

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  9. Reading this brought back memories of my mom and driving when we lived in Pennsylvania. It was a city of hills too so when it snowed or was icy, she was always petrified driving the hills and knew which ones were the "safer" ones to possibly not get stuck. I think that's why she eventually decided to move away from family and settle in Southern California; no snow/ice!

    great memories!

    betty

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  10. The thought of snow and cars sliding or getting bogged is just awful. I truly do not know how people cope with those conditions. If you are able to stay home, that's okay, but having to drive to work, school etc, just boggles my mind. I know there are now snow plows to clear the roads, but they can't be everywhere at once and people still have to somehow drive through blizzards etc.
    My first car memory is an Austin (I think) panel van with a faulty door catch. My dad turned into our driveway, the door swung open and my sister fell out. She wasn't hurt just had a scraped shoulder.

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  11. Snow country folks learn young how to assist a car stuck in the show. We didn't have driver's training for such instruction -- just family and neighbors -- this is what community is all about. Good post -- barbara

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  12. Hari OM
    Oh yes, flashbacks to 1963 and a winter visit to the grandfolks in the Scottish Borders - getting the old Austin Cooper stuck in a snow drift and being rescued by tractor. Those were the days. Are they returning?? YAM xx

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  13. My father believed in Dodge so much that he kept his old jalopy for decades, even when the headliner was in tatters and the muffler needed replacing. Lol. Memories...

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  14. I was frightened when your mother wanted you to push the motorist's car from behind. I had visions of it slipping backwards--but obviously your'e still here, and thank goodness!

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  15. If only those folks in Atlanta knew what you know. I stay at home when the south gets snow. You will not catch me in a car.

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  16. Your post triggered a chain of thought associations that took me right back to my first Meccano set. The misery of the back seat... 7 Little Girls Sitting on the Back Seat... The first record I ever owned - our neighbour gave it to me (I was about 9)... My dad and I had made a gramophone out of my new Meccano set and wanted a record to play on it.

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    1. I completely forgot that song until I just googled it. I must tell you, our back seat was so miserable it did not come to mind when I heard the song on my little red Philco.

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  17. My youngest son is headed for Atlanta on business, I hope he enjoys the weather! Great post Joanne.

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  18. There is a favourite story of my mother's about when she and my father were young and poor and had an old beat up ford. I was still a baby. They were driving from New York State to New Jersey via the George Washington Bridge. As you approach the bridge there is quite a hill and there was a lot of snow on the ground. Limousines and fancy cars were stuck as they tried to approach the bridge. But my Dad had chains on his car -- chains that he had repaired by tying the broken links together with one of my diapers!!

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    1. I am in awe of the resourcefulness gene. Or is it just plain old "can do."
      And I am too familiar with that hill. Both ways. I drove it frequently for several years. I remember one time...

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  19. I saw a brief clip on TV this morning of a southern road being cleared and remembered seeing the same on the streets when I grew up. The road being cleared by a road grader. Of course. Every town and village had road graders to put into service.

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  20. wow that was some surprise for your dad at breakfast. I still think about different routes during the winter because of snow, ice and a hill. Planning helps.

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  21. It's a good thing we don't have snow and ice in Florida. The natives would not know how to drive at all.

    Love,
    Janie

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