Thursday, September 28, 2006

Red Letter Day

September 27 was a milestone in my life. I retired. I started my first job in 1956 working construction on a bridge over the Savannah River at the princely rate of $1.25 per hour. For this rate, I scrambled around on 8 inch wide I beams 118 feet above the river. In those days there was no OSHA and safety was in your hands. No one tied off as is now required and the rule was "one hand for me, the other for the man".

At 16 years old the $50.00 per week seemed like a million. I bought a 1951 Ford Victoria, shaved the hood and trunk lid, put in rolled and pleated naugahyde seat covers and installed a center mounted rear antenna for the AM radio. I was in hog heaven. For $4.60 I could fill the gas tank and since there were no Interstates the gas would last all week. I loved that car. In due course, I put a Chrysler 300 Hemi engine in it and the added horsepower promptly destroyed the sickly 3 speed Ford standard transmission so I put in a 1948 Packard 3 speed with overdrive.

In those days we didn't have car parts stores on every corner and you had to make your own adapter plates, motor mounts and do your own wiring. If you wanted a cool car, you had to learn to be a mechanic, to weld, and to fabricate. There were no computer chips that controlled the ignition timing and no fuel injection so you had to learn how to do a tune up.

I feel sorry for the kids today. They can't go to a junkyard and browse around looking for something they can use. They can't adjust the timing by the way the engine feels or adjust a carburetor like we did. Cars aren't all metal anymore and dents are repaired with Bondo not lead. They can't pull up behind a friend and give him a push when his battery is dead, the bumpers on today's cars are made of plastic.

today's kids have different interests than we did. They have computers, video games, cell phones and a whole plethora of high tech gadgets that didn't exist when I was a kid. But, I don't think they have the fun we had and that is a shame.


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