by Jim Bulls
In 1953 my Dad was in the money and itching to buy a newer car, or at least one more suitable for a successful educator than the 1947 Plymouth he was currently driving. Buick was his make of choice, and one Saturday he drove around the block where Jackson’s Buick lot was at least three times. On the used car lot sat a gun metal grey Super Four-Door with a cream top. It was just two years old and it looked brand new.
We took the Buick Super on a test drive to Orange Cove, where Dad started up to O.C. cut-off to Hwy 180. If the Buick could make it up the grade without falling below 40 MPH she would pass the test. And she did, with flying colors. We were driving through tall cotton now—this was the first car we had ever owned that had a radio!
It was a family tradition to make an annual summer pilgrimage to Texas and Oklahoma, and this summer was special because Grandma and Grandpa were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The big Buick seemed to smooth out the ruts and bumps of old Route 66 much better than our Plymouth and there was plenty of room for a family of three. I even had my own arm rest in the back seat.
We had a wonderful time with family and departed for home expecting an uneventful trip. Tulsa to Boice City, Oklahoma, then Albuquerque, New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona, and then, miles from Flagstaff and on a perilous section of mountain road with hardly room to pull off the pavement, the Buick rolls to a stop.
Dad managed to get part-way off the road, but we were still in danger of being side-swiped! Furthermore, we only had reverse and backing home to Reedley just wasn’t an option.
Enter Good Samaritan Number One
“Gramps” and his grandson were in a Studebaker pickup, and somehow they found a way to park in front of our Buick. “Gramps” pulls out a logging chain from the pickup bed and proceeded to hook us up and then pull us westward. We finally reach Seligman, Arizona and stop at a full-service station where the mechanic says there is only one guy he knows of who can fix the problem and he is in Kingman, close to 160 miles away! We all get back in the car and “Gramps” continues towing us west.When we get to Kingman, “Gramps” makes sure we are in the right place before he leaves. My Dad offers him $20, but he refuses saying “You’ll need it,” as he pulls toward the road. Dad tosses the 20 into the boy’s lap and says “Have a couple of steaks and a movie on me,” as the Studebaker kicks up gravel and heads off toward L.A.
Samaritan Number Two: Mr. Logus
We walked past the house to a big shop where a shop light is swaying on its hook, illuminating the brake shoes on an old Chevy. Mr. Logus is a big man, close to 400 pounds, clad in overalls and sitting on a mechanic’s creeper and armed with some brake shoe pliers. He looks up and pushes on the side of the Chevy to propel himself backwards; exposing that he has no legs. After introducing himself and asking about our car problem, he tells us that years before he had rebuilt an Oldsmobile Hydromatic and while test driving the car, the transmission blew up and he lost both legs. He hates wearing his prosthetic legs and he only needs them if he is test driving a car.
So the Buick Super was backed up to the shop and Mr. Logus set us up in a motel about a quarter of a mile west. There was a diner next door, so we didn’t need to go anywhere. On the third day, Mr. Logus test drove the Buick and finds a minute leak. He ponders the problem, then jacked the car up and took the transmission back out. He needed to order a few more parts, so we were biding our time in Kingman.
Good Samaritan Number Three
This was years before credit cards; a personal check was the accepted mode of payment, but Dad was afraid that he was going to have a bouncing check with all the unplanned expenses. He made a long distance phone call to the Reedley Bank of America, and bank manager Hank Rasmussen to explain the “pickle” we were in. Hank basically said not to worry about the money. He would have all Dad’s checks directed to his desk and he would make sure they were honored. When we got back into town, Dad was to go into the bank and setup a personal loan to pay for it.
Back in Kingman, we stayed in that motel room for seven days. Mom bought some sketch pads and colored pencils for us to use to pass the time (remember this was before television).There were some big elm trees with picnic benches in back of the motel, where we sat and sketched the mountains to the east. In biology you have probably studied insects, but I don’t know if you have seen a “walking stick.” It resembles a twig on a tree, not much longer than three inches, and it sits on a tree limb waiting for something to crawl by that it can eat. I spent three days watching a “walking stick.”
Finally Mr. Logus is satisfied with the Buick and only charges for the new parts. We load up the car and stop by the grocery store for bologna, bread, mayonnaise, chips and sodas—we are driving straight through to Reedley!
Good Samaritan Number Four
Boy, Reedley never looked so good as we crossed the Kings River. Dad settled up with Mr. Rasmussen at the bank, and a day or two later there was a knock at our front door. There stood Winnie Jackson, wanting to know the entire details of our unfortunate adventure. He told Dad, when he was in the market to buy a new car, to be sure to come and see him before he bought anywhere else.
Dad was a man who wanted to get his money’s worth out of any investment, and the Buick Super’s transmission was no exception. He planned on driving that Buick for at least a year before he would start thinking about buying a new car. On our trip east the next summer, we invented the “New Car Game.” We wrote down all the makes of cars for 1954. We counted only the new cars we met on the trip, and the favorite car colors. The craze that year was for two and three tone color combinations. The most popular car was the Ford V-8, then Chevy, and the new Buick Special V-8 came in at number three, ahead of the Plymouth. The favorite color combination was yellow and white with green upholstery. Our trip was uneventful this time as the Buick ran flawlessly.
In 1955 there were ten automobile dealers in Reedley. The announcement of the new model cars was a big deal. Showroom windows were covered with butcher paper and you had to have an invitation for the sneak preview. Dad was thinking about a new car.
In May of 1955, Jackson’s unloaded a Dover White and Spruce Green Buick Special hard top. Winnie Jackson gave my Dad top blue book plus our expenses at Kingman when he traded the old Buick in for the new Buick Special.