As I walk through the large, open, green doors into Grant’s garage over 50 years ago, I smell the familiar odor of oil and gasoline. To the left I see my uncles desk. On top of it, to the left I see several yellow tickets on a receipt spike from work that had been done. The old, black rotary phone is sitting there and still sets there in my mind. It was one of the old ones, the handle was separate from the metal rotary. I don’t remember the garage phone number, but I remember there were only four numbers then because you didn’t have to use the prefix. There are several cars with the hoods up, ready for something. Lights hanging from the ceilings by cords. On the back wall was an electric file, vices, hammers etc. Many older men made the garage their gathering place and stopped by early in the mornings to go have coffee with my uncle at the Rock café or Foy’s. My dad and his oldest brother were mechanics. Dad also worked on radiators. The garage was where the Chevrolet house keeps part of the car lot today, just south of where Sally Jane’s Texaco was. I think most of my dad’s brothers were mechanics at one time or the other, they all smelled of oil or gasoline and cigarettes. Usually on Saturdays, dad would bring us boys to town when he thought we were big enough to work. Mostly pushing the lawn mower around town, hoping to find a yard to mow. If we made anything, he always took at least half of the earnings. We had a few regulars, with names like Lemon, Gillam, Long, Gibson and others. All gone before us now, just memories, but some pleasant ones. When we weren’t mowing yards, we were at dad’s garage cleaning wrenches or sweeping the concrete floor with sawdust. I can remember the smell of gasoline while cleaning wrenches, scraping some of them with a wire brush to remove the caked-on grease and oil from the hard work my dad did. Sometimes he might be taking a transmission out or putting a motor in someone’s vehicle. If I had my rather, I certainly would rather sweep the floor. I remember seeing my dad take the radiator off of a vehicle or tractor, take out his welding torch and melt off all the solder around the housing of the radiator. He would then take the radiator to the water vat, plug the holes, hook an air hose to it and submerge it under water to see where the hole would be by watching the bubbles. I remember he had it rigged to where he would put the radiator in the vat on several bars he regulated by stepping on a lever to lower or raise the radiator. After he found the hole, he would then take out his solder and welder and melt the solder back into the hole, submerge it again to make sure the hole had been sealed. I can remember him using muriatic acid that stunk to high heavens with a small brush with an aluminum handle. He would dip the brush in the acid and rub it across where he was welding, causing a caustic fume and smoke to appear. This was to keep the area being welded clean, so the solder would stick. He would stop the holes up in the radiator and every tube within the radiator had to be cleaned, often the water would turn a dark, rust color as it was being cleaned. After the many up and down jabs of cleaning the tubes and the water ran clean, it was ready for the housing to be replaced. I remember looking at my dad, thinking how smart he was to do all the things he did without an education. The radiator was replaced, coolant put in it and it was good to go. I can still see the “old” men in the garage, sometimes walking by and mussing up our hair and giving us a nickel or dime. That’s something you don’t hardly see anymore. It was Saturday and we all knew mom would be at home getting ready for dad to come get her to buy the weekly groceries. When the day was done, and it was time to go home, dad always stopped by the bootleggers house to get his beer. Depending on what he bought to drink with it determined whether it would be a good evening or not. If it was just beer, things didn’t change a lot, but if he bought liquor, he turned into someone none of us knew, I don’t think his personality had a name at that point, the meanness and absolute terror was indescribable, but I will be saving that for a future story. For today, I want to remember the goodness in my dad, the fatherly figure he could be and the pride I felt being with him on good days.
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