Rant n' Rave – Piss n' Moan – rambles and rants of an old man…

November 30, 2014

Yeah! He’s The Lone Ranger!!

Filed under: — Bob @ 2:08 pm

This true story is about my real-life hero, my Pop, Ralph.

I got my driver’s license back around June, 1960, and at about that time, probably in September, my Dad’s Mother’s sister, Auntie Ida, who was elderly and not well enough to live in her house alone had one of several hired women stay with her overnight, but at this point, her current lady had to leave for some personal reason.

It was decided, with my agreement, for me to sleep there until another woman could be found and hired.  I would go over every evening, after supper at home with my Mom and Dad and Brother Rick.  Sometimes I went earlier to have supper with Auntie Ida.  We would eat in the kitchen, then retire to the study where we would watch the GIANT COLOR cabinet 25″ TV!!  …y’know the kind I mean, built into a long oak cabinet with a record player and multiband radio, and a couple of REALLY good speakers!  …and best of all Auntie Ida LOVED to watch ‘travel documentaries’, as she referred to them.  This is 1960, remember!  …COLOR TV!!!

Well, on school nights, I would go up to bed around 10 o’clock and read a while before sleep,  and wake up to the smells of hot cocoa warming up, with some toast, or a couple of eggs.  We’d sit at the kitchen table, have our breakfast while looking out at the trees changing color during the Fall season, listening to the news and weather on the radio.

When it was time to head home to change and go to school, (Boston English High School) I’d go out to my Mom’s 1953 two-tone-grey Buick 4-door Special, with the straight-8 engine and the Dynaflo transmission.

This is not the actual car, just some pix to show what I’m talking about:

1953 4-door Buick Special

1953 4-door Buick Special

1953 4-door Buick Special

…and it had a heater unit under the front seat so it could blow heat to the front back seat areas!

…NO air-conditioner!

…NO power steering!

…NO power brakes!

…NO power windows!

…NO power seats!

…AM radio, NO FM!

…and you could open the hood sideways from either side by unlatching that side’s latch inside the car.

1949 Buick hood open right

1951 Buick hood open left

…COOL, huh?  …not sure if you could open the hood normally from the front.

…and the the radio antenna was at the top-center above the windshield, just barely visible in the 1st pic above.

…and you had to rotate a ball on the inside of the car at the top of the windshield to rotate the antenna down to where you could reach it from the front window!  …visible in the 3rd pic, above the rear-view mirror.

…and you started it by turning on the key, then stomping the gas pedal to the floor to engage the starter!

Enough about the tank, errr, I mean Buick.

So, on this particular day in late October, 1960, I was excited to have my first drive in snow!

I had a short-sleeved shirt and a pair of khaki pants, and was wearing a pair of penny loafers (no pennies – not cool) and had a light-weight canvas jacket.

It was snowing fairly heavily, big wet flakes, piling up quickly as I walked through the 6″ or 8″ of snow, fired up the Buick, then cleared off the windows and waved goodbye to Auntie Ida, who was watching from the kitchen window.

I backed out of the driveway and onto the street, put the gearshift into ‘D’ and gunned it a bit to feel the rear wheels spin.  The Buick  would NEVER spin on a dry or even sandy road, as the Dynaflow tranny was a soft and smooth transition from standstill to fast-forward, and didn’t have gear-changes, rather a turbine was spun by transmission fluid flowing through it to make it move.  …and yes, the road was a little slippery, even with the studded snow tires that were customarily on my Mom’s cars from mid-October to late April.

I was sent to a tire retreading shop on Washington Street in Dorchester to get them every couple of years, as the tungsten carbide studs would wear out and some would pop out while driving.  I regularly used to get bald tires from the junkyard for about $5.00 and take them to that shop where they would get fresh treads vulcanized onto them for probably about $20, making them almost as good as a new tire that would cost at least $50!

So I cautiously made my way out of Hallwood Road, onto Newton Street, turning right on Grove Street, and around the rotary at West Roxbury Parkway. Yes, I would make the Buick skid a bit here and there, getting a feel for driving in the snow.

I went around the rotary and onto the Veterans of Foreign Wars Parkway (‘The VFW’), and left onto Centre Street.  There were only a few other vehicles out at this time, and no snowplows had been around yet.

I turned right onto Walter Street at the Hebrew Rehab Center and left onto Bussey Street, then right onto South Street.  South Street is lined with 1 and 2-family houses, and parking on the street was always filled.  Now add about 12″ of snow already on the ground, and I knew from my Dad’s previous instructions about snow driving that you had to keep going or you’d get stuck.  By this time the front bumper was acting like a snow plow and the Buick was being slowed down by the drifts that were forming across the roads by the strong winds.  Also, back then, it was a 2-way street, not like now as a 1-way street.

Well, as my luck goes, Mr. Joe Blow, who lives about half-way down the street, without being too cautious of his driving, and not checking for any traffic before he plowed out of his driveway and onto the snow-covered street, backed out onto Bussey Street and got stuck, blocking the street completely, just as I was about to get through and finally reach Washington Street, which looked like it had already been plowed!

I stopped and waited for him to get out of the way, but he couldn’t move the car at all, (no snow tires, of course!), so I backed up about 40 or 50 feet to get off Bussey Street and try for a different way to Washington Street, but I got into a drift that I had just made it through going forward, and got hung up, so I couldn’t move in either direction.  “THANKS, JOE BLOW!”

It was coming down pretty hard now, and I locked the Buick up, grabbed a lap blanket out of the trunk, and took the ‘window-wiping towel’ that was always behind the drivers seat, which I wrapped over my shoulders under my light jacket, draped the blanket over my head, and started my trek to get me to Forest Hills Elevated Train Station, where I knew I could catch a train to Egleston Square Station, and then a bus over to Blue Hill Ave. heading towards Mattapan Square.

I can’t find the Egleston Square Station on the Google Earth map, but Jackson Square Station is about where it was back then.  Egleston Station was where McDonalds is now, at the corner of Columbus Ave. and Washington Street.

So I walked the ¾-mile stretch to Forest Hills Station, took the train the 2 stops to Egleston Station, and went down to the street to wait for a bus heading my way.

WELLLLLL…  NO buses running due to the deep snow!!  So I started walking up Columbus Ave., heading towards Blue Hill Ave. in over 12″ of snow.

Shortly after starting my walk, I came to a Hood’s Milk truck that was delivering to an apartment house there, so I waited for the milkman to get back and asked if I could hitch a ride with him.  He said he would be happy to have a ‘pusher’ along, in case he got stuck, even though he had tire chains on already.  I hopped aboard, and we slowly headed up the hill on Columbus Ave., moving towards Walnut Ave., at the top of the rise.

H.P. Hood & Son's milk truck

We didn’t get very far due to deep snow packing up under the milk truck, even with the chains on, and he had to back down the hill, where I jumped off at the station as he turned around and headed downhill on Columbus Ave., which turns into Mass. Ave.

I was already frozen, so I looked for someplace to warm up a bit before moving on, and spotted a newspaper/variety/coffee shop down the block on Washington St.  I went in and had enough cash for a cup of hot chocolate and a pair of socks.  I sipped the hot, creamy drink while I replaced my cold and wet socks with the new pair.  …ahhhhhh!

I then went back up to the elevated train for a ride back to Forest Hills Station, as it was closer to home than Egleston Station, even though I had walked home from Egleston many times before.

I left the moderate warmth of the train station and headed up Hyde Park Ave. and onto Walk Hill Street, for the longest leg of my trip.  I stopped into the fire station at the corner, and warmed up a bit while I called home to let them know where I was and what I was doing.  My Mom was very concerned that I had to walk from there in such deep snow, and I assured her that I would be okay.  The couple of firemen that were there said I should stay there until a snowplow went by so I could walk in the plowed path, but I wanted to make it home, so I headed out into the blizzard, quickly appearing like Omar Sharif in ‘Dr. Zhivago’, with snow sticking to my eyebrows and hair and coating my shoulders as I plowed my legs through the now 16+” of heavy snow still falling.

I just measured the trip from Forest Hills Station to my house, and it’s only about 1¾ miles, but back then in those circumstances, it seemed about 275 miles, for sure!  I have no recollection how long it took me to get home, but I do remember how the snow pushed up inside my pants legs as I lifted each foot to step forward and press it down into the snow again.  I had tried tucking my pants legs into my socks, but that didn’t last long.  I even tried tying my original (wet) socks around my ankles to hold my pants legs closed, but they pulled off in the snow somewhere.


and COLD!

So, I finally got across American Legion Highway and was on the last leg of my journey, waiting to pass the entrance of the Mount Hope Cemetery, just before Harvard Street.  Still, no people or traffic of any type, just me and the snow and the wind and the cold.

As I got about half way between the cemetery entrance and the intersection of Walk Hill St. and Harvard St., I raised my eyes up to see how far I had to go to get there, and I spied a dark object moving rapidly down the middle of the road.  It quickly became obvious that it was a man running in my direction!  He was bounding in long leaps as he made his way in my direction, and he suddenly started waving his arms, and I heard him shout my name!  I then knew it was my Hero, my Dad, my Pop, Ralph!

Yeah, The Lone Ranger to the rescue!

I kept moving slowly homeward as I watched Dad speeding towards me.  We met, he hugged me firmly, wrapped a wool Army blanket around me, then picked me up in his arms and started carrying me home, almost as fast as he had been running toward me!  To this day, I don’t know how he did that!!

I had my arm around his shoulders and we got home in about 10 minutes.  He carried me up to the porch, but had to put me down to get up the stairs to our 2nd-floor home, but he supported me and pushed me up the stairs.

I was greeted by Mom and brother Ricky and a warm cup of cocoa, my preferred warm drink.  I was quickly ushered into the bathroom, where I was gently but quickly stripped down to my skivvies, and made to get into a bathtub already full of lukewarm water, and told to sit there until I started feeling warm again, even after the water cooled off.

Eventually I did warm up, had a hot meal, and relaxed for the rest of the day, as I knew tomorrow would be a busy one.

The next morning it was warm and sunny, as it so often is after a big storm like this.  It had snowed over 2-feet the day before, and the plows finally managed to get around and clear some of the main streets before attempting the small side streets, like where I left the Buick.

My 2 buddies, Mike and Robert drove over, and we grabbed some shovels and drove to where the Buick was stranded.  The street was still impassable, but we shoveled the Buick out and I managed to slam it through the drifts and piles of snow being built up by shovelers who were clearing their cars and walks.  I told you it was like a tank!

I got the Buick home, fired up the 5½ hp. Ariens snow thrower and cleared our driveway and sidewalks, then Rick and I split the machine in two pieces, put the front end into the Buick’s back seat, protected by old blankets, and the engine/drivewheels into the trunk, and sped off to find snow-clearing jobs, and earn some cash.

The 2 snow throwers shown below are much newer than the original one my Dad bought in the 1950’s. I purchased the original size 5.5 hp unit back about 1971 to clear my gas station in Walpole, MA.  I bought the big one, a 10 hp, 32″ cut unit around 1988, and sold the small one shortly after the pic was taken. I sold the big one in July, 2002 as my commitment to moving to Florida, which we did in December 2002.  No more snow for us!!

Ariens snow throwers

That’s right, THE LONE RANGER!

Thanks, Pop.  Love ya!



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