Dad’s First Car!
By Bill Shepard
It was a shiny black four door T Model Ford! Of course it was used, it seemed everything Dad bought was used! That was alright! Anyone who has kept up with my writings in the paper already knows the story about the car and how Dad became its owner, but for those that may not know, I will tell it again.
After weeks of negotiations Dad purchased the car for twenty dollars. He was aiming at a price of eighteen dollars, but the owner would not budge off of twenty. He said he had already moved off of twenty-two dollars. Anyway, Dad bought the car and we had moved up another notch on the social ladder!
Unless the reader has visited a museum or is as old as Methuselah, there is a chance you have never laid eyes on a T-Model Ford! I have memories of driving one when I was a budding teenager. I could have owned it for ten dollars, but that is another story.
Dad’s car had four doors, but no wind up glass windows. Instead of glass windows, there were slide curtains. For some reason, Dad did not get the curtains when he bought the car. I suppose they cost extra. On cold and rainy days, if we were in the car, Mama would hang one of her quilts over the open window space to keep out the cold and rain. Sometimes she would let the children sit in the floor space and spread a quilt over us. Of course we didn’t travel much during the cold rainy days.
The one time that I remember most was when we were visiting one of my uncles that lived in the country near to Hartsville. We all loaded up to go to town. There was a car full of folk in the car. In town, we went to Coker’s Dime Store. Just about everything in Hartsville was owned by the Coker family. Inside the store, my cousin saw a Jew’s Harp, pronounced juice harp and he wanted that thing. Of course, his Dad wouldn’t buy it and that boy pitched a temper tantrum right there in the store. If I‘d had a dime, I would have bought it for him. Mama rushed all of us to the car and the men folk followed shortly. It started to rain and Mama placed all of us in the back floor under a quilt and we were off homeward. That boy screamed all the way home, “Daddy, I want a Jew’s Harp!” Can you imagine being covered in a quilt and someone screaming in your ears? The old car bounced along the miles of dirt road, keeping rhythm to that boy’s screaming. When we arrived home that boy got a good whipping and I was glad!
T-Model Fords were not equipped with a self-starter. You were given a crank with which to start the car. It was a crude piece of iron rod that fit into a slot that would allow one to turn the motor. When the motor started, the crank was removed and the car was ready to move. On the floor underneath the steering wheel, three pedals were located. One pedal to go forward, one to move backwards, and one to stop. Two levers that were located on the steering rod underneath the steering wheel determined how fast one could travel. One lever was for gas, the other for spark. The trick was to know how much of which to give! Too much spark and the motor would backfire! I never realized how complicated the old car was until I have tried to write about it!
We seldom made a trip anywhere in the old car without having at least one or more flat tires to be repaired. Patching the inner tubes could be a job! When jacking the wheel up and removing the wheel, often the jack would fall and that would really be a problem! Once the wheel was jacked up, we had to remove the inner-tube, find the hole, place the patch over it, then pump the air back into the tire. Hours could be spent getting the tire fixed. Dad would sweat and I would play along the roadside. Not many cars would be seen passing in those days.
The rough and bumpy dirt roads were hard on the old cars in those early times. Dad often said that if he drove along Smith Avenue, and the old car was still together in the end, it had to be a good car!
I don’t know how long we kept the old T-Model, but there came a day that Dad moved up to the next level. That was a sleek looking A-Model Ford! We were really moving on up in our world! Davis and Clanton, forerunners of the big Auto Sales on the Hartsville Road today, was the place to buy a used A-Model Ford! They were brought down from the north and looked like new! I don’t know how many of the old cars Dad bought in his lifetime, but there were several. Finally, in 1937, Dad bought his first and only new car. It was a 1937 Plymouth and he bought it from Davis and Cannon, located at the edge of N. Main. Wow! What a beauty it was! It cost a whopping seven hundred dollars!
Dad had promised us a trip to Myrtle Beach when he got his new car! There was so much excitement in the weeks ahead. Next time!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673.