Great Jobs 18-Just Keep Right On Truckin'
While we were stuck on the West Coast for some time, Audrey found a job at the Muffler Factory right in Dowagiac. And, she was making pretty good wages on her own, besides having good benefits as a member of the United Auto Workers. That plant made tail pipe and muffler parts and assemblies for Ford Motors in Dearborn, Michigan. And, when Russ wasn’t moving the new wide Mobile Homes, he would transport new trucks for Dallas and Mavis out of South Bend. Actually both of us made several trips with them. But I did not like taking the bus back, which was provided. If our trips took us to some dealer out west it could be several days just getting back and I considered that a waste of time. Used my own money to fly back a few times but then the Teamsters Local in South Bend would not put my card in for another trip until the ‘supposed’ time between trips had elapsed, which ‘gripe’ was never resolved. So I quit taking trips for Dallas and Mavis, I figured I could do well on my own without looking for extra work.
I meanwhile found a helper from a warehouse in South Bend, Indiana, which had furniture shipments and long distance household goods moves. Jim Benston, a friend of Russ who lived in town, was a great help in moving and packing furniture, and packing household items. We made several trips together between many of the Midwestern states and going east and south. I tended to avoid any long western trips as I remembered how hard it was to get back east.
As a mover and helper, Jim was great, but he was of little help as a relief driver. It may have been me, but I could never get any rest whenever he drove. I considered him a bit careless as to driving skills. And, after several trips, I considered selling the big old Brockway. Russ and I had put a good 100,000 miles on it and now it was getting close to 200,000. Not a big amount of miles for a rig like that but now it was getting expensive to make the required preventative maintenance. It was not only North American Van Lines that required timely maintenance but the ICC had specific requirements for all tractors and trailers. that operate over the road.
I finally told Jim that I was signing off from my lease to North American, Russ and my agreement with them was over two years old, so it could be broken at anytime. North American would buy our trailer, because it was painted with their logo and ads. Beside that it was a west coast trailer, which was about two feet longer and was equipped with ‘soft ride’ suspension. I finally made a deal for 2500 bucks which was a good price in 1955 for a used trailer, you could still buy a great new car for that price back then. So now what about that old Brockway?
Jim told me he could get a job with a steel hauler that worked around Michigan and a lot of the steel plants between Gary and South Bend, Indiana, and would we let him buy the tractor. After discussing it with Russ, we decided to let him buy it for a monthly payment of 500 bucks for one year. Seemed a good deal for him because he could not get a loan to buy it from a bank, too many miles, and if he worked for a steel hauler he would be making pretty good money. So, we let him have it. And, surprising to us, he paid it off. Actually if he had not, we were also in a position to write it off.
Russ was making good money hauling mobile homes with his less expensive rig. So I found a used ‘cab over’ Chevrolet tractor, equipped with a winch and several special trailer hook ups both front and back which was great for spotting big wide mobile homes, not only in trailer parks but also on private property with some tight fits. I also bought a new Dodge truck like the one Russ had purchased the year before and rebuilt it just like his. Mine was red, of course, my favorite color, and his was blue. And, I also got Audrey a great used 1952 Ford coup. That is also the car that I took on an ice fishing trip, but that is another funny tale. I might have said that I bought that car for Audrey, but she really had not gotten a license to drive at that time. In any event it was ‘our’ car. And, we were sort of rolling in dough at that time.
Audrey finally got her license, because she scared the hell out of Russ and me one Saturday afternoon. We had just returned from a trip and were sitting in the local bar in Dowagiac having a few cool ones. Well, Audrey thought that I should be at home, after all I had been gone most of the week. After waiting for me for a couple of hours and getting madder by the minute, she finally climbed into that big cab over, somehow got it in a gear that would move it and headed for our hangout. Our two trucks were parked there so she could not use one of them, and I suppose she really liked the Ford, and didn’t want any dents on that. She picked her weapon of choice and drove it right up to the front of the bar, and as we looked out we were sure she was coming through the front of the place. We headed for cover; she bounced into the curb and killed the motor, thank God and a few angels.
I think she forgot how high up she was in that tractor, and when she ‘jumped out’ she fell right on her tail end. That wasn’t funny at all. I ran out to see how she was, and as I helped her up she was cussing a blue streak so I knew she was alright, no breaks or bruises, except for her bruised feelings. The very next Monday morning I took her in the Ford to get her license, which made her much happier. Now she could gad about town while I was gone and bum around with a few of her girl friends from work.
And now we had another money maker. In her spare time Audrey used the Ford as a flag car when we moved those long, wide, mobile homes. The rate for flagging was 35 cents a mile, with a minimum of 35 bucks for less than 100 miles.
What a great ‘family’ crew, money makers all of us.
Watch for Helmer's next chapter on Great Jobs in the July issue.
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