1998-99, North Nikiski
Bob needed an economical car to go back and forth to work as a carpenter for Unocal. He spotted a two-door Ford Escort at the old Unocal camp across from the plant. He asked around to see if it was for sale and if it ran. It was and it did. He bought it for $50.
It had been T-boned on the driver’s side front door. It was hit so hard that the floorboard was buckled and the driver’s seat was broken loose. It ran good and everything worked, you just couldn’t open the driver side door. So being the inventors that our friend JT and Bob are — with the use of jacks and hammers and pry bars — they pushed the floorboard back in position so the clutch and brake pedal would work.
They still had difficulty opening the door so they fixed the door latch with the piece a wire and the handle on the outside was an old garden trowel handle. All you had to do was pull on the handle, the door would open. The window in the door would not roll down. Everything else worked including the inside door handle.
Next thing to be fixed was the driver’s seat. When it was T-boned, the seat bolts broke off from the floor boards. So the inventors, still at work, put the spare tire and wheel between the driver’s seat and back rear seat. The front seat was fixed!
The muffler also got louder and louder and eventually we could hear him coming home from two miles away! Bob drove it like it was a Cadillac.
The poor car suffered many mishaps.
Driving to work one morning and in a hurry to get Unocal, he had a flat tire. He grabbed the spare tire out from behind the front seat and in his haste to get to work, threw the flat tire and wheel in the front passenger seat. He got back in, started the car and let out the clutch. The seat and Bob flopped back against the backseat, his feet in the air and he was staring at the ceiling. He could not touch to clutch or the brake. All he could think was that he hoped he hit something soft! He ended up in the borrow-pit and was able to reach the key to turn the car off. He was so glad that he did not hit anything hard. He managed to up-right his seat, opened the broken door, climb out and put the flat tire and wheel back behind the broken driver’s seat and he drove off, getting to work just in time.
One cold morning while loading garbage, as it was an all around utility vehicle, Bob slammed the hatch door and the rear window broke out. Putting his inventor’s hat back on, he patched it with clear plastic and duct tape. Eventually, his son-in-law who had a wrecked car, provided a window to replace the broken one. It did not fit so Mr. Bob the inventor, cut an opening in some plywood, screwed the plywood to the car and with mirror hangers he put the window in.
That worked for about three months, until some bad luck cutting a tree down. Mugs, Bob’s son, was in the snow plow with a rope tied to the tree. When Bob had sawed through the tree, Mugs was supposed to pull the branch with the snow plow. Things went wrong and the tree fell on the back end of the Escort – breaking the window out again. Back to plastic and duct tape!
Shortly after that the plastic broke making a big hole in the middle, probably due to colder than usual weather. On his way to work the rusted heater core busted and the car filled with steam. The steam flowed out the broken plastic hole of a back window. It looked like he was leaving a jet stream con-trail. He laughs about that to this day!
On a cold bitter November evening, we piled baskets of dirty clothes in the backseat to go wash them. (At that time we did not have running water!)
Because the heater core was busted, I had two coats, a hat and a scarf over my head. Gloves and two pair of socks and boots finished my Alaskan outfit. Bob had on a heavy coat, warm hat, gloves and a two-day-old beard. We started rattling down the road with laundry piled to the ceiling – we looked like the Grapes of Wrath, Alaska style! Coming around a curve, muffler so loud we never spoke a word, a trooper, only doing his duty, heard us coming, I am sure, a mile down the road, turned around and pulled us over.
Bob takes offense to something he thinks he has not done! The trooper motioned to roll down the window, Bob says loudly, “window is broke.”
The door handle on the inside by then, was now not in working order. He told the trooper to pull on the wooden trowel handle. The door flew open and the trooper says “pretty loud muffler, sir.”
Bob shouted. “This is ALL I got to drive!” Then Bob got real brave, which is not like him in front of a trooper and he says “WHY did you stop ME?”
The trooper stammers and says, “Your front license plate does not have a tag on it.”
Bob piled out of the car, stomped around in front of the snow covered car, wipes off the plate and there in the corner was a little bitty piece of the tag. The trooper then walks around back and inspects the back tags … all good. He checked the registration and Bob driver’s license. He looks in at me, probably looking more like one of the Grannies of Grapes of Wrath, except for all the coats, scarves, gloves and boots all hunkered down shivering until my teeth were rattling. I do think he felt sorry for us two scrungy, scruffy, cold OLD people and he said, “Dang cold — you better be on your way.”
Bob slammed the door, and was so mad, he took off like a lightning bolt, muffler noise deafening! I had to remind him to slow down! Did he want to get a speeding ticket?
It ran well even in lots of snow and it got us up the ice-slick drive way hill and to our destination or to Bob’s work. He drove it for two and a half years and then retired it. Someone inquired about it. Bob gave it to him. Darned if we did not see “our” Escort rattling up and down the road for another two years!
Happy birthday to my little sister Elaine Mary McClure Oster! We love you very much!
The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self-taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.