My first car was a 1967 Mustang. How cool is that? Just ask Randy Dickerson, he will tell you how cool it was, especially in the winter when the heat didn’t work. Come to think of it, the car wasn’t cool at all. The lining on the ceiling was peeling off and I can remember singing Wham songs while passing Busch Gardens. How much more uncool could I have been?
The car was my first introduction into the world of auto mechanics. I’ve had some mechanics I trusted and others that I have prayed for, but my first go around with a garage was something else. At the time, I lived in Grove and there wasn’t much out there besides the 7-11. There were two big claims in Grove. First, was that Ron Springs Road was out there. Second, was that there was an interesting smell from time to time. Those of us who lived out there tried to claim it was the sweet smell of Budweiser from the brewery. Those who did not live out there knew it was the water treatment plant.
So back to the story… My parents gave me the Mustang after having kept it in the garage long enough for a field mouse to move in. That’s true, it jumped out of the sagging lining when I was driving. It landed on the steering wheel and I was able to roll the window down. Then Runaway Ralph hopped onto the side mirror, took one last look back, and jumped to freedom somewhere around the fire station that was the unofficial beginning of Grove. Anyway, as you can imagine for an older car that had been resting for a few years, the inspection was going to be a challenge. Sure enough, the brakes did not pass.
On my way home from the disappointment of the failed inspection, I decided to stop at the garage that was at the end of Ron Springs Road. I’m pretty sure I surprised the owner because I rarely saw any cars there and he might have been sleeping in the dark of his office. He shook my hand and and there was blue collar all over his introduction. His skin was tough after years of rooting through cranky engines and his grip was nothing but strong. I explained my situation, he said he could help, but I would need to go to the auto parts store over by Frank’s Truck Stop to get a part. I knew nothing of what he was talking about. He knew I had no clue and I’m guessing nothing better to do, so he locked up the shop, and hopped in the passenger seat. He would ride over there with me and make sure we had the correct part.
I had never met this man before and I was aware of “stranger danger,” but he gave off an energy that was more mentor than mechanic. He felt like a grandfather. While I have forgotten his name, I’m not sure we ever introduced ourselves that way, I know that he was an interesting dude. He was old, like old enough to have worked on cars in the 1930s and he moved with a hunched over mechanic’s posture. He wore oil stained overalls and a red baseball cap. There was no conversation as we made our way to pick up the new part. I drove and he rode. The whole way over he just stared out the window and let the wind blow on his face.
Once we got there, he was all business. He knew exactly what part he wanted and when the arrogant counter guy tossed the box on the counter, the mechanic knew better than to leave. I like to think he was just a cautious consumer, but I fear this man had been through a lot of bad business dealings with people who thought they might be better than him. He opened the box slowly. I remember thinking how hands so tough could pull that cardboard back so carefully. He took the part out of the box, gave it a good stare, and put it back. Then he pushed it back across the counter and asked the “runner” to go get the right one.
We made it back to his garage and he asked me to come back the next day and he would fix the car. The next morning I headed over and he got right to work. A couple of hours later I had the brakes that would allow the car to pass inspection. More importantly, I had a good experience with an honest man. I would go back to him a couple of times to have some simple repairs made. One day I went over and he explained to me that he just wasn’t able to work on cars the way he had when he was younger. I appreciated his integrity and continue to think of him whenever something goes wrong with my car. He made those first few years of driving “Mustang cool” even though the car had no heat and rocked out to Wham a couple of times.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. One thing about Williamsburg is that it is about it’s history. A history that gets rewritten all the time. Several years ago, I went about taking photos of different parts of WJCC and I made it out to Grove. The smell was not there on this day and neither was the old garage. Time seems to have closed it down.
|The Old Service Station
All rights reserved-Chris Hancock