Jerry L 1929 Ford Model A 2dr Coupe

A Model A and a Piece of Wood

My father-in-law passed away last year at age 92. During the 40 years that I knew him, he would often regale me with his tale of driving from Minnesota to California in a Ford Model A. This was in 1936, during the height of the depression, when many young men were anxious to find a job, any job, to clothe and feed their families.

He and a cousin set off from the cold, peat bog plains of Warroad, Minnesota. The plan was to visit and stay with an uncle in sunny Los Angeles and hope to find a decent job. Their transport of hope was a borrowed Model A, a black one certainly.

As a poor farm kid in his early 20s, my father-in-law grew up with agriculture in his veins. The little money he earned in the 1930s was gained by discipline, hard work, and self sufficiency. One Christmas, the only gift he received was a pair of bib overalls. In his honor, that's what I wear today when I take care of the home he left behind in Chelan, WA.

So, it's no wonder that when these two poor boys from MN traveled through the little dusty desert town of Las Vegas, they were awestruck by the gamblers they saw. Las Vegas in those days was just a little roadside strip of wooden shacks, with instruments of hope and riches within. He recalled a certain gambler playing with two huge stacks of silver dollar coins at the blackjack table. The gambler would nonchalantly "brippp" these stacks with his fingers, and the metallic music of such riches was something he had never dreamed or seen before.

The trusty Model A hustled them to the heavenly, palm tree world of Los Angeles of the 1930s. The wonderful scent of orange blossoms from orange groves was everywhere. The sky was a deep blue, gasoline was 10 cents/gal, and the a trolley ride in downtown LA was 5 cents. But, after weeks of dedicated searching, no jobs were to be found anywhere, and the two boys commenced their return to MN in the Model A. The only food they took with them was a bag of walnuts.

Somewhere in Kansas the ole Model A started sputtering and missing. Maintenance and troubleshooting was straightforward on the 40 HP four cylinder engine. The problem was determined to be a worn pivot bearing on the breaker points. He stopped by an old fence post, took out his whittling knife and fabricated a new bearing of wood. This kept the ole T running to Minnesota. As soon as they crossed the state line, they visited a girl cousin who gave them their first nourishing country meal since leaving CA many days ago.

A great tale, eh? Later he moved to Washington State, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, married, and with the beloved support of his family of five children became a successful apple orchardist, resort owner, and county commissioner. He was a great example of a truly independent and adaptive man. The proof. I'll bet the Model A is still around somewhere with a wooden breaker point bearing.

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