1947, and I'm seven years old and one of five children. My Dad is a used car dealer in Toronto at Young and Eglinton The Hudson he is driving is as big as a battleship that weighs a ton and children can get lost in the stern. Dad uses this as his driver for family outings and towing other cars that he buys out of town and hauls back to Toronto. Roads in Ontario in 1947 were barren at night. Hills in and around the Niagara Peninsula where steep and frequent. Hamilton had some beauties. The details and the facts of this event will not get in the way of me delivering to you a good car story from years ago.
A heavy tank, the Hundson, bias ply, rubber tires, narrow single lane roads, track waved asphalt so that the cars rolled in and out of the grooves, from side to side, night time, poor old bulb powered headlamps, rain, poor wipers, and towing a 1942 willy's army jeep. What could be more fun for a 7 year old and his dad.
We had left Toronto after school, I attended Avenue road, and we live just north of the Castle Loma, in Forest Hill Village. The time frame was to Niagara Falls pick up the Jeep and return to Toronto. Dad picked me up at school on time, 4 pm. We stopped at Clapison"s Corner for supper about 7 PM. I dozed and slept in the warm June evening cuddled in the cave of the wagon. The rear window in the tail gate was the very first hand crank roll down by any auto manufacturer. No air conditioning, but a one inch crack in that rear window allowed good air flow through the car. The exhaust did not get sucked in because the tailpipe was a side exit and the Hudson never went fast enough to cause air draught behind the car or turbulence.
Somewhere near Niagara Dad picked up and hooked up the Jeep. The tow bar was bumper to bumper clamp type with a swivel ujoint in the and middle. Well built, heavy and functional it did the job so long as you had something steeel to clamp to. The Hudson did, the Jeep did.
We head East. I sleep. This is what happened, I am told many times over the years.
On a steep decline, rain, night, poor lights, the Hudson's brakes break a rubber hose, my dad climbs into the back of the Hudson as the two vehicle go head long down the hill, puts me behind the wheel, half asleep, " Steer " He is my dad, he is my hero, I can not see the road, of course I will steer. I have done this many times on my Dads lap. I have never done this on a steep hill, in the rain, in the middle of the night, half asleep. Of course I can do this. A seven year old does not believe in death, does not think of death, if your Dad is with you, and your Dad trusts you, you can do anything. So I steered.
Dad rolls down the rear window crawls out onto the bumper, and the towbar, walks to the jeep, crawls onto the hood, over the windscreen, jumps behind the wheel of the jeep,engages the clutch, put the jeep into 4 th gear, turns the key, the engine of the jeep fires, the mass of vehicles slows down. He is stopping both vehicles by using back pressure of the jeep engine. Down shift to third when speed is low enough, then second and finally dead stop in first by turning the ignition off and having dead pull back pressure..I hit nothing because I could not see anything.Dad did most of the directing since he was in the open jeep with no top. I know nothing, I feared nothing, I was unaware of danger. I remembering it happening, and it being retold at family gatherings. It seemed simple enough to me, innocence, steer the car in the rain, on the down hill towing another vehicle, at night, with no brakes, can't see. CAKE WALK.