Fixing the Car

My grandfather often told of the times in the 1920s, when he was a young man and a good mechanic. Here’s a story of how his children helped him and he had to fix the car.1920 Chevy

In the 1920s we lived in Ingell’s Crossing, New York near Fulton and I had a Chevrolet. (similar to the one at left.)

I was going to take the children out for a ride (Marjorie, Bette, Robert, and Barbara) to where I was brought up one Sunday. It was the only day that we could go because I worked on the farm the rest of the week.

I thought I’d better change the oil in the car. Well, we had a couple of maple trees at the place, but they didn’t produce enough syrup so I bought some maple syrup. When the can was empty, I told the children to put it in the dump, so they did. Later I wanted to get the oil for the car, about four quarts, and I told the children to get me a gallon can. Well there were lots of cans there, but they picked the syrup can.

I went downtown and got the oil in it and put it in the car. Well, the next morning we started off. We had gotten as far a Sandy Creek when the children had to go to the bathroom. So I shut off the car and when they came back it wouldn’t start. I stepped on the switch, but it still wouldn’t start. I always carried tools in those days as I did all my own work on the car and I loosened the flywheel to the generator, it was loose, so I put it back and the car still wouldn’t start. So I got the crank out, but it wouldn’t budge.

The maple syrup left in the can had mixed with the oil and when I stopped it had gummed up the engine and set it up tight. I went to the neighbors, I was fortunate for there was a young lad nearby who did auto repair work. He came and tried it and said, “You’re set up, how come?” I said, “I don’t know.” It hadn’t come to me about the maple syrup yet. In those days it was easier to work on a car. We started at 8 a.m. and by 5 p.m. we had the whole engine apart. We took the head off and drained everything and took the base off with the oil in it and could see the maple syrup. We had to clean the whole engine with alcohol. When we finished there was a little squeak in it, but it would run. I said, “I’ll fix that.”

The next day I went down to the dealer and traded it for a new car.

About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in American History, Norvell Family History, NY, NY History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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