The time after the holidays is always a good time to regroup. We put away the decorations and get back to those projects and repairs that have been neglected. So it was when I was younger as well.
My father always fancied himself as a great home repairman. It seemed that there was no project that he didn’t undertake. He did a lot of his own auto repairs, and tinkered with many of the appliances. Sometimes this took an unexpected turn.
In the 1950s we had one of those humongous black and white TVs – big in the sense of the case. I don’t think the picture tube was larger than about 17 inches. But the case was really big. It sat on a table and was made out of wood. The insides were a maze of vacuum tubes and wires.
Now my father came by his interest in fixing things naturally. In 1929 when he joined the army he became a blacksmith for a cavalry unit, and later moved into the armored division where he repaired vehicles. So I guess he thought that the could fix a TV.
About 1958, he got a “box” so he could test the tubes in the TV and then all he would have to do it get a new one, when one burned out. I don’t know where he got the box or where he expected to get the replacement vacuum tubes in that pre-Amazon era. The sources of these things, like many things adults did, were a mystery to me – a 14-year-old boy. I don’t think he ever successfully fixed our TV and one night he almost did himself in.
He was monkeying around after dinner in the back of the set and suddenly there was a loud pop and a flash and the odor of ozone filled the air. When my mother and I got into the living room he was on the floor, looking kind of dazed. Mother asked what happened. And this is what he told her. He had been using a screwdriver in the set and inadvertently touched the capacitor and when he did, it discharged the electrical current that it had been storing. It blew him across the room. That ended his TV repair days, and the tube box was exiled to the back storage area.
One other time one of his repair adventures took another bad turn.
In the late 1970s, one day my father decided to replace the muffler on his car. He enlisted my sister’s husband to help him. Now this is where the story gets a bit fuzzy. In the process of removing the old muffler, which he was under, either my brother-in-law dropped it, or it “fell” on his head. It was then a race to the local hospital’s emergency room as he was bleeding profusely.
My sister later relayed what happened next. They took him in immediately and administered some local anesthesia around the cut to sew him up. But before they could begin, an ambulance pulled up with a serious emergency, so they left him to attend the other case. It was about two hours before they could get back to him and by then the local anesthetic had worn off. Of course no one thought about that as they stuck in the needle to sew him up. As my sister put it later, they had to peel him off the ceiling. My sister, who was a nurse, said she couldn’t help it and smiled. But it wasn’t funny to him.
But these stories did provide a smile to those who heard them and they became part of family lore.
And like most family lore, once you do something they NEVER LET YOU FORGET IT.