California with DAD, 1969

I had gotten out of college, RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology,). It was cold up there and so I traveled to Florida looking for a job in warmer climes. Finally, I got a decent job being an instructor at the newly opened, north campus of Miami Dade College. For 2 years or so, I was traveling every day from Ft Lauderdale to the campus on 114th St. Than, I was tired of teaching and semi-reluctantly came back to Scranton.

I had bought a 58 Vette in Florida and rebuilt the engine, that made it reliable and usable. But, sone after, I became bored with Florida, and quit my job. (It did not pay well any way, about $4500 per year was the salary). After returning to Scranton, I sold the Vette for peanuts as it did not have a heater and would not work will in the north.

After leaving Miami Dade, and returning to Scranton, I wanted to do some restoration work on some cars as well as working in the printing business.. I had always been interested in the 50’s Oldsmobiles. The history of the GM V-8 engine was a interesting one and is personally worth writing and pursuing at another time. These first large overhead valve engines, were a direct result of WW2 military need and were waiting for the American consumer. Ready to roll forward, this new era of consumerism entered into the American life in the form of automobiles, washers, dryers, Mix-masters, lawnmowers and a host of supposedly important consumer goods. (not to mention cheap and affordable housing.

If you do a little leisure research and you will find that the GM overhead valve V-8 is a story into itself. Both squired by Cadillac and Oldsmobile, followed by Pontiac, Chevrolet and Buick.

It all started on return from Miami, after the instructor stint at Miami-Dade Jr. Collage, I started to do some sales work for Keystone Printed Specialties and began to be concerned about the draft. I had than secured a position at Maine Endwell Senior High School, to start teaching later in the year. The job was to teach high school printing, auto mechanics and power mechanics. It was a stopgap measure to help figure out that teaching made me immune to the draft (so I thought). Later I would find out that if someone forgets to notify the draft-board of you deferment status, you can be inducted, and selected, than inspected and tested, than invited in a serious way to become a important member of the United States Army. Than and only, after additional persuasive, inducements to volunteer and be invited to additional training and classification. You will than be sent to advanced summer camp in Vietnam. Here is where you be issued defensive weapons, ranging from a 5″ field howitzer or machine gun, to a 50 cal. In a helicopter.

The possibilities to defend yourself from a screaming horde of over excited native communists, who were out to get you and every other white and black American, within 10,000 miles of Hanoi.

It was a terrifying prospect. But having a good defense is everything. My Defence was to join the US Navy, where inches of high carbon steel will protect you from the North Vietnameses fire power. Sea sickness should be a breeze in comparison to being shot at.

But, wait, there is more that happened in between the Navy and me. It goes back to high school, Central high school from 1961 to 1965. It was in the form of Oldsmobiles.

My interest, in automobiles, goes back to my brother Phillip Guy, he restored a 1948 76 Old’s coupe’ and than changed the 6 cylinder engine and swapped in a 303 CI V-8 Oldsmobile engine and a brand new Corvette 4 -speed transmission. Later he sold me the car on a time payment plan that I could not refuse. Later I totaled the car one icy day, it was down across from Chick’s Diner on Moosic St or Rt 307. Sliding into the pole, well , awesome. BUT, It was not my fault, the road was solid ice, and I hit the utility pole sideways, plunging ½ of the south side of Scranton Into a massive power failure for an hour. Of course the car was Toast and the pole was Toast.

Dad got the bill from the electric company for $850.00, and it was with extreme prejudice that I was not Toast as well when he got the bill. Later, when the car was “retired” it ended up behind the Pear St plant where its engine and transmission were ripped out and sold,

All of the above occured before I returned from Florida and before the Navy.

While waiting for school term to begin at Maine Endwell Sr. High, I had located a 1950 Old’s coupe convertible ( an 88 and a rare car) it was in San Francisco. I started to convince my father that a trip to California for this car was worth it. These were the days before internet and I some how found this car in a magazine, I negotiated the price over long distance phone calls and undaunted we proceeded to escape from the pressure of the printing business and head west .

Ok, well to California with my Father. We had started out in his new 1969 Dodge Wagon. This car had serious out of round, tire problems, and we stopped in Ohio, as I refused to proceed any further me being shaken to senseless idiocy, I pleaded and begged, and finally drove into a tire place for a set of used tires that were round.

Dad refused to believe that new tires from the factory were defective and that the shaking and bouncing was all part of the car’s basic nature. (it being a Dodge and all) He had the tires Dodge front tires lashed to the overhead rack, so that when we returned to Scranton he would go to the Dodge dealer and somehow he would be refunded for the crappy tires on his new Dodge Wagon.

We than proceeded smoothly (you bet, stirred, not shaken) across the US. In the days before all interstates opened, most of the trip was on two and 4 lane fast roads like route 66 and route 30. We avoided tickets and speed traps and had our eyes out for police constantly as in these times, it was a great source of income for small mid-westren towns.

Much of the trip was interesting as my Father and I stopped at old army forts, Indian villages and pony express way station (many now lost to history.)

Eventually, Dad and I arrived in Francisco using a city map to find the street and than the house. It was a dump, the house and the car, but we had come this far, so we removed the front bumper of The Oldsmobile, put it in the back of the Wagon, and bolted the home made tow bar right to the bumper brackets and left the City by the Bay, still by the bay. The Dodge struggled but pulled bravely. Horsepower was on the low side for this wagon but it continued to move east and up.

We ended up heading for the Sierra Madre Mountains, by some route east, going through Donner Pass, Now Route 80, the road up was a tough pull for the Dodge small V-8 , pulling the 88 convertible. Up and down we went, thought the cabbage fields and grape areas, than we headed up. Higher we went, we headed to Donner, the site of the original “Survivor reality show”. One side was shear mountain and the other side skimpy wire road guard rails. But we almost made it to the summit when there was a sharp “CRACK” followed by a rapid jump in speed and a arresting jolt, than there was silence. We stopped the Dodge rapidly as we could, and looked behind us to see the Oldsmobile gaining speed backwards ,and heading toward the useless and skimpy guard rails and the cliff edge. It was kind of like “Awesome” at the same time scary.

In these days, late 60’s, there was like 10% of the traffic amount on the roads as you would find today, so the road behind the rearward accelerating Oldsmobile was clear and uncluttered with mechanical or living things. It wasn’t long, maybe 20 to 30 seconds, before the rear of the Old’s hit the guard wires, the rotted wood posts and, tearing a large section of the restraints with it, plummeted right smack over the cliff with a cloud of dust and dirt. Needless to say, we were dumbfounded. Slowly we turned and faced each other, put the Dodge in reverse and backed carefully and gingerly drove backwards, following in the path of the Old’s till we arrived at the spot where the former guard rails had originally been in place.. With reluctant and restrained eagerness, we walked the final few feet to the area that was still dusty and in raw disorder. We than proceed to peer over the sheer edge of the canyon side of the mountain. Taking in all that nature had to offer in the way of a beautiful day.

Now, if you have never been to some of the two lanes going over the Sierra Madre Mountains, or even the modern 4 lanes, some of the sights and vista are really quite exhilarating and superb. Majestic tall pines seem to hold onto the mountains with all their resilience, spreading roots into the rocky and dry earth. It is really spectacular country.

Well, when Dad and I got to peering over the edge, and taking our time to ingest all that had just occurred, we stood still and silent, a good 5-8 minutes. Each of us thinking of the trip out, the companionship, the time, gasoline, the out of round tires, and argument of who would get to sleep in the back seat. Which of us drove too fast and who to slow. The run down diners, the unending corn fields, the sandy dry barren deserts, high mountains and seemingly endless minutes of wasted time. Or was the time really wasted? Does fate in the form of a Oldsmobile, sometimes interfere with the ordinariness of life? And is there life beyond twisted steel?

Well, it wasn’t to long that dad walked back to the car, opened the tailgate on the wagon, hefted the Oldsmobile 88 solid, chromium and steel 100 lb massive 1950 bumper, out of the car, and on to the ground. He than picked up and leveraged the one end, and dragged it to the spot that the rest of the Detroit iron had aggressively destroyed 50 feet of wire cable and rotted wood post over the side of the cliff edge. Dad, without uttering a word, wrestled and slid that beautiful shinning, massive, awkward chrome bumper over the sloping edge and released it. We watched as it slid like a sled, than catching on rocks and roots, whirled like a windmill til it crash squared onto the wreck below. A perfect hit. I than went back to the car and removed the busted safety chain and threw it over the edge.

Now the only reminder of the trip rested above us all the way home to Scranton,. two out of round tires that I was fortunate and privileged to never learn of their fate nor hear of them again.

It seemingly must of worked out, because after all that, Dad and I became best of friends besides being father and son.

Shortly after that incident, I started teaching at Main Endwell Sr. High. That ended when the vice principle forgot to put my deferment in. and I received a letter to report for induction into the US ARMY.

When I quickly went into the Navy, after avoiding the Army draft, ( I did not want to be shot at) I was the proud owner of a 1961 Ford, (sold to me by my brother again, ) he bought the car at a discount. Later I had driven the car cross America with Ellen as I returned to Naval Training Center in San Diego.. The Ford remained with me in San Diego for near 4 years, it demise will be a subject of another interesting adventure.

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