“It’s got safety tubes, and I’m not scared—”Hot Rod Lincoln” song lyrics by Charlie Ryan
The brakes are good, and the tires are fair.”
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“Looks like about a ’41 Chevrolet truck,” I responded to my son’s email photo. A one-corner close-up of an old primer-coated project being refurbished with mild hot rod touches by his friend.
“You’re right,” Lee texted a couple of minutes later. “It is a ’41 Chevy. I asked. But how could you tell from that picture?”
I’ve heard it said that deep in the human being DNA genome lies a recessive gene known as LOC. Biologists will say they’ve never heard of it. Laboratory research in that area of genetics, I would wager, is rare.
It can be found in anyone but appears to have peaked in males who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. Carriers are easy to spot. They display an affinity for old cars and trucks powered by internal combustion “dead dinosaur burner” engines.
LOC is short for ‘loves old cars.’
How do I know that? I have the gene. Lee inherited it from me, but his displays a generational mutation that allows for newer and imported makes. Mine is limited to cars I grew up with. American manufactured predating the dilution of foreign cars that began in the mid-to-late 60s.
I could have wowed him with all of that. But, instead, I just told him the truth.
“I had a short but memorable relationship with a 1941 Chevy panel truck in my youth,” I said. “She was a member of Mount Pleasant’s Explorer Post 206.”
I was a scout most of my school years. Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Explorer Scout. Mount Pleasant’s Explorer post in the 60s was organized as an “emergency service” post with a mission that today, would cause overprotective parents and over-enthusiastic legislators to suffer a meltdown.
We were 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds working alongside first responders on emergency calls. High school students who aided city police and highway patrol officers at wreck scenes directing traffic and helping with clean up. Working with firefighters extinguishing grass fires in the country. Helping with hoses at city structure fires and directing traffic. We even trained with firefighters at the old North Washington fire station.
And that’s where the ’41 Chevy panel truck came into my life. And the lives of others like David Ward, H.O. Townsend, Scott Conner, J.B. Davis, Jay Jackson, Terry Landrum, Keney McDougal, Richard Shaw, Terry Nicholson, Terry Gaddis and others that will come to mind. About a week after this is published.
Along with some names, where we got the old hauler escapes me. It was well-worn before it began serving time with Post 206. Its straight-six motor provided blazing power equaling that of a herd of turtles in a cloud of snail dust. Which was fine. We didn’t need anything fast.
It wasn’t without flaws. The floor-shifted three-speed transmission tended to jump out of high gear at speeds over 45 miles per hour, which were rare. But making it the scene of an emergency, the driver sometimes needed a shotgun rider keeping a death grip on the gear shift lever.
We may not have been the first to arrive, but we looked official when we got there. A local body shop donated a bright emergency orange paint job. We cleaned the inside and applied an all-white rattle-can paint job. Emergency flashing lights were mounted up top. The interior was fitted with brooms and Army Surplus “Jerry” water cans,
The pièce de resistance professionally painted on both sides of the truck was “Explorer Post 206 Emergency Service.”
While Explorer Scouting taught us responsibility, service, and dedication, we also learned a lot about auto mechanics. Many nights and weekends were spent “shade tree mechanicing” to keep the Big Orange ’41 on the road. One time it was a head gasket and valve job. Another was a carb overhaul. And one time, when we forgot to check the anti-freeze, we learned about ingenuity.
Scratching our heads in silence as we watched coolant seeping from an inch-long crack in the block, someone whispered, almost reverently as if directed by a divine suggestion, “J-B Weld.”
“Won’t work,” one of our fathers offered. You’re going to need a new motor. Undaunted, we cleaned the crack with a grinder and slathered it with a liberal layer of the miracle substance. The old ’41 never lost another drop. At least not from that cracked block.
Maybe it is that gene thing. But for appreciating old Detroit iron, recognizing it from minuscule clues, and keeping it patched and on the road, I owe some credit to Big Orange ’41. Mount Pleasant Explorer Post 206’s emergency service vehicle.
(Photo at top of the page — From one of my boxes of “closet archives.” Undated but about 1963 would not miss it much. Memory does not produce information about the event, but it was staged at the old National Guard Armory in Mount Pleasant across Highway 271 from the current Titus Regional Medical Center, known back then as Titus County Memorial Hospital. Pictured are, left to right, J.B. Davis, Scott Conner, Terry Gaddis, Leon Nicholson, and David Ward.)
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.
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