Wire Coat Hanger Car Repair

Today my sister and I were talking about the days on the farm that involved driving. We were musing about our children learning to drive, their driving skills, and the challenges of driving. As usual the conversation digressed to earlier days of us growing up on the farm. My father was an inventive man and had multiple ways of saving money.

As we talked about the miracles of how different family members have survived auto accidents and mishaps, we recalled the 1956 blue and white ford that our family owned when growing up. Isn't it funny (not ha, ha funny) that I would remember the make and model of our car being a girl and growing up in a family of four girls. The car was not our main focus and the make and the model were far from our interests. I have included a picture of a two-door 1956 ford to give you an idea of what it looked like. This is not the original car as the rust, dents, and pieces missing off of our car made it one of a kind.

The reason I remember that 1956 blue and white ford is we owned it for so long that at one point it may have been older than my youngest sister. Dad's philosophy was that a car should last a good long time on a farm since there were few reasons to use it. After all, he was already at work when he walked out the back door.

There was a time that the latch to the hood of the car rusted out. My father took a wire coat hanger (we got them for free from the cleaners when he had his Sunday suit cleaned) and used that to wire the hood down.

Now in order to wire it down, there had to be a gap to get your arm in under the hood. Unfortunately, for all of us that also meant that the hood would flop up and down when the wind hit it as we drove. Thankfully there were not many high hills in our area because going down a tall hill on a windy day really caused the wind to pull at that hood. Dad was confident that his fix was a good fix and told us that it would last until we were ready to get rid of the car if we just drove slow. He loved the idea that driving slow would also save him on gas. This was back when gas was below 20 cents per gallon.

One day, my mother was really tired of the confines of the farm and decided that she would put us all in our 1956 blue and white ford and we would go visit her friend. Her friend lived in an area where there were hills and she had a big yard. We became bored really quickly just sitting in the house listening to my mother and her friend talk. This was the early 1960's and video games had not been invented. Can you believe it! Only a few people had color TV and no one had even heard of a VCR.

Back to our being bored with the visit. My sisters and I decided to go outside and figure out something fun to do. Before long, we decided that it would be fun to play musical car doors. We would run around the car and then jump in, shut the doors, and lock them. I was not paying close attention to the game. At one point I was leaning on the side of the car when my sisters jumped into the back seat from both sides, slammed the doors shut, and then locked them. When the door slammed shut on the side of the car that I was leaning against, I suddenly realized that my thumb was caught between the car frame and the car door and I could not get it out.

I began to scream to my sister to open the door as I saw blood dripping down the white frame. My sister, thinking that I was trying to interrupt the game, told me she would not open the door because she was sure that I was faking the whole thing. Eventually she realized that I was not kidding and she opened the door.

When I removed my thumb it looked intact but there was a large gash cut into the area where the nail was. My mother came running out and things went from bad to worse trying to figure out what to do next.

My mother's friend had three children of her own and a senile father that was living with them. "Grandpa" like to go around asking everyone for a kiss. She did not want to take him out in public. She knew where the hospital was (this was before 911) but could not leave family members to take me to the hospital. My mother did not know how to get to the hospital so we waited while the friend drew a quick map. The friend agreed to watch my three other sisters while mom took me to emergency.

Now all of this would have been trauma enough except for the "money" my dad was saving by not fixing the hood. Actually, the car was so rusted out that in order to fix it properly, the hood really should have been replaced.

I got into the car with mom. Someone had supplied a paper towel or a regular towel or clean rag to wrap around my thumb. The wrapping was becoming soaked with blood as we made our way to the emergency room. To get to our destination we had to travel down a steep hill in order to get into the downtown area. Mom was more concentrated on getting me to the hospital than her speed. Half way down the hill the wind caught the hood so furiously that it broke the twist on the hanger and the hood flew up over the top of the car.

I continued to bleed as mom began screaming and driving and swerving. She could not see where she was going. She finally pulled the car over to the side of the road. Being the calm person that she was not, she jumped out of the car and ran into the middle of the busy road. She literally stood in front of a semi truck coming at her and waved her arms for the truck to stop. Mom never did realize that a large truck cannot stop as fast as a car can. She did, however, make it through life without being injured by a truck.

The truck came to rest directly in front of my mother. She ran to the passenger side and flung open the truck door, told the driver he needed to drive us to the emergency room and yelled at me to come jump in the truck. The truck driver looked stunned to say the least.

I made it to the emergency room shortly after that but I do not know which was worse, the injury or the trip. It took two men bending and jumping on that hood to get it peeled off the front of the car. Dad finally broke down and got a hood from the junk yard to fix the car or at least I think he did.

Before that car was "sold" to a neighbor boy that worked on our farm for $50, we spent many trips to church on Sunday watching the road go by under us. The car was so rusted that we had holes in the floor of the car. Mom refused to go to church in such a "pile of junk." Dad toughed it out and drove that car until the mortgage was paid off on the farm and he had enough saved to buy another car without putting it on payments.

Even though many people lived prosperously in the 1960's and beyond, dad never forget the lessons of the depression and taught us how to live without all the extra things we thought we would like to have.

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