Thursday, June 18, 2015

Working at J.A.Hippen Company

After I left the U.S.Air Force in 1971, we returned to Salt Lake City, Utah, and I went to work at my father's company. His was a medical equipment sales and service company. His specialties were Bird Respirators and Radiometer Copenhagen blood gas machines. The respirators were developed to help people with breathing problems. The blood gas machines measured the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. A good doctor could treat people with breathing problems with a respirator, and measure its effectiveness with a blood gas machine.

We also sold and delivered oxygen to people who needed it in their homes. I had helped with that when I was in college.

My first assignment was to attend a training program at the Bird Corporation headquarters in Palm Springs, California. I stayed with my father's uncle, Alfred Rusch in nearby Desert Hot Springs, California while I went to school for several hours every day, learning about the proper use of "Birds". There was a lot of technical information. The course was designed for doctors. I did learn all of it. It was all so fascinating. My pre-med education was a good foundation for the course.

A few years later I went back to Bird Headquarters to learn about a new infant ventilator. That was the first use of CPAP, which turned out to be the only effective method of helping preemies breath.

I also attended another course in the Los Angeles area with the Bournes Corporation. They manufactured a volumetric infant ventilator. Infant ventilation was not well understood at the time, and this was not an effective means of treating infants with lung problems. Once they started using it, it was very difficult to wean them off the ventilator. They'd quickly become dependent on it and often die while trying to wean them off.

I also visited an office of the Radiometer Corporation. I quickly became adept at servicing the blood gas machines.

Georgia flew down from Salt Lake to meet me in Las Vegas while I was returning home from Southern California. We attended a couple of shows while there. Patti Page was one, and I think Wayne Newton was the other.

In retrospect, the only problem with this start, was that there was no sales training. I was very good at servicing all of the equipment, but I had no idea about making sales presentations. Dad did send me to a sales training course with the local adult education program, but what I learned there did not seem to apply to what I was doing at J.A.Hippen Co.,Inc. Anyway, I did not know how to apply it.

My idea was that after I told a doctor that I represented Bird, he or she should always remember that and send their patients who had breathing problems. I didn't understand that they needed frequent reminders to send those customers to us.

I also had a difficult time charging customers for our services. And I didn't understand profit margins and the need to make a significant profit on any sales. My understanding of business financing was non-existent, and I'm afraid I was not a good representative of the company.

I did give excellent customer service. It just wasn't enough to overcome my lack of understanding about charging for those services.

We later picked up Lifepak defibrillators and Spacelabs cardiac monitors. I did make some effective presentations on those products, and for awhile the company did very well in the sales department.

 Spacelabs was way ahead of their time with wireless monitoring equipment. They were a spin-off from the United States space program, using technology developed for the moon landing program.

I also tried to promote implantable pacemakers made by CPI, Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. Theirs was the first pacemaker to use lithium ion batteries. The new technology was not readily adopted by doctors who were implanting the devices. They were gun-shy because of other new technology in the pacemaker industry that had not been successful.

I went to a training session with CPI in the Bahamas. The weather while I was there was lousy. When we flew out of Miami to go to Nassau in the Bahamas, it was snowing. It was the first time in history that snow had been seen in the Bahamas. It did not snow where I was, on Nassau Island. But there was snow on Freeport Island, a few miles to the north.

It was while on that trip that I went beach combing, because other activities had been cancelled. I saw a large snail shell in a water filled hole in the coral. As I reached in the water to grab the shell, something grabbed my hand. I quickly jerked away. I found a stick and reached the stick in to the shell, and saw an octopus' tentacle come out to defend his snail shell. I then used the stick to try to pull out the small octopus. He retreated back into a hole under the coral, and I was able to reach in and take the shell. Thus the story that I wrestled an octopus for that shell. My kids had a good time at school with the story as they displayed the shell for show-and-tell.

A couple of years later, I split off from J.A.Hippen Company and formed Mountain West Medical as a respiratory home care business.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Life in Omaha Nebraska 1968 to 1971

Omaha, Nebraska is a very nice place to live, in the spring and fall. Winters can be brutal, and summers are oppressively hot and humid. The people we met there were some of the nicest people anywhere. They made up for the weather.

Our winters there were some of the coldest the region has ever experienced. There was talk of global cooling at that time. Our first day in our newly rented house on 38th Avenue was one of the brutal days. It's good that we were young and resilient. The temperature was 17 below zero and the wind was blowing directly from the north pole at high speed. Our furniture was being moved into the house, so we had to have the doors open.

The next winters we were in a different house, in Greenfield Village, on 3rd Street Plaza. One of the problems there was that the wind frequently blew directly into the engines on the cars. Most of the residents had extension cords running the 40 feet out to their cars, with large light bulbs or engine block heaters plugged into them at night, so the cars would start in the morning. Even then there were days when they would not start, because of the cold. One morning I even got out there in the cold in my Air Force cold weather outfit to change the spark plugs so the car would start.

We learned the hard way that it was necessary to keep the gas tank more than half full. Otherwise, water vapor would condense on the inside of the tank, work its way into the fuel line, and freeze. One Thanksgiving we were on our way to Fargo, North Dakota to have dinner with Georgia's Aunt Pat and Uncle David Cobia and their family. We got about half way when the engine started to miss. We could only drive about 20 mph because the fuel line was partially blocked with ice. There was no place open where we could buy anything to solve the problem. We had to turn around and go home.

Snow never just fell. You never saw snow on top of a post. It was always plastered on the side. One storm dropped 13 inches on the city. But the front lawn was bare, while there was a drift 6 feet deep behind the car. After it finished, the town was paralyzed. All major and minor roads were closed. It took over a week to clear most of the roads. The residents of Village Green came out in mass to clear our road. It took a couple of days with snow shovels to clear it out to the intersection with Bancroft Street. Bancroft Street didn't get plowed for a couple more days. So no one could go to work for several days after the storm.

We experienced ice storms in Omaha. The temperature would be well below freezing for many days, and it would suddenly warm up and rain. The rain would turn to ice as it hit the cold ground. Travelling on the roads in that stuff was a real nightmare. One ice storm hit while we were at church. Our friend, Carol Curtis had never driven on ice before, and her husband, Alan was out of town. She asked us to follow her home, as her tires were not too good, to make sure she and her two boys got home OK. We prayed for protection on our trip, and were blessed to get home without incident, while we passed dozens of other vehicles that had spun off the road.

We bought our first window air conditioner for the house on 3rd Street Plaza. It was a used unit that had been used by a smoker. It stunk badly, but it was all we could afford, and it worked great. Most of all it removed the humidity from the air. When it was on, there was a constant stream of water pouring out of the drain on the outside.

Everyone complained about the heat and humidity. The combination, 90+ degrees with 90 percent humidity made things extremely uncomfortable. A newspaper article compared various cities for "discomfort level" and only St. Louis, Missouri was more uncomfortable than Omaha.

When winter ended, however, it really ended. None of the back and forth, winter to spring to winter to spring like we have in Utah. About St. Patrick's Day every year, the weather turned warmer, and we did not have any more frost until the next winter. Spring was very pleasant. Fall was similarly a very pleasant experience.

Georgia started reupholstering furniture as a hobby. It was easy to find used furniture that we could afford. Then Georgia would recover it with nice material, and we'd have some great furniture. One mistake we made was in not buying a used Singer commercial sewing machine that was on sale for $100. We could have used it for a few years, and then sold it for much more, but we were too young and inexperienced to recognize the opportunity.

Our first house on 38th Avenue was a prefab 2-bedroom house. It was built by U.S.Steel. Most of the houses in that area were placed to house soldiers coming home from World War Two. Our back door neighbor had a German Shepherd dog named Heidi. That was very confusing to our daughter Heidi, who was only 18 months old when we moved in, and just 2 years old when we moved out.

We were surprised about the garbage collection there. Nobody put their garbage out on garbage day. Men carrying over-sized plastic cans walked into the back yards and dumped our cans into theirs, and then took theirs to the truck in the street to dump it.

We attended the Omaha 2nd Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Our first Sunday we were approached by Virginia Hinckley Pearce, who remembered Georgia from Olympus High School. She had a daughter, Rosie, who was the same age as Heidi. Her husband, Jim, was in medical school there in Omaha. We became good friends with the Pearces. Georgia also found a couple of second cousins from St. George, Utah, Clark and Dick Whitehead, living in the ward. They were in dental school at Creighton University in Omaha.

We soon found that several of our friends from the Omaha 2nd Ward lived in the new Village Green townhouse apartments. They were about the same monthly price as we were paying. We asked our landlord if there was a way to get out of our lease, so we could move close to all those friends. He said we could in the summer, as it is easier to get tenants in the summer, and if we would find someone to take over our house with a new one year lease. We found a sergeant's wife and family from Offutt AFB to take the house. He had just been ordered to serve a year in Vietnam. They were living in base housing, and had to move out since they couldn't go with him to his new assignment.

That sergeant's wife turned out to be an annoying tenant for the landlord. She called him about any little thing that went wrong, or that she didn't like about the house. I had taken care of all those kind of problems myself. She also called me whenever she couldn't reach the landlord. One problem she had turned out to be very dangerous. She and her kids started getting bad headaches every night. She called the landlord, who sent out a furnace guy to check it. He found the house was filled with carbon monoxide from five birds nests that were stacked on top of one another in the flue. Her penchant for complaining saved her life. Our moving probably saved our lives, because we would probably not have complained until too late.

While living in that house we got our first pet, a small dog we named Gretta. We got her in the winter, so it was necessary to quickly house break her. That turned out to be an impossible job. We first tried to paper train her, but she was afraid of the sound it made when she walked on the paper. The best we got out of her was when she put her front paws on the paper and then let go. Since we were in rented housing, and she could not be trained, we had to take her to the Humane Society.

There were several members of the Omaha 2nd Ward in the Village Green townhouses. The Pearces, Dick and Launa Whitehead, Alan and Carol Curtis, Richard and Saundra Smart - another Olympus High alumnus and also a Creighton dental student, and Craig Ririe and family, another dental student. I recently looked up Village Green townhouses on Google, and there are still a lot of LDS dental and medical students living there. Four of the seven board of directors have Utah phone numbers. They even have LDS Institute classes there every Tuesday morning.

Our grocery shopping was done at the Offutt AFB commissary. Since I worked at the base, I usually did the grocery shopping each week. The best buys were on milk products and frozen juices. The juices came in quart containers that made up into full gallons of juice. The milk was government surplus milk that the government bought to keep the price up for the dairy farmers. Our cost was 28 cents per half gallon.

Eric and Heather were born at the Ehrling Bergquist Hospital at Offutt AFB while we lived in Omaha. A funny thing happened when Eric was born. Georgia was past her due date and had been doing some serious exercise (walking) to try to bring on labor. We were at home when there came a knock on the front door. Georgia answered and there was a young lady selling magazines. As she went into her sales talk, suddenly Georgia's water broke. She dismissed the girl saying that she was going to the hospital right now to have a baby. The girl announced our good news to all our neighbors as she proceeded down the block.

When Lyle and Eric were about 2 and 3 years old we bought them plastic motorcycles to ride. This was before Hot Wheels tricycles were available. They had a blast zipping up and down the sidewalks in front of the house. One evening Georgia was giving me a haircut in the kitchen while the boys were riding around the kitchen and living room on their motorcycles. The door to the basement stairs was open and Eric suddenly decided to ride his down the stairs. Georgia frantically tried to catch him, but he was going just out of her reach. Amazingly, he didn't tip over until the last step. He was not badly hurt, but what a ride!

Our telephone in the townhouse was mounted on the kitchen wall. We were separated from our neighbors by that wall. The wall was sound insulated well, so that we could not hear much next door, except right at the phone, since theirs was mounted on the opposite side right at the same place. The neighbors on that side were heavy smokers, and in the evening smoke would come through the wall at the phone. Yuck!

Georgia served as a counselor in the Young Women presidency in the Omaha 2nd Ward. She was over the Beehive class. One of the girls in that class was Diana Walker, who went on to sing in the Metropolitan Opera. Diana, now Diana Neve, lives in our ward here in Salt Lake.

Omaha has tornadoes. Our one close encounter with a tornado happened one Sunday afternoon. We had given a ride to church to an elderly couple who lived not far from Village Green. As we were leaving church that afternoon we saw some debris swirling in the air in a parking lot to the west across the I-680 freeway from the church. Some of the boards looked to be quite large, and we realized that a tornado was about to touch down. We climbed in the car and headed away from the church. I wanted to get away from the storm as fast as possible, and that meant getting on the freeway. As we approached the entrance ramp the tornado struck with full fury. I got on the ramp, but it was raining so hard that I could not see the road. I thought I was headed the right direction, so I floored the accelerator and in a few seconds we shot out of the storm into the clear. We had been right in the edge of the tornado. The poor elderly couple in the back seat were terribly frightened. They had lived in Omaha all their lives and had seen what damage could be done. We watched the tornado move to the northeast from where we had been attacked, but we were safe!

One of our friends lived right next to the parking lot where the tornado touched down. They had gone to their basement when they heard the sound of the storm. When they came out they found an 8-foot long 2x4 sticking through their living room wall.

We found some excellent entertainment in town on a regular basis. We joined Ak-Sar-Ben (Nebraska spelled backwards), a service organization similar to Kiwanis or Rotary Club. They operated a large convention center that hosted major talent shows. Concerts by such artists as Liberace and Victor Borge came there on a regular basis. I also remember going to a Holiday on Ice performance as part of our annual membership. They also operated a horse racing track and para-mutual betting facility. All of the profits made at these venues went into the Nebraska state coffers. As a result, there was no sales tax or state income tax while we lived there. The profits from the race track paid for almost all state government operations.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Blog

This blog is primarily about my personal history. I've started a new blog along the same lines, but it's about my fight to overcome prostate cancer. The blog is found at I've made the first couple of posts, and I will continue to post there. I will also continue to post here about my memories of my past.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cars After 1980

Cars turned really boring in about 1980. The economy turned bad. Interest rates were so high, up to 26%, that no one could afford financing. The air pollution had gotten so bad that laws had to be passed about exhaust emissions. The automotive engineers really didn't know how to control emissions and keep gas mileage up. Gas prices were going up, up, up. Car prices were going up, up, up, as well.

Gas prices were skyrocketing. They'd been steady around 35 cents per gallon for several years. Suddenly they were double that. Gas started being rationed. Based on your license plate number, you could only buy gas on odd or even numbered days. The first time I pulled into a gas station and the price was over 75 cents, I pulled right on through, thinking I would never pay that much for gas. How little did I know, that I would never again pay that little for a gallon of gas.

It was a terrible time to be in the car sales business. So I decided to try that. I went to work at Henry Day Ford on Redwood Road in Salt Lake. Mountain West Medical had to be closed. So I thought I might be able to sell cars. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I think I lasted less than six months.

Negotiating a car deal was contrary to my personality. I wanted to give anyone who came in a good deal. The dealership wanted to squeeze every penny possible out of the customer. I found out in a hurry what it meant to be upside down in a financed car. Half the people I sat down with owed more on their trade-in than it was worth. Car prices were so high that few people who came in could pay for them. I'd sit down with a buyer who had been used to trading in a car every couple of years, figure out a deal for them, and the payments would be more than double what they'd been used to. They'd just walk out shaking their heads, and without their new car.

Contractors who needed a lot of power in their trucks were very disappointed. The new emission controls severely reduced the power. I saw more than one buyer come back saying there must be something wrong with the truck, only to be told that was the way it was now. They'd just walk out shaking their heads.

I only vaguely remember most of the cars we had after that. After we moved back from California, I bought a Mazda pickup. It was really good on gas mileage, and didn't look too bad, either. I managed to burn out the clutch on it trying to pull out a tree stump in our front yard. I hooked up the big old Ford station wagon to the stump and it came right out. But I thought a truck was more suited to the job. Wrong.

We also bought a little Mazda hatchback. The guy who owned it before us had mistreated the gears. He'd apparently never used the clutch when he downshifted, so the gears were all worn down, and it wouldn't stay in the gear I put it in.

Styling took a back seat to all the other problems. I can look up the cars we had to see what year they must have been, and I can't tell. The same style may have been used for five or more years. Before 1980 the styling changed every year, and sometimes the companies would add new models in at the half year mark. They never kept the same style for more than two years. After 1980, styling became unimportant. Before that it was so important, that the companies would hide the new styles until a specific date in September. You could drive past a dealer, and all the windows would be blocked with poster paper until the date. The cars coming in on car transporters would all be covered with tarps, and they'd be unloaded late at night to keep the styling a secret.

When we lived in Mesa, Arizona, we finally were able to buy a couple of cars. One of the members of our ward worked at a local Ford dealer. As I talked to him, he said the best day to buy a car was on December 31. We went in and bought a Ford F-150 pickup, and a Suzuki Esteem. The truck was very useful when I started my handyman business in Salt Lake in 1999. We ended up giving the Suzuki to our son, Eric, when my sister and her husband gave us their Plymouth Voyager minivan.

My handyman business hit a low spot and we had to let the truck go back to the bank. A couple of weeks before, the transmission had locked up on it, and it could only be driven in second and third gears, and reverse. We were then given a Toyota four-wheel drive pickup, which sustained us for awhile. It was great on snowy winter streets. I really appreciated the four-wheel drive at that time. The head gasket on the engine blew out, and I replaced it, only to have much difficulty reassembling the exhaust system. We ended up giving that truck to a kidney transplant foundation.

I used the minivan in my work for a few years. As we were travelling from Vancouver, Washington to Salt Lake with Hillory, Serenity, and Cadence, travelling through the Columbia River Gorge, we hit a rock on the road. We were just west of The Dalles, Oregon, on Interstate 84. We were in the left lane, passing a semi-truck when we saw the car in front of us kind of bounce. He had just run over a big rock in the road. I had no way to avoid it and I hit it, too. It stuck under the van and was being dragged along the road. As soon as I could, I pulled over to the right side of the road, right behind the Toyota Celica that had hit it just before we did.

As we pulled over, the rock was dislodged. But as I tried to move forward, the engine just revved, but the minivan would not move. We had broken a hole in the transmission pan, and had lost all the transmission fluid. We were not as badly off as the poor guy in the Celica. His engine was displaced. When he hit the rock, his foot was knocked back, and his knee hit his chest. His car was totaled. A highway patrol car pulled in right after we stopped. He had heard a report that there were rocks in the road and he was on his way to get them. He was having back trouble and was supposed to be off that day. He was not looking forward to getting rid of that rock, while dodging traffic, with his bad back. He thanked us for removing the rock. He also called a tow truck for us. He recommended that we buy a AAA membership for emergency road service.

We were towed to a repair shop in The Dalles. The owner there took pity on us and just did a temporary repair. He found a pan that would fit at a junk yard, and stuck it on. There was some interior damage to the transmission, but nothing that would keep it from running for a few months. He recommended a restaurant and a motel nearby where we could eat and sleep. We were able to leave early the next morning. He also recommended we join AAA for emergency road service, and that we should trade the minivan in as soon as we could after getting back to Salt Lake.

Our credit rating was not very good at that time. I had no idea who would take an old minivan in trade and still finance a car. I called our credit union and they said we did not qualify for a loan there. I prayed and the thought came into my mind that I should go to Larry Miller Dodge. I had no idea if there even was a Larry Miller Dodge, let alone where it might be. In the mean time, the minivan started running badly. It would sputter and surge while driving. So I drove it out to the dealership, parked, and met a salesman named Fred. Fred was a very nice Samoan man. He took me out to look at cars. After asking a few questions, he showed me a Chrysler PT Cruiser and a 2002 Mazda 626. He recommended the Mazda as most likely the better choice and took me back in to fill out the paper work. A little later I drove off with the car. I was surprised and grateful that we were able to get a new car. It was a very nice car.

A couple of weeks later I got a call from someone who had purchased the minivan. He wanted to know if I knew what had been wrong with it. He was surprised that I had driven it to the dealership. He had had to tow it away, as it had not run since. I was truly blessed to even get to the dealership, and even more blessed to drive away with a very nice car. I later did see that minivan on the road, so it was repairable.

We have since sold the Mazda to Eric, and he has put a lot of miles on it, and it still runs well. It has been a great blessing to Eric and his family as well.

When we moved to Palmyra to work on Heidi and Matt's house, we needed a truck. Matt had a 2001 Dodge Dakota pickup that he had used to deliver newspapers in Arizona. He had taken very good care of it, so it has served us well. We left it in Palmyra for Matt and Heidi to use as a backup vehicle, and to tow their trailer when they needed it.

As we were preparing to leave Palmyra, I was planning to make the trip back to Salt Lake in the pickup. One day, while serving in the Palmyra Temple, I got the distinct impression that we were not to take the pickup back to Salt Lake. I started thinking about what we needed. I mentioned to Matt what I felt. He said his associate, Don Gammon, who also worked for the Church was getting ready to sell his Church-owned car. It was a 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid. I knew that Don had taken very good care of the car, and that it gets very good gas mileage. I called our credit union in Utah and asked about getting a loan. They gave me an amount we qualified for. When Don got the sales figure from the Church, it was enough lower than what we qualified for, that we were able to borrow enough for the taxes, license, and enough for the trip back to Salt Lake. What a great blessing.

It looked like we would have to get the car licensed temporarily in New York before we could drive it back to Utah, where we would have to pay taxes and license again. However, the Church office had misplaced the title, and we could not get the temporary permit to drive it from New York. We eventually received permission to use the old New York license plates so we could drive it to Utah. That saved us the New York fees, and we only had to mail the plates back to Don to complete the transfer. It delayed our departure for four days, but the timing was better for when we did leave.

The car has turned out to be a great blessing. It does get terrific mileage. I think we averaged between 37 and 38 miles per gallon on the trip from Palmyra to Salt Lake, and similarly about 36 miles per gallon since then. It is also the most comfortable car we've ever had, and has several options that make it the best car we've ever had. We love it!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cars - The 70's

One of the best family cars we had was a Buick station wagon. I had thought that it was a 1970, but in searching for images on the internet, I think it was more likely a '67 or '68. We took a lot of family trips in it, especially the summer of 1975, which we called our "Super Summer". We visited many historic sites around northern Utah. We went to the Golden Spike Memorial National Monument. We also visited ghost towns and other memory making places, just before Seth was born. (Some of you may correct me on the year, but that's what I remember.)

In 1976 we bought the first 'new' car we've ever had, a 1976 GMC Rally Van. It was red and white and looked like a miniature ambulance. I used it both as a business vehicle and as a family car. That was the car Holly used to knock over the mailbox across the street. Her first time driving was when she took Hillory and Seth for a very short ride down the driveway and across the street. That was the car I used when I started Mountain West Medical. I went to work at Henry Day Ford when Mountain West Medical closed down, and sold the Rally Van to someone who came in there looking for a similar van that the dealership didn't have.

A couple of years later I bought another new vehicle, a 1978 Ford Courier pickup. It was brown and got great gas mileage. It was made for Ford by Mazda. I smashed the front end by rear-ending another car in the middle of an intersection on 5600 South at 900 East. The light changed to green and the car in front of me started across the intersection and suddenly stopped when a car in the opposite left turn lane started to move. I had glanced to the left and was not able to stop in time. The other driver was from Taiwan and spoke no English. His daughter was with him and had to translate. We couldn't get any law enforcement to come investigate, because it was at the juncture of 3 different jurisdictions. We finally just exchanged insurance information and went on. When Mountain West Medical went under in 1981, I sold that truck to our Bishop Ron German to use in his construction business. One of his young workers rolled it soon after and totaled it.

We later got a 1978 Ford LTD station wagon, which we got after we moved to Redding, California. That was the car we moved back to Utah with in 1988. On that move, the alternator went out coming across the desert, and it ran on the battery, even with the headlamps on, until Georgia turned onto 1600 North in Orem, where it finally gave out. I had to go back with the moving truck to get everyone to our home on Crest Drive.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cars - The 1960's

As we went into the Air Force in 1967, we bought a 1964 Chrysler Newport 4-door sedan. It was beige. It was big. The trunk was big enough to fit a large wood playpen (folded) and most of our other luggage. We made up a level area in the back seat so Heidi could roll or crawl around without any restrictions. No car seat. No seat belts. It was a different world. But we survived.

The car was shaped like an airplane fuselage. No wings, but it could fly. Once, while driving alone, I decided to see how fast it could go. On a lonely straight highway, I opened it up and got it up to 110 mph. I then realized that I had no steering. The front end had lifted so high, that the tires were no longer in contact with the ground. Fortunately I was still going straight. I quickly slowed, and never tried that again.

There were a couple of serious blind spots to the rear, and once as I was backing up in a parking lot, I hit a concrete post that I could not see. It buckled a rear fender.

Soon after that we found a 1966 Chrysler station wagon. It made a great family car. We used that car from 1968 until 1973. It was somewhat sensitive to the cold. During the icy Omaha, Nebraska winters we had to keep a large light bulb burning atop the engine at night. Even then, there were a couple of times when I had to take the spark plugs out and clean them, and prime the engine externally to get it running. We used a lot of engine starting fluid, sprayed into the carburetor, to get it going.

One time we got some bad gas. Our Elders Quorum President, Earl Kay Cook, owned some gas stations. One was near our home, so we bought all our gas there. His stations were all self serve, which was a new concept at the time. He sold his gas at the lowest price in town. His competitor across the street broke open his tanks one time and put a water hose in them. We were unaware of the problem and happened to get some of the water in a tank of gas I bought. The timing was particularly bad, as we headed out the next day on a trip to visit Georgia's Aunt Pat and Uncle David Cobia in Fargo, North Dakota. It was Thanksgiving Day. As we neared Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the engine started bucking and coughing. We were soon limited to traveling at around 25 to 30 mph, and the engine completely stopped if we tried to go any faster. The water had gotten into the carburetor and gummed it up. We turned around and barely made it back home. I think it took about 5 hours to get home.

When we got out of the Air Force, I used the '66 Chrysler as a business car while working for J.A.Hippen Company. It was running better than ever, but Dad decided I needed a newer car, and traded it in for a '68 Chrysler station wagon. What a joke! That car never did run right. It got horrible gas mileage. It coughed and sputtered all the time. Dad kept having me take it to one of his church friend's repair shop. They never could find the problem.

Finally Dad bought himself a big Lincoln and passed down his 1972 Oldsmobile 98.

A few years later, when we were moving to California, Georgia's dad gave us their old '64 Ford Galaxy, so Georgia would have a car to drive. I had a company car for my work, but we had sold all our cars while I was out of work before I went to work for Fisher Scientific.

Some of Heidi's friends referred to that car as a "tuna boat". The trend was to much smaller cars, and the old '60s gas guzzlers were in disfavor.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cars, the 50's

I thought I would comment on the various cars I've been acquainted with since I've been driving.

My first driving experience was in Driver's Ed at Olympus High School. I think it was a 1960 Pontiac. I had a hard time at first with the right side. My depth perception must have been bad, because I kept turning away from the cars on the right, and across the center line. The instructor had to grab the steering wheel to straighten me out, several times. I eventually got it right.

Practicing at home, I used Mom's '52 Buick. Dad insisted that we always back into the parking space in the carport. In practicing that maneuver, I managed to wipe out the front of the storage sheds that I had built the year before. So I got more practice at repairing the carpentry work.

I passed my driving test for my first license in that Buick. I used that car in my first job at the Holladay Neighbor newspaper. I had failed the driving test the first two times I took it. Those times I was driving Dad's '54 Chrysler Imperial. He had the idle set quite high. So when I tried to make a 'soft' stop at the stop signs, it would take off and not make a complete stop. (In Driver's Ed we were taught to ease up on the brake as we came to a stop, so as not to jerk the car. In Dad's car, it would just take off instead of easing to a stop.)

Within a week after I got my license, I helped Mom drive the Buick from Salt Lake to Camarillo, California, to see Oma and Opa at their new house. I was thrilled to actually drive on freeways. I had seen them in drivers training movies, but we didn't have any in Utah.

That Chrysler Imperial was a true luxury car. It had a big "Hemi" engine, all leather seats, power windows and seat. It had a two-speed automatic transmission. It had enough room in the front seat, that I was able to carry eight teen-age kids in it, all the way from Salt Lake to Bear Lake and back and no one felt crowded.

Speaking of the Bear Lake trip; as we were returning to Salt Lake, we went through Evanston, Wyoming. As we came out of the winding canyon between Coalville and Kimball Junction, the engine died. The gas gauge said we had 1/4 of a tank left. But when I turned the ignition off, and then back on, the gauge read below empty. It had been stuck. Within a couple of minutes after we stopped, a Utah Highway Patrol car pulled up behind us. He was nice enough to give me a ride to Kimball Junction to get some gas. He then had to continue on, so he couldn't give me a ride back.

I didn't have a can, and I asked one of the attendants if I could borrow one. He picked up a can they used as a loaner and discovered it was already more than half full of fuel. He told me just to take it, and then I could buy gas when I returned. I asked an elderly couple who looked like they were headed toward where we'd broken down, and they were happy to give me a ride.

I poured the contents of the can into the gas tank and tried to start it. I was pumping the accelerator to get the fuel into the engine, and when it finally started, there was a big cloud of smoke that billowed from the back of the car. And, as soon as I stopped pumping the accelerator, the engine quit. I found that I had to continually pump it to keep the engine running. Even then, it would only go about 30 miles per hour, and there was a lot of smoke. Whenever we would go up a hill, it would shift into low gear, and a big cloud of smoke would come out the back. We almost asphyxiated several people whose cars pulled up behind us.

When we finally got to the gas station, another attendant looked at the can and said we'd been given diesel fuel. To make up for it he filled our tank with gas at no charge. I don't think any other gasoline engine would have run on diesel fuel; only the hemi. We were also being looked after by angels as a result of all the prayers that were offered for us on our journey.

When Dad had purchased that car, he got it at a great price, because there was something wrong with the engine and it wouldn't go over 50 miles per hour. No one had been able to figure out why. He was checking the carburetor function, with me operating the gas pedal, when he discovered that only 2 barrels of the 4 barrel carburetor were working. The jets for the back two barrels had never been drilled out. He ordered a new carburetor from the J.C.Whitney catalog. After installing it, the car would then go over 100 mph easily. That hemi engine was amazing. I once had it up to 90 mph going up hill on 33rd South in first gear. Dad said he had it up to 140 mph on an open road in Nevada, where there were no speed limits. Thinking back, though, the tires were not rated for such speeds. We were fortunate they didn't come apart on us.

The next family cars were a '59 Chrysler Saratoga, and a '59 Chrysler New Yorker station wagon. Both of those cars had big engines. The New Yorker had a 413 cubic inch engine that could accelerate very fast. I once had a friend, Dave Powers, pull up beside me at a light in his dad's brand new Ford Thunderbird. He challenged me to a race. When the light turned green, he was amazed that the station wagon just walked away from the T-Bird; it left him in the dust.

One time Dad asked me to take the Saratoga out for a drive. He had just replaced the generator (this was before alternators) and wanted the battery to get a good charge. I drove with Georgia to Heber City and back. A couple of times I floored the accelerator to see how fast it could go and got up near 120 mph, and the car rode very smoothly at that speed. Georgia even encouraged me to do it. We were both much younger then.

Then I bought my first car, my '57 Chevy, for $500 dollars. Dad's friend Don Cramer was a car dealer. He found an elderly lady who had this car for sale. We went to pick it up at her house. The sides were all dented and scraped. Her garage was very difficult to get into and out of, and she had run into the sides of the garage door opening, and a tree beside the driveway several times. Don got one of his body shop friends to fix it up.  It was blue and white, with the white on the top. It was a Chevrolet 150, with a standard transmission and a good old reliable straight-six engine. That engine had been used in Chevrolet's since back in the 1930's.

The '57 Chevy lasted until I went into the Air Force. I had one crash in it. I was on my way to class at the U, when the traffic backed up suddenly on 5th South. I managed to stop, but a new '65 Mustang following me couldn't. The Mustang forced me into the '58 Chevy which had stopped in front of me. A guy named Clark, whom I had worked with as a caddy at Willow Creek Country Club, was driving the '58 Chevy. The Mustang was totaled. I had a small dent where it hit me in the rear, and the grill was all scrunched from where I hit the car in front. The metal on those '50's cars was much thicker than what was used later, and they held up much better in a crash.

I traded the Chevy in on a 1964 Chrysler, and got $100 for the trade. Four years later, when I got out of the Air Force, and bought our first house on Lenora Circle, a neighborhood teenager had my old Chevy. The '57 Chevy's had become a classic, and they were in high demand. The price for one had gone up to near $2,000 at that time. They're now worth over $5,000.