Memoires 17

IN NEED OF A CAR:

Geno and I decided we needed a car. One of our dorm mates said he had an uncle who was a farmer north of Salt Lake City and he had an old car in his barn that had not been driven in years and that he’d probably sell. Our dorm mate didn’t know if the car was in running condition but he assured us the price would be right so that weekend we went up to look at it. The car was a 14-year old WW-II era Packard, big as a tank, that had been sitting in the barn with hay strewn over it. The battery was dead, the tires were bald, and the overdrive switch* was broken but once we got it started it ran well. We asked how much he wanted for it and the farmer said $80. We each had $20 in our pockets so the farmer agreed we could take the car with the $40 down payment if we promised to send him the balance within a month. We agreed and drove off in our mutually owned car.

 

Geno was able to climb under the car and use a cable and manipulate it to release the overdrive setting. That allowed us to push start the despite the dead battery. The bald tires looked as if they might last a couple of college kids through the winter but our first order of business was a new battery. Upon arriving in Provo we cruised the downtown area until Geno directed me to pull into a parking space next to a brand new Buick. He explained that the Buick and the Packard used identical batteries. He popped the hood of the Buick and in a heartbeat the batteries had been switched. We had a new battery, but I expressed a concern that the Buick might be owned by a sweet little old lady who would be unable to start her car. He rolled his eyes as though I were as naïve as the average Utahn and said, “She will call the dealership and they will replace the battery with a new one! Everybody wins!” Seemed logical to my 18-year old mind. We eventually were able to buy a pair of used or recapped tires for $5 each.

 

The car was huge and black and therefore easily identifiable among most brightly-colored cars of the 1960s which had two-tone paint. It was a fun car, though with a back seat the size of a dorm room bed.

 

Geno’s victory over the Honor Council dweeb was short lived. Once we registered the car with a BYU parking sticker, Campus Security saw his name and immediately began to pull us over on a regular basis. Occasionally we would take young ladies up to the area called “Rock Canyon” to park. The campus saying was “Go up to Rock Canyon and get a little boulder.” Winters were cold so it was not unusual for students who took dates to the Canyon to bring along blankets to snuggle under. Upon our return to campus Security would frequently pull us over, search our car, and write up warnings for “stealing dorm bedding” and the like. He had won the battle but the Campus Machine was winning the war.

 

*Overdrive; The packard was a manually gear-shifted, or stick shift car. Cars that were menaully shifted generally referred to as "four on the floor," meaning four forward gears with the shifting stick located on the floor, or "three on the tree" in which three forward gears were shifted with the stick mounted on the steering column. Three forward gear transmissions sometimes also had "overdrie," or freewheeling, which provided a fourth gear for better gas mileage. Further, when in overdrive, when the accelerator was not being pressed, the car would coast instead of slow. Hence, the term "freewheeling."

 

Our Packard had a "three on the tree" gearshify with overdrive. A stick shift car could be started by turning on the key and pushing the car to about 5 mph, then "popping" the clutch. But this manner of starting the car could not be done if it were in overdrive. Hence, the overdrive had to be disengaged before oush-starting the car.

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