Caption: “Picnic with the ‘58 Ford: Margaret, Richard and Grandma Hanna watch while Mom cooks lunch”
In the spring of 1958, my Dad traded in the ‘53 Ford and bought a brand new Ford car. It was cream and green. It had the newest mod-cons: an automatic transmission (for the first few days, Dad kept stomping on the non-existent clutch) and signal lights – no more sticking his arm out the window to signal.
The day he brought it home, he loaded my brother and me into the car and we drove through Meyronne, giving rides to everyone. “Look, it shifts automatically!” or “Look, I can signal a turn!” he exclaimed to everyone.
There was only one problem – the car was a lemon. We soon invented a game – “Name That Noise!” – we played every time we drove somewhere. That car spent as much time in the repair shop as it did in our garage.
And it was after one of those repair episodes that we had our most memorable (mis)adventure.
Dad had taken the car in to get some work done on the transmission. When he brought it home, the car had a noticeable growl originating from the “rear end.” He took it back to the garage. “Don’t worry,” they told him, “the gear just has to settle in,” or words to that effect.
The noise continued. In fact, it seemed to get louder as days went by.
Then came the trip to Estevan in southeastern Saskatchewan to celebrate Thanksgiving (Note: Canadian Thanksgiving – first Monday in October) with Uncle George and Aunt Jean. By now the noise was getting very loud. People turned their heads to watch as we drove by. Inside, we could barely hear each other talk over the growling.
After a wonderful weekend of eating and visiting and touring the coal fields, it was time to return home.
We left Estevan after supper for the four-hour drive home. The very noisy four-hour drive home. Richard and I fell asleep in the back seat. Mom was asleep in the front seat.
Just west of Assiniboia, it happened.
BANG! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
Then silence, except for the sound of the engine.
The car drifted to a stop, the engine revving.
“What the . . . ?” I won’t repeat what else Dad said.
Dad got out of the car to discover bits and pieces of the transmission and the drive shaft scattered across the highway and in the ditch. Whatever had been growling had finally yielded to metal fatigue.
We were stranded. It was almost midnight. Fortunately, our disaster had happened not too far from a farm owned by people we knew.
To make a long story short (and my husband says I know how to make a short story long), they gave us a ride home. The next morning, Dad drove back with the old ‘51 International truck, picked up the pieces, and towed the car – and pieces – back to the garage.
To say Dad was “not amused” is a gross understatement. To this day, we maintain that we could see the blue smoke as Dad cussed out the mechanic. And this was in the neighbouring town, seven miles away!
The car was fixed. It never growled again.
But then there was the time the fuel pump died . . .
Caption: “Abe’s Chevrolet on Hwy 13, just west of Meyronne”
My grandparents, Abe and Addie Hanna, also had automobile adventures. Here’s an except from Chapter 26: Horseless Carriages, from “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead
On the way back to Airdrie, the car devils struck again. First, the fan belt broke in Willis’ car and then the lights burned out in ours. It was still light, and Willis said he knew a handy garage in Calgary where they could repair everything, but wouldn’t you know it, we got lost and wandered around the streets of Calgary for over an hour before Willis found the place. I was tired and so were the children; Garnet was really fussing, he was barely three years old, and I could tell Abe was tired too ‘cause he was getting quite cranky. We finally got home at midnight and the lights of that farm never looked so good. We all fell into bed and slept like babies.
It took us three days to get home. First day, we got as far as Suffield and stayed overnight in the hotel there. The next day, we encountered “heavy” roads, muddy and rutted due to several thunderstorms the day before. We saw a few motor cars still in the ditch and some in the process of being pulled out with teams of horses. “Ha! Look at that!” I said. “And they say cars are better than horses. If that’s so, then why does it take a team to pull out a car?” And we all got a chuckle out of that.