The Model T Roadster- a large part of the early life of our family.
Roy = dad
Wilma = mother
Junior = Lee Roy (me)
Pat = sister (Patricia)
LuLu = sister (Elizabeth)
The above was highlighted on The Antiques Roadshow. It is a replica of a 1926 Ford Model T Roadster.
In the year of 1926, a young Marine was serving as part of the honor guard for the Presidential yacht "The Mayflower" moored in the Washington Navy Yard. Being a devoted military man his focus was avoiding as many of the duties as possible. He became close with the post tailor since each uniform of the Marines at the Navy Yard was tailor made and the post tailor was retiring. Although he knew nothing of the craft, he applied and was awarded the position. The Post Tailor was a full time position and when he had to pull a guard mount or function, he could and did hire others for relief. At this time the base pay for a Private or Seaman in the military was $21 per month, minus 60 cents for something, thus giving them an annual income of $256. The clothing allowance for the special uniforms he made wound up mostly in his pocket (no taxes or overhead).
It was not long before a lifelong dream was about to happen. A brand new Ford roadster (selling price of $350, complete with a crank, spare tire, jack and monkey wrench) came from the income of the tailor shop. Back home in Louisiana, neither his father nor six brothers had crossed into the realm of ownership of a car. His grand-mother owned a fliver and the story told by relatives and denied all his life was the fact that his grand-mothers fliver ran over a hog while he was at the wheel and to avoid the consequences enlisted for a 4 year hitch in the Marines. (A half grown hog could inflict more damage to a Model T than a full grown bull).
The tailor shop also provided a wardrobe of uniforms and a substantial array of the top of the line clothing for a courting gentleman. This led to him becoming very interested in a William & Mary student studying voice on a scholarship from the Metropolitian Opera Co.
In February 1927 they were married at her home in Clarksburg, West Virginia and would reside in Washington until his tour of duty was up. This time of the year the temperature was well below freezing with snow hip deep and snow plows were not even a dream. Clarksburg to Washington by today's roads the trip is less than six hours and three hundred miles. Not the case in 1928, narrow 2 lane roads that meandered by everybody's house and the hills were straight up and down. Going up was the easier - down brought on nightmares that lasted for years.
The Model T had two wheel brakes that were less than adequate on flat level ground, the brake linings were made of cotton belting. In mountainous areas some cars brakes had to be relined several times a day. Transmission gears were in the future also, the same cotton belting was used for the clutch, low and reverse gears. Maybe this is where the term "Shade Tree Mechanic" was coined. Replacement of the belting was simple and the tools required was minimal - a knife to cut the belting and a "monkey wrench" adjust the bolts.
This was the first of many long trips in the "Fliver", the next being when he was mustered out of the Marines, an adventure of 1400 miles from Washington to Lousiana over not one mile of hard surfaced highway, mostly dirt but some of the high class ones had a gravel topping. All had ruts with either choking dust or mud up to the axel. Top speed was in the low twenties when you were moving. Fortunately, it was not during the winter.
My first automobile ride was aboard that fliver in May 1929, a short time after I entered this world. I could say I remembered it well, but, I have decided to tell the truth.