The Life and Love of a Model "T" Ford Car
by Herbert Bauss
Because they were something special. Those who own one as an antique still find them a very special possession and often will not part with it.
My early memories of Midland, Michigan and automobiles was a feeling of awe, which was quite common for grown-ups as well as little fellows like þ Main Street, Midland, with my grandfather as a special experience as he took a can of cream to the creamery and a crate of eggs to the grocery store, then used the funds to purchase his groceries for the family.
Main Street had hitching posts next to the sidewalks and wood block paving, also, a watering trough where the horses could drink after a long tiring trip from the surrounding farms to Main Street. Mostly wagons and buggies were parked along the street, with a few cars - all black - distributed among them. The courthouse stood on a hill with two Civil War cannons, complete with cannonballs in front of them.
To a young boy's eyes Main Street was a wonderful place to visit, where the lighting in the stores was furnished by kerosene lamps, Aladdin Mantle lamps and in a few stores acetylene gas lamps. Some time later the Thompson & Winkler General Store installed an electric light plant, a Delco 32 volt system, brightening that corner of Main Street.
A block west and across the street was the A. H. Rhinehart store, featuring the DeLaval Cream Separators and farm machinery. My grandfather told me the story about a farmer who was persuaded to purchase a separator -"because" said Mr. Rhinehart, "the more efficient recovery of cream would pay for the separator" - - - then he took the farmers only cow in exchange for the separator.
Mr. Rhinehart, also had the Ford Agency in Midland and with his sales techniques sold many of them, even managing to sell my dad one in 1918 with the promise that he could do enough sign and painting work for him to pay for it. Dad found this was a two-year "hitch" needed to complete the whole requirement. Involved were several large billboards on the roads leading into Midland and repainting one hundred used Model "T" cars, which were then driven to St. Louis, Missouri, to be sold at auction there; thereby making new cars easier to sell in Midland.
My part in this transaction included donning coveralls and lying on my back under the cars, removing all dirt and grease from the running gear and then painting it all shiny black with an inexpensive asphaltum which had been thinned to be easier to apply.
Dad painted the upper parts of the car with a shiny black varnish and the touring car tops with an asphaltum top dressing. The total job made the cars look nearly new and with no speedometers or mileage meters, who could tell the difference?!!
Our Model "T" touring car was the simplest one available with no self-starter or battery. A hand crank was located permanently on the front center of the car, under the radiator; with a wire loop at the side, connected to the carburetor choke valve. Starting the engine was accomplished by retarding the spark timing with the hand lever on a quadrant below the steering wheel; then applying the emergency brake, which disengaged the clutch, then advancing the throttle and with the left hand manipulating the choke wire, with the right hand on the crank handle (without the thumb enclosing the crank. You were then ready to crank the engine as rapidly as possible to generate enough electricity to fire the plugs. Failure to retard the spark would result in premature ignition sending the crank spinning backwards and resulting in a broken arm if that thumb was hooked around the crank, otherwise it could throw you violently to one side.
We soon learned that the use of a 5-volt "Hotshot" dry battery eased the starting chore as the ignition switch had two positions marked "Magneto" and "Battery". Four ignition coils were mounted in a wood box, one for each cylinder. Each coil had a set of vibrating points that generated a high voltage with each opening of the points. The 6-volt "Hotshot" gave a continuous spark as the "timer" made connections to each in turn. After which the motor could be started by cranking for several revolutions with the ignition off and then turning the ignition to battery. This fired the cylinders in turn and often the engine would keep on running. As the engine started, the spark was advanced by pulling the lever down on its quadrant, at the same time closing the throttle to prevent "racing" the engine. Also, as the engine warmed up, one could adjust the carburetor needle valve with a turn knob located on the dash. The ignition switch would then be turned to magneto to save the "Hotshot" for starting only.
The gasoline tank was mounted under the seat and to check the gas supply everyone in the front seat got out and the seat was slid forward which exposed the gas tank. After unscrewing the cap one inserted a wooden stick in the tank and read the gas level by the length of the stick -wetted by the gas. With no gauges ~ it was no surprise that running out of gas was a frequent occurance, so it was common practice to carry an extra gallon can of gas, stowed under the seat. Another hazard was the possibility of leaving the cap off the gas tank after filling which could result in gas splashing up into the seat and soaking through to the tender parts of the body of both the driver and passenger, resulting in blisters. We were always VERY careful to replace the cap!!
The tool kit that came with the car consisted in an open-end sparkplug wrench with a hex box wrench forged onto it on the other end. This tool fit the head bolts as well as other parts. There was also, an adjustable "monkey-wrench", a slip-joint pliers, a jack and a wood handled screw driver. We soon added a point file, friction tape and "bailing wire". A double ended wrench also was furnished as was a rod with a socket on the end to fit the oil test petcocks on the transmission. With four coils to keep adjusted, we also added spare coil point sets, a ratchet wrench to adjust the transmission, a supply of cotter keys and miscellaneous screws, bolts and nuts.
Testing the engine when running, was accomplished by using a metal tool to short out one spark plug at a time, judging performance by the change in engine speed. Care was needed to touch the engine block before the spark plug to avoid spectacular demonstration of muscle contraction caused by electric shock, as well as some choice unprintable words.
Three foot pedals controlled the planetary transmission. The left one, when depressed, engaged the low gear and when released completely, engaged the clutch for direct drive to the rear axle. Pushing the pedal halfway in put the transmission in neutral; also, applying the emergency brake directly to the drive shaft, braking the rear wheels only. On the ice the result of locking the brake on the drive-shaft sometimes allowed one wheel to rotate backwards while the other rotated forwards causing the car to switch ends or spin out.
The Model "T" headlamps operated from the magneto with the voltage varying with the speed) producing a wide variation in light intensity. If one was driving in fog, traveling slowly, one could occasionally put the car in the low gear to give bright lights with the higher engine speed.
I recall one very foggy night driving on the extreme LEFT of the gravel road to watch the edge of the ditch and meeting a car also traveling on his left and passing carefully with appropriate comments on ~ weather! The parking lamps and tail lamps were enclosed and used kerosene. They had "Bullseye" lenses, which gave a feeble glow visible when the lenses were clean!
Our neighbor, Tons, had a unique way of warming the oil in his Model "T" on cold winter mornings. He would put a cast iron pot, filled with kindling, under the crankcase and light it. He would then go in the house and have a cup of coffee. When he came back out he could "crank-up and the car started easily. This wouldn't work for dad as he kept his car in the barn where the driveway was between the haymows, so he resorted to the standard remedy of pouring boiling water from a teakettle over the carburetor, vaporizing the gasoline and making starting easier. Sometimes ether would be poured into the spark plug holes to aid starting. This was hazardous as firing the cylinder on or before top dead center would damage the engine. On very cold nights dad would back the car up the ramp to the barn floor so he could use gravity to help crank the car.
Dad tried to teach Aunt Ella to drive the Model "T" and she did quite well steering it but became excited as she approached the barn doors and pushed the clutch pedal past neutral to low, propelling the two front wheels neatly through the door; thereby breaking both headlight lenses while she firmly gripped the steering wheel and loudly yelled "Whoa" - "Whoa"!! End of Lessons?? Even at that time the highways were mostly gravel with many city streets paved with bricks or cobblestones. That was in the l920's.
One of the practices of car dealers was to accept delivery of the car you ordered at the factory in Detroit, thus saving delivery costs. A. H. Rhinehart accompanied one customer to the factory to drive his car home for him and give him driving instructions on the way. At that time the Dixie Highway went through hilly country at Holly, Michigan and a rainstorm made the clay road very slippery. Hitting a chuckhole the Model "T" slid off the road, went through a ditch toward a fence and then back through the ditch to the road. Not wanting to appear a poor driver, Rhinehart -- ever the salesman-- calmly explained that he was only demonstrating the car's handling ability and ruggedness over rough terrain!
Winter brought the problem of freezing and the need for antifreeze. The usual one was ethanol, which needed frequent checking as it would boil away at operating temperatures, needing frequent replenishment. Many schemes were employed to keep the engine compartment warm including using a "horse blanket" placed over the hood. The cold weather also congealed the lubricating oil in the engine, making cranking difficult. Some help in cranking could be had by jacking up a rear wheel and putting the car in high gear, putting a brick in front of the other wheel kept the car on the jack when it started, Dad had the bright idea that if one jack was good, two should be better, so he jacked up both rear wheels and started the car. When he ran to the side to advance the spark, he accidentally pushed on the side of the car, toppling it from the jacks; whereupon it took off in hic1h gear sideswiping a fence and tearing out a goodly number of posts before stalling. End of another GOOD IDEA!
Driving the Model "T" on ice demanded constant attention to maintaining a careful control of the steering wheel, as the quick response to steering could send one into a spin easily. On one trip to Saginaw over the paved roads that ran through Lawndale and required a right angled turn each mile in one area, my dad observed another Model "T" that had approached one corner too fast and spun around several times. The driver got out as dad approached and with a puzzled look on his face asked dad which direction he had been headed in before the spin, saying the fence corners had passed before his eyes so fast he had lost count. Dad told him and then proceeded very carefully to negotiate the same corner without mishap.
Dad did a lot of showcard price tags and artwork for a Midland merchant who also had several other stores in other towns and on occasion he would need to go to the other stores to do the work. Sometimes coming home quite late at night, to avoid going to sleep, he would sing as he drove along and one night the State Police stopped him to see if he had been drinking. He hadn't of course as dad never drank alcohol. The officer let him go on with the warning that if he got too sleepy he should park and take a nap. Dad had a good strong tenor voice and had sung a little in vaudeville and on radio in Detroit. He also played the organ in the Midland Lutheran church and the piano in dance bands in some of the surrounding towns. He also gave art lessons for a while teaching oil painting.
As our Model "T" accumulated more miles, we also accumulated experience in major and minor repairs and added some accessories, such as a water-circulating pump to aid the thermosyphon cooling system. Also, a manifold heater was installed to put some heat into the passenger side of the front $eat. The side curtains were inadequate to keep out wintry blasts. The heater replaced the soapstone block which had been heated on the kitchen stove and wrapped in newspaper they put on the floor of the car to warm ones feet in winter.
One time dad loaded my mother and me and my grandmother Bauss into the touring car and started for Detroit to visit my Uncle Julius and family. Eight hours later and eight flat tires later also, we arrived at 3913 Canton Avenue in Detroit and stayed there several days until dad had nerve enough to start back. Better luck on the way back to Midland as all the patches on the inner tubes held and we arrived home safely.
The tires were 30 x 3 1/2 with clincher rims on wood spoke wheels. Changing tires required several tire irons to remove the tire when flat and also some patching kits for the inner tubes. A hand pump was needed to re-inflate the repaired tire also. The tires were guaranteed for 5000 miles and sometimes even lasted that long. Changing the tires involved jacking up the wheel and dismounting the tire from the clincher rim permanently attached to the wheel, removing the inner tube, finding the leak and patching the tube, then checking and casing for nails and other foreign objects, then reinstalling the tube and mounting the tire on the rim carefully to avoid pinching the tube between tire and rim. With a handpump we would pump for a hundred strokes then let the jack down to find if it needed more air and adding more if needed.
On another day in early spring we started for Detroit but encountered glare ice on the road south of Saginaw. One of the wheels struck a bare spot which started a spin, rotating the car 1800 þ Mother nervously said to dad,"! think the Lord wants us to go home". That we did!
The car painting project to pay for our Model "T" lasted several years and at that time dad's paint shop was located in the second floor of Foster's Livery Stable. A hand powered elevator raised cars to the second floor by pulling on a large rope. The rope ran over pulleys between the roof and basement to operate gears on the upper end with take up steel cables fastened to the four corners of the platform. With pulling on the rope the platform would slowly arrive to the second floor. Lowering the cars to the first floor was easier as gravity did most of the work. After dad had completed his contracts the building was sold to William Cassidy and was converted to the Frolic Theater. Dad moved his shop to the second floor of Dennison and Spencer's storage garage where access was by ramp from ~ McDonald Street. This access was steep enough to require a running start with the Model "T" to reach the top.
I found out how steep by trying to ride my bicycle up the incline. Foolishly starting down, I found my bicycle brakes wouldn't hold and flew across the street, luckily missing all traffic and hitting the curb with such force that I was sent flying over the handlebars, narrowly missing an entrance head first into the Day Hotel.
Dad also found out how steep it was one time when he had started down as another car just started up! He applied the brakes so violently that he sheared off the rivets in the brake band, losing the braking power and with quick reflexes he steered the car against the wood wall on the side of the ramp which slowed it enough to stop against the door jamb at the bottom. He sustained only minor damage to the Model "T" and door jamb. This resulted in a new sign warning people to sound the horn before starting up or going down.
The model "T" horn was a simple vibrating diaphragm operated by the alternating current from the magneto and varied in pitch with the speed. As the Model YT" aged, some of the parts would fatigue. One time returning late at night from visiting relatives, I was awakened from my deep sleep in the rear seat, by a light bump and found we were stopped in the road. fly dad was out searching for a rear wheel which left the car when the rear axle broke. A call to a garage brought a wrecker to the rescue and a special carriage placed under the rear axle allowed us to be towed to the garage.
A day or two later as the garage mechanic had taken the rear axle apart and installed the new axle; he put everything back together and started the car to road test it. Putting it in low the car responded by basking into his workbench. Alarmed, he carefully placed his foot on the pedal and tried again. Again the car backed up, so he shut it off and called dad, who went down to investigate. The mechanic swore the engine must be running backwards, but dad analyzed it correctly. He figured out that the mechanic had turned the axle assembly and for end, before installing it in the housing, thereby putting the ring gear on the wrong side of the pinon gear. After some discussion, the mechanic did the job over correctly and all functioned as it should.
In 1922, when I was fourteen; dad decided that I should have a drivers license and took me down to the license bureau where he testified as to my ability and I was issued my first drivers license. It was some years before the law was changed to require renewal every three years.
I had driven around the farmyard for a bit, so dad let me run errands for him. On one of these errands the rear end differential had a problem, resulting in inability to drive forward but I discovered I could carefully back up to a friends house. He borrowed his dad's platform truck to tow me home and all went well until we reached our farm gate. When he applied his brakes, I discovered I had none, allowing the car to go under the truck bed, neatly shearing off the radiator cap and stopping the car with a jerk. By much careful maneuvering, we managed to push the car onto the barn floor, where we repaired the rear axle and the other damages.
Dad had overhauled the engine and driven it a few miles before he allowed me to take a load of friends to the Oxbow on the Chippewa River where we swam and waded and had a good time together. When we were ready to return home, I discovered we could not get the car into neutral gear. Finally we solved this by pushing the car to start it, driving in circles slowly until each fallow had climbed aboard, then headed for the entrance gate only to find another car was stopped in that narrow gateway. As we couldn't stop, proceeded to get through with a fraction of an inch to spare. Not daring to stop I drove past each fellows home as slowly as possible and each one jumped from the funning board and landed on the run.. When I arrived home I managed to stall the engine and after opening the gate and barn doors, managed to start the engine again and drive it into the barn and again stalled it when inside. That time we discovered dad had forgotten to put the safety wires in the studs which fastened the flywheel to the crankshaft. That error allowed the flywheel to-shift endwise as the bolts loosened, which prevented the clutch to disengage. Luckily, no harm was done to the engine, anyway.
Overhauling the engine came at shorter intervals as the car aged, so we developed a routine of engine removal involving placing poles across the barn beams and suspending block and tackle from a chain wrapped around the beam. Then with an old spark plug shell welded to an eye bold, screwed into No. 3 sparkplug hole; we could hoist the engine out and put it on a workbench for overhaul.
One ingenious farmer used his hay fork mechanism to hoist the engine, with a horse hitched to the rope. All went well until the horse failed to stop on command and delivered the engine to the haymow!
Michigan had enacted motor registration laws in the early 1920's and the requirement of a bill of sale for the issuance of a title found some owners unable to find the proper papers and thus unable to obtain a title or license. As some of the cars value was low anyway, some owners simply sold the cars for junk prices. Dad purchased one of these cars for parts and we dismantled it, storing usable pieces in the barn.
The engine in dad's Model "T" had been "knocking" for some time but he drove it to work one morning and it suddenly quieted and seemed to stutter. He drove it up the ramp to his shop and noticed a pool of oil collecting under it. The No. 3 connecting rod had lost its cap and been driven out through the engine block and was hanging up in the hole. This required some ingenuity to repair. Dad used a connecting rod from the spare engine and riveted a metal plate with a cork gasket over the hole in the block. This repair lasted for years.
Abe Surath's Salvage yard was the source of many parts needed for car repairs also including the Model "T". An education in mechanics was revealed to me in the dismantling process which has proven invaluable to me as it led 1o understanding the inner workings of many other cars. Abe drove a Model "T" sedan at that time and one day parked it across from Dennison & Spencer gas station and shop to do some errands. Returning he discovered he was out of gas, so bought five gallons from their station. Returning to the station he stopped to visit with the station owner. Suddenly he noticed the car being driven away and discovered he had put gas in the wrong car. His was parked next to the one he had gassed up. Much disturbed, he wanted his money back from the gas station manager. No Luck!!
While in high school some of the students coming from the rural areas were permitted to drive to school, and since all Model "T" cars ignition "keys" were the same and readily available at the dime stores and auto accessory stores, quite a few students carried keys. This led to various methods of prevention of unauthorized driving of cars, such as putting a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the coil box and reinserting the coils, effectively disconnecting the ignition; or by simply reversing the direction of insertion of the coils, the same thing was achieved. Often as a prank, someone would reverse one or two coils causing serious missing of the engine accompanied with frequent back firing of the gas mixture in the exhaust system. This also happened if the magneto connection was loosened.
As the cars were light weight, several of the students could lift one of the rear wheels and insert a block under the axle so that the tire just cleared the ground. When the car was started the wheel could only spin as the driver tried to engage various gears. One of the Model "T" cars belonging to a student had been "souped up" by installing a Frontenac overhead valve head which gave higher performance and greater speed. This increased the top speed from the usual 40 mph to over 65 mph which on a washboard gravel road made the car very unstable.
As the cars became older the front wheel spindle bushings would wear, making the car subject to "shimmy" if the road bumps, speed and conditions matched the corresponding frequency of the springs. Since no shocks were used, the vibrations were self perpetuating, cured only by slowing down. Brick and cobblestone streets were especially bad for the "shimmy" generation.
I graduated from Midland High School in lg2g and started looking for work. As I was only sixteen it was nearly impossible to find employment. Finally I took a job as apprentice electrician working with a contractor in Detroit. He was a relative of my dad's and a very fine man. Some years earlier my dad had given me a set of books, "Hawkins Electrical Guide", edited by Thomas Edison, which I had read avidly and quite thoroughly digested the contents. This I found was a subject of great interest and the potential for the future in that field fascinated me. One day the contractor asked if I could drive a Model "T" car. I could and had a license for two years. He asked to drive his pick-up and follow him as he took his car to the garage. I did so successfully by staying close to him as was reasonable, as I was unfamiliar with the streets in Detroit. Having successfully managed that task and acquired a Detroit Street map, he sent me to Electrical Wholesale houses to pick up materials. after a few such experiences, I became somewhat more confident of my driving ability. Mr. Schaff always could find a way , no matter how unusual, to accomplish whatever needed 'to be done. On one occasion we needed to bend a 3" conduit for a store entrance service. Not having equipment to do the job, we located a pair of power poles nearby and putting the conduit between them, we hooked up his Model "T" with a rope and proceeded to bend the conduit. As we completed the bend there was a loud crack and one of the poles broke at the base. Fortunately, they were joined at the top so they stayed in place. We had to leave hurriedly to complete our job -- I think!
Construction work slowed in Detroit at the first of the year, so I was laid off and returned to Midland. Shortly after The Dow Chemical Company offered me work in the Electric Department as I was an experienced electrician. Naturally I ended up in the Dow Electric Shop where I repaired D.C. motors and did control wiring.
Working at Dow involved walking three miles to work as dad's working hours did not correspond with mine. In nice weather I could ride my bicycle but Michigan winters being what they are, I needed transportation of my own.. Finally having put aside enough for a down payment, my dream came true -- having a nice new car of my own. At the Ford Agency there was a new Model "T" roadster; their last one before the Model "A" came into being. The roadster was painted brown, the first ever in a color other than black. The price - 5360.00 with a down payment and 5.0O per week. It was equipped with demountable rims and a spare tire, all size 29x4.40. This model (Serial 14,999,8XX) was really improved over earlier models having a starter, generator, gas gauge, windshield wipers, electric head and tail-lights and parking lights. Wow, that was something, and the girls liked it too.
Improvements for the roadster for various reasons added soon after were speedometer, heater, water pump, foot throttle and spotlight. Another improvement was a water vapor injection system which improved engine efficiency and made it run quieter. This was a glass bottle with a twin hole rubber stopper. The vacuum line connection was to a short glass tube; while a long glass tube extended to near the bottom of the bottle which served as air intake. A screw clamp on the hose adjusted the air flow and the amount of water vapor injected. A quart of water lasted several days. In winter alcohol was added to the water to prevent freezing and it ran on gasahol!
The planetary transmission had been strengthened and more effective brake system with a wider brake band was installed. The engine block was still the same basically; with the addition of starter, generator and battery, but still retained the crank affixed to the frame in front of the car. A strap had been added to hold tne crank aside and prevent snagging debris quite common in the middle of many country roads.
There were no door or ignition locks, so various schemes to prevent theft were available. My choice was one that allowed me to lock the steering wheel. This was a simple lock latch that would allow the steering wheel to be raised and locked with its gear disengaged and free to spin. My car had a Holly Hotplate carburetor enabling it to run on any old fuel-including kerosene (discovered when I ran out of gas one time)
In winter when gas was hard to vaporize I found I could dip a lamp wick into the gas tank, wrap it around the intake manifold and ignite it; whereupon the car would start easily. As the battery was small for the current required to start the car, one could hand crank the engine to lubricate the bearings before using the starter. This worked well when the temperature descended as low as -30 degrees.
My roadster had a manifold heater which had been improved to enclose an air passage from behind the fan, blowing fresh heated air into the car. It still required a warm robe to keep from freezing the driver and companion.
Many adventures are easily recalled involving the use of my first car, the roadster. Coming home from a party in Saginaw one New Years morning, we followed a snowplow to Bay City and toward Midland. The driver apparently did the plowing in Bay County only because when he came to the Midland County line, he turned around and started back to Bay City, leaving us on our own to reach home driving in more then a foot of fresh snow. All went fairly well until driving into the farm driveway. Speeding up to plough through the drift on top of a knoll resulted in sinking into the snow to the fenders in a big drift.
Usually happenings never seemed to cease. I planned on taking my mom on a little vacation trip to Ohio to see her relatives. Before leaving, dad and I decided my car needed a new coat of paint. Dad volunteered to paint it and mixed the color in the varnish, painting it the night before we were to leave. Somehow the mixture failed to duplicate the original color -- so we drove a nice, shiny lilac Ford to Ohio. When I traded that car in the dealer said it would be worth $75.00 more if it was black. The next morning it was black! It was a good little car having been driven 75,000 miles with very little repairs.
About that time dad added another Ford product to our stable. A Ford- son tractor with short wheel base and steel wheels and with the ability to run on kerosene after starting with gas. It was slow but powerful and required careful handling as the front end tended to rise off the ground if hooked to an almost immovable object. Fortunately, we didn't try to pull stumps with it and soon learned to run a chain from the rear of the hitch, between the front wheels, then reverse when pulling a very heavy load. This could result in burying the rear wheels in sandy soil; a fate that could be remedied by wedging a fence post behind the rear wheels and allowing the tractor to lift itself out of the hole it had dug.
We had a plow with it and plowed several fields and the garden each year, but soon found that without a horse to cultivate row crops we had to grow only grain and grass crops. Adapting 1the old horse drawn mower to the tractor, we continued to harvest i~3~t' crops for a number of years. Enough to feed the one cow Ella wanted to keep long after my grandfather had passed away.
As I became familiar with the roadster, I learned to anticipate its needs and with the experience gained from dad's car, maintained it in good condition.
One of the characteristics was its ability to follow the tire track ruts in sandy roads with little attention making for relaxing driving sometimes for several miles at a time. When meeting another car, a quick move must be made to choose a spot where it was possible to jump the car out far enough to pass safely. Of course, the other car had to do likewise. That was when I learned to drive with only one hand on the steering wheel!!
Dad finally traded the old "T" touring car for a used Model "T" sedan, complete with self-starter and generator and much more comfortable in winter. He drove that for some years and traveled around the state to do jobs in different towns. One late afternoon, he called from about 20 miles away saying the car would not start; so I went to the rescue with a tow chain. Since I had a date for that evening, I was quite anxious to get back home. After towing him for a mile or two, trying to start the car, I finally told him I would tow him the rest of the way home. He agreed; so putting his car in neutral, he hung on as I accelerated somewhat above his normal speed, kicking up a lot of dust. He waved his arm out of the window and when I stopped, he said, "not so fast", so of course I slowed until we reached the pavement, then made up for lost time. That was the fastest his car had ever traveled, but made it home in time to clean up and arrived for my date on time.
With the motor overhauled, dad continued to drive the Model "T" after I had married, gone away to school, returned and built a new home. By that time his car had developed roof leaks and dry rot in the wood top bows to the extent that roofing tar would fail to hold it together. He finally bought an Oldsmobile business coupe and left the "T" parked in the barnyard.
Considerable filling was needed around my new home, so I made a deal with my dad and purchased his old sedan. It ran on one cylinder only but since most of the trip to my home was downhill, I made it by driving. in low gear and parked it behind my garage. Upon dismantling the engine I found that one piston had broken in a ring groove and three pistons were at the top of the cylinders at the same time also three of the exhaust valves ~ so badly burned that there was only one cylinder left to function. Again calling on the supply of parts salvaged from previous engines, I was able to renew the old "P'. By chopping off the old body I could make an open air utility vehicle. By using an old trailer box, hinged over the rear frames and held by a latch at the front, I found it possible to haul "fill dirt" and dump it by backing up full speed, releasing the latch and applying the brake, with the spectacular result that the rear of the box would strike the ground, throwing the dirt out and raising the rear wheels from the ground. Then the reaction would lower the wheels to the ground again allowing me to take off for another load with the box re-latching itself automatically. After 1500 loads, more or less, the filling was completed and the bare sand hill on the farm had been partially leveled.
Before the summer of 1941 we had completed the sand filling and had our gas drum filled with fuel. This was fortunate as we had not foreseen gas rationing and World War II brought gas rationing. This supplement enabled us to survive. The problem of transporting our children 1 1/2 miles to Sugnet School, prompted us to purchase a home on Elm Court, within walking distance of school. At that time we finally parted with the last Model "T" Ford and all the spare parts. Perhaps it is still running if the man who purchased it was a patient person and a pretty good mechanic.
Back in 1929 1 had traded my Model "T" roadster for an Essex Sedan. Those adventures are best left to another story as they also included our marriage, wedding trip and among other things the use of some Model "T" parts to repair out Essex over a number of years.
Near the end of 1931 or in 1932 we purchased a new 1931 Model "A"; again being the last of its type sold in Midland. That new car gave us many, many miles of happy traveling, including moving to Washington, D.C where I went to school.
This covers a time span of 1918 through 1941 -- from my life as a little chap and dad's purchase of his first Model "T" car, through maturity and manhood, marriage and the arrival or our two daughters Betty Jean and Deanna. Harold made our family complete in 1943. This span of time was notable for World War I, the Great Depression which began in 1929 and World War II.
So this ends the story of my life with the Model "T"s. To me, more than other important political problems in the world looms the love and constant challenge ever present in the ownership and operating of the Ford Model "T". If they were being built today, I expect I might purchase one and don't you imagine I would find ways to correct its aches and pains and improve it.
Early Midland Roads as told to me by my Grandfather Henry Haker:
When grandfather purchased his 50 acre farm on the corner of Ashman Street and Swede Road, there were only sand and clay roads in the area, used by the lumbering crews, as timber was still being cut north of the farm and it was being hauled over the roads past grandfather's home.
In winter the logs were hauled over roads that were ice coated by sprinkling them with water, which on freezing made easy hauling for the large sleighs. One winter the ice had been built up so thick that as it thawed slightly in spring it became rounded and much too high in the center. A large load of logs slid off the road and overturned as they passed the house. More than that; I cannot longer recall.
Maintenance of the roads were by "Road Work" in lieu of taxes and supervised by a township officer whose official title was "Pathmaster". Ashman Street was a county road, so received some attention. Finally in about 1915 or thereabout, it was graded and coated with macadam; which was a layer of crushed stone, compacted by a large steam roller, forming what was locally known as a "stone road". This was extended as far as Swede Road and was the road base until after the area was taken into the City of Midland and sewer and water lines were installed in that area before paving. Swede Road was sandy and received only minimal grading and drainage work, with mine shale being applied after the county took over its care.
Spring break-up of roads really tested the endurance and ability of cars as the mud was often hub deep. The Model "T" was seldom stuck and was easy to push out of mud holes because it was light weight.