By Harry Glickman, with Jeannette Glickman
It had been sitting in Mr. Gold's backyard for a number of years. The weeds had grown to where the hubcaps were covered, and the flat part of the 30 by 3 1/2" tires could not be seen. It was 1934. Stanley Gottstein and I rarely missed a day to examine this 1923 Model-T Ford touring automobile. Not a scratch could we find on the solid black paint that was standard on all of the millions of Model-T's that were built. No windows in this touring car, but it did have an Isinglass rear window in the fabric top that looked in perfect condition. The windshield was glass made up of two pieces, upper and lower halves that could be opened outwards allowing the wind to beat against the face, producing the exotic effect attained by moving through the atmosphere at the unnatural speed capable of the motor car.
It was obvious that Mr. Gold was no longer in need of the vehicle and would probably be receptive to an offer. The negotiations started with our asking how much he wanted for the old car in his back yard. He responded with the question “How much are you willing to pay?” In later years I was to learn that this is the rule for the start of negotiations for the purchase of anything in most of the world. We finally got to the starting price of $5 and ended up agreeing on a deal of $4. I had my first car and had it running after the expenditure of 95 cents to repair the magneto.
For those of you who have forgotten your high school physics, a magneto is a primitive generator, a permanent magnet made of the horseshoe-shaped magnets that we played with as kids and a coil of wire to conduct the electric current. Upon cranking the motor of the car with the crank handle located at the front end under the engine, one also turned the magnet of the magneto. An electric current was generated as the fixed conducting wires cut through the revolving magnetic field. The electric charge needed to run a gasoline engine was obtained and would continue as long as the car engine was revolving. The electric charge was essential, as it provided the current needed to produce the spark to explode the gasoline vapor above the pistons, which provided the power to turn the engine and run the automobile. The generated electricity was also used to light the headlights. There was no battery or self-starter on this, my first motorized vehicle.
The summer of 1934 we were just out of school. Things were tough. There were few jobs. Seattle City Light advertised that they were hiring three meter readers. The civil service test would be given on a set date at the Civic Auditorium that could accommodate 1500 at a sitting. About 3000 applicants for the three jobs appeared—lots of college grads and engineers. I'm sure that I ended up in the lower 1500, even though I was real good at numbers and could have become an excellent meter reader.
Meanwhile, we were having a ball with the Model T. I was spending lots of time with Stanley and Jeannette. We would drive up to the Horowitz house on 32nd Avenue, onto the sidewalk and step out right onto the front porch. Jen's Mom was dubious about the wisdom of this driving action, but we loved it. Later she became my admirer, as I was a left winger through the unpopular years.
My mother and older brother, Louie, had a new business. They put tons of cucumbers into barrels during the month of August. Four or five of my buddies and I provided the bulk of the labor needed to get the job done. We earned real money, about $50 each for that month. We worked long hours and seven days a week, as the cukes grew fast in August and for some reason the season ended at Labor Day. The apple harvest was in full swing in Eastern Washington, and four of us decided to try for jobs picking. The pay was three cents a box, but if the trees were loaded and not high, a strong picker could pick up to ten boxes an hour. The trouble was that there were too many pickers. They came from all across the country, in cars, trucks, and on freight trains. Four of us started out in the Model T. to cross the Cascade Mountains via Snoqualmie Pass into the Yakima valley, a distance of about 100 miles. Mr. Gold had assured me that this automobile could make it to New York and back without a problem. He may have been right except for the fact that the tires were old, and sitting in the grass for a few years didn't help them. We had our first flat about 20 miles out of Seattle. Like repairing bicycle tires today we had a patching kit and became expert at tire repair. It seems that the tubes were in worse shape than the tires, would leak air in different places and need a patch every mile or two. We soon stopped using the jack. Two guys could easily lift the troubled wheel as we slipped a wooden block under the car. It took two days to get to Yakima.
I can't remember how we met him, but we spent the night camping in this guy's backyard. Besides the large squash plants, there was a lot of junk lying around. We traded 50 cents for a huge squash and a couple of old 30 by 3 1/2-inch tires complete with tubes. We ate squash and apples for the next few days and the Ford was no longer lame.
Besides Yudie (Jay) Wax and myself it may have been Stan and Joe Kraft who made up our foursome. We finally found a farmer with a few apple trees who could use help. Stan and Joe took one look at those trees and took off for the railroad yard. They hopped the first freight train heading for Seattle. Jay and I settled into the barnlike structure that was probably the original farmhouse. It was now used as a shed for storing corn and the accumulated old tools and stuff that farmers should get rid of. There was a small pot bellied stove in the room along with a table, a couple of chairs, and a couple of bunks. This structure had obviously been used by transient farm hands in the past but unused for a long time. Nights in September in Eastern Washington can be cold, as it was this particular evening. We had the stove roaring and the room comfortable when the wall behind it became a wall of fire. Flames reaching to the ceiling. Everything in the room including the corn was bone dry, and that wall literally seemed to explode. My first thought was to get into the Model-T and take off, as it appeared as though we had a catastrophe on our hands. Fortunately, there was a water supply just outside, and we had those buckets flying. Like what seemed a miracle, the fire was out within a few minutes, and our apple picking experience did not yet come to an end.
As mentioned earlier, 3 cents a box was not very much even in 1934 and with trees 20 feet high and not heavy with fruit we had a problem. With gasoline at 12 cents a gallon and needing 5 gallons to get home, the first day picking was for the Ford. By noon the second day we realized that we had been taken by this farmer who, no way, could get those apples picked at a price that would show him a profit. And at 3 cents a box we couldn't earn enough to eat anything other than apples. We gave the farmer a story about being sick, and that we had to get home in a hurry. He understood, gave us $1 and a box of Jonathan apples, and we were on our way. Both Jay and I felt great, we had an adventure and now a feeling of independence getting into our own vehicle to head onto the open road.
Back to Seattle by nightfall without a flat tire, saving gasoline by coasting down from Snoqualmie Pass with the ignition turned off and the gears in neutral. Actually there were no transmission gears on the Model T. There were three pedals on floor—the right one the brake, the center the reverse, the left the low gear. The hand brake also served as a clutch. Brake down and the car was in gear and would move forward; brake up and it was in neutral. With that brake half way up you could coast. There was no gas pedal on the floor, but a throttle on the steering column along with the spark adjustment.
Well, after coasting down that mountain, there was very little lining left on the band around the brake. The brake band would tighten around the drive shaft to stop the car. Needing a new brake lining was just one of the reasons for moving on to my next car.
1t was the spring of 1935 when I sold the Ford touring, which, by the way, had only 3 doors. The left rear looked like it was a door, but was only an outline in the metal. The buyers of the car were four guys about my age who chipped in $2.50 each to pay the asking price of $10.00. I had pointed out the fact that the brake band needed replacing, but otherwise the vehicle seemed to be in good condition. Within a week I was the proud owner of a 1927 Model-T Ford Coupe, two doors, one bench seat, and with a large trunk area, much more sophisticated than the 1923. It had a self-starter, side windows in the doors, a storage battery, and a generator, but still with three pedals on the floor, no gears so no lever to shift gears. The negotiated price ended up at $22 cash.
It was the second week after this acquisition that the number 3 piston came loose. The piston shattered and the connecting rod bent the pan under the engine. I learned a lot about engines in the next week. There were lots of small junkyards around in those days so it was no problem to get a piston from an old junked Ford. All of the Model-T engines were identical. It took about a week to replace the piston and get the motor to run as good as new, but it did have this small oil leak because of the dented pan. I was living on 18th Ave. near Thomas St.; the parking space in front of the apartment looked like a garage for the next couple of years where a lot of my time was spent in repairing and painting cars.
It was probably in the fall of that year, after the pickle pack was in, that Stanley and I entered the world of business. We loaded gallon jars of pickles, hamburger relish, tomato catsup and other condiments such as vinegar into the trunk area of the Ford and called on the restaurants in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. In 1935 business was not good. The restaurant cooks, usually the owners, were a little drunk, and would only buy a gallon of pickles if they were completely out and had the 40-cent payment. One incident that stands out in my memory is in this kitchen where the cook was preparing onions. The tears were flowing from my eyes as I talked to him about a possible purchase. Being a cook was that day eliminated as a possible vocation for me. The drive to Tacoma and Everett on alternating weeks was always an adventure. We stocked up with a larger than usual load, as we saw these customers only every other week, and some would take 2 or 3 gallons of something. It was necessary to stop at Louis Diamond's gas station to pick up a gallon of used oil. About midway to our destination, 15 miles or so out on the road, we would add a couple of quarts of oil to the engine and then repeat the act on the homeward journey.
1935 and my sister, Miss America in my eyes, was already married to Sam Lewis. Leo Chain had courted Bessie for a couple of years but we always doubted that he could win her heart. Leo was famous in Seattle for being the only Jew working in a bank. He looked like and was able to pass as a Swede. Lots of discrimination in employment in those days, and the banks were notorious in their behavior. Sam Lewis was one of the few individuals I knew at that time with a decent job and a new car. His 1932 Model-A Ford seemed always to have golf clubs in the trunk. I felt like an aristocrat the day he let me drive his modern vehicle with the stick shift and a paint job that was not black. My sister married Sam Lewis and moved off to Madison, Wisconsin. Sam was an excellent mechanic and was in the business of repairing addressogragh machines. He had the equipment to make address plates for the complicated machines used for mailings to customers. Bessie became active in the business of making these plates.
It was about that time that Edith went into business, opening a small shop in the Pike Place Market, a cheese store with all the different kinds displayed in the counter. A new product was white margarine with a little container of yellow color to be added. The state of Washington, being a strong dairy state, had a law that prevented the sale of colored margarine. It seems that she didn't sell enough cheese, so Edith got out of the market and landed a job at the Bon Marche. It must have been right at the start of 1936 when Stanley scored high on a civil service test and became an employee of Uncle Sam. I went to work for Uncle Mike Diamond. Glad to get rid of the oil leaking Model-T, I traded it in and bought my first Plymouth, a 1929 coupe.
It was an $18 transaction, and I had a car with a clutch and a gear stick coming up from the floor, pretty much of a mess as a wooden trunk had been built on and the left front fender was missing. It needed a paint job but otherwise seemed in good shape. This Plymouth didn't look good considering its young age. In 1936 my 1929 Plymouth Coupe was only seven years old. On her first ride in this real car after the Model-Ts, Jen considered it a piece of junk. We discussed the repairs upon which I planned to embark, but not the color for the new paint job. I actually liked the idea of no fender, as the revolving wheel right there on my left was pleasant to watch. The parking space in front of the apartment building on 18th Ave. became a body shop for about a month. A fender and panel from a junkyard to replace the wooden box and she was ready to be painted. Blue was a good color, but dark blue was too much like black. So I settled on a very light blue which looked great on the color chart. Well, light blue paint on this old car gave it a unique look. A bit shocking even to me, but when Jen saw it, I knew that a darker blue or even black would have been better. We soon got used to the sky blue car and were easily recognized wherever we drove. I learned more about gasoline engines in the next few months. The timing gear was made of a hard wooden fiber and needed to be replaced. Getting a new one was no problem, but installing it was a complicated job needing a special tool. Stanley and I worked every evening and weekends, and finally got it fixed. Cleaning spark plugs and adjusting the carburetor became routine. Jen and I were going steady and we got used to the color. The coupe actually ended up looking good and running smoothly.
The mileage built up between 18th and 32nd Avenues. Jen and I spent a lot of time in this little blue car and started making plans for our future together. She was a sophomore at the University of Washington; I was cutting skirts and jackets at the Diamond Cloak and Suit Company. I had been hired to assist the woman cutter and to help my cousin, Jean Diamond, with packaging for shipment. The pay of $6 a week was reasonable for an apprentice. The little factory was always short of money. Within a week or two the cutter was taking two or three days a week off, so I ended up doing most of the work. In a couple of months she was gone, and I was the cutter. The pay remained the same, but I was happy learning a trade that paid well in the big union shops. The cutter at the Standard Cloak and Suit was earning $65 a week during the season. I even considered taking the course in pattern making and design at the Edison Vocational School. The lineup to register about twenty young women scared me off.
Uncle Mike had never studied design and was making the patterns, new ones each season. In the early spring he studied the fashions in the Bon Marche and Fredrick and Nelson display windows with pencil and pad in hand, came back to the shop, and made the new patterns. He then cut the sample suit or skirt, and one of the operators would sew it up. The next day Uncle Mike was back at the Bon and Fredericks with his new line for the summer. Hopefully, he would come back with a substantial order. After all, these styles were already being advertised in the windows of these stores.
A good order was three dozen suits in three or four colors and in four sizes. My job was to lay out all the pieces needed in as little cloth as possible, mark them with chalk on one long piece of cloth and then stack up all the pieces needed for the order. This was great because in a couple of hours I could cut enough to keep the four or five operators busy for a couple of days, and I would have time to cut some of the special single suits or skirts where the pattern had to be adjusted to fit the odd shaped woman. Any woman that did not fit into a size 12, 14, 16, or 18 was odd shaped as far as I was concerned. It would take almost as long to cut a garment for a woman who was too tall or had oversize hips or a big bust as it took to sew it together, and I was always trying to keep the girls on the sewing machines with something to sew.
1936 was a year or so after the incident at the Trianon Ballroom. My sister Bessie was already married, but our older sister going on twenty-three was not. Edith had been busy playing basketball at Collins Playfield and, suddenly she was an 'alte moid' (old maid). No grass grew under her feet so it was off to the Trianon on a Saturday night, accompanied by Molly Rubin and dressed in their Saturday night best. It so happened that a couple of blokes from Butte, Montana had come to Seattle to seek their fortune. They had had a busy week looking for work, and it looked like they may have landed a job that very morning. After the mines in Butte, washing the garbage trucks in Seattle was a push over. Sam Lowney and Mike Deitch were celebrating, and when Sam met Edith he figured that his luck had changed to the good. Upon learning that she like he had Jewish parents, he knew that he had found his mate. Edith ended up marrying both of these blokes. During their fifty odd years of marriage, Edith and Sam remained close to Mike and his wife. Mike was a new widower when Sam died. As they had been like brothers, Mike lost little time in proposing marriage to Sam's widow. In sixty years of marriage, there was not one day of regret regarding that chance meeting at the Trianon Ball Room.
It was 1937, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was trying to put the country back to work. The National Recovery Act, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and a minimum wage were introduced. My salary was to be increased to $25 a week when I went into the mayonnaise business. My brother Louie arranged everything including a $500 loan from the Workmen's Circle, which launched me into the world of the self-employed. Not much but it was my own business. I was ready for my next car, and it was a dandy.
I saw it in 1934, this unbelievably beautiful convertible, painted a rich tan with six red wire-spoked wheels, two of which were mounted in the front fender wells. The beige fabric top folded down flat into a space provided behind the seat. The rumble seat located at the rear and not covered by the top, was accessible by climbing up the fender equipped with cleats to be used as a ladder. The two doors were hinged at the rear making it easy to enter and exit the vehicle (no longer allowed because of the danger of accidental opening). When I saw this car in downtown Seattle with what looked like a high ranking naval officer at the wheel and a fancy lady as passenger, it didn't seem quite real, kind of like seeing a picture show from Hollywood. This exquisitely designed automobile wasn't an expensive vehicle but one of the three small models manufactured by Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth, the most popular cars of the day, selling for around $450.
Three years later, there it was in a used car showroom window looking new, my dream car. The most beautiful car ever built was for sale, and it was affordable, about $150. I was drawing $15 a week from the mayonnaise business. Things were really tough that year, money and jobs scarce, putting me into a good bargaining position. I was able to trade in the sky-blue coupe and became the owner of this 1932 Plymouth PB Convertible. It was a dream period, my own business after the $6 a week job, this fantastic convertible, and a girl friend who was the most perfect of creatures. Within a week the newly installed radio was blasting away Blue Moon or Stormy Weather depending on the state of affairs in my love life. From the worst of all possible worlds in 1934, it had become the best of all possible worlds in 1937.
Jen was eighteen and a junior at the University of Washington heading for honors—Phi Beta Kappa, Suma Cum Lauda, Sigma Zi, Omicron Nu. I had worried about graduating from high school, but had no doubt that Jen would graduate from the U in seventeen months and seventeen days. We made plans to be married and started to look for a place to rent for June, 1939. We worked on a budget—rent, food, and a movie now and then.
My little mayonnaise plant, located on the 5th floor of a six-story building on Westlake Ave. and Mercer St., had access from the stairway or the huge freight elevator. I rode the elevator a lot, as part of the rent was to tend the huge oil-burning low-pressure boiler located in the basement. The 5th floor consisted of the main kitchen with windows about 50 feet along one side, an office space with an old flat-top desk, a couple of chairs, storage room for supplies—a really huge area about 60 by 100 feet. Other than a couple of cats that somehow would come through regularly chasing the mice I was the lone inhabitant, chief cook and bottle washer. A 15 gallon Hobart mixing machine for making the mayonnaise, a large wooden sink, like we see in Western films for watering horses, for washing the reusable jars that came from the Ben Franklin Thrift Stores, and a 100 gallon copper kettle were the main tools of the plant. The hopper with the hand pump for filling the mayonnaise into jars along with the small hand labeling device were on the great table located along the wall in front of the windows. This table was a good 30 feet long and 3 feet deep.
The Benjamin Franklin Stores, whose offices were on the second floor of this building, ran a chain of grocery stores. They had originally financed and put together this little food plant to prepare mayonnaise and salad dressings for jars labeled Thrifty. It turned out that they were pleased with me, the third operator of this plant in as many years, as I not only made the mayonnaise and salad dressings but washed the thousand or so dirty jars that came back each week. As landlord they collected $50 a month rent; I had to obtain a 5th grade engineer license to tend the huge steam boiler in the basement. These guys were great and treated me as one of the family. They with the Thrifty label, National Grocers with the Reliance label, and Yale Pickle with the Yale label were my three customers. With all the work of jar washing and the cooking of the huge pot of starch pudding for the salad dressing, it was only a few months till Marvin Gottstein became an after-school employee. Marv was a cousin of sorts of Stanley and was the only employee that I had in the little food plant. Meeting him in Seattle last month (Sept. 97), he spoke fondly of those great days and cooking the huge pot of salad dressing base. This pudding had to be stirred constantly as the starch, sugar, water, and vinegar thickened as it heated. After breaking a couple of canoe paddles, we switched to a rowing oar.
It was 1938 when my brother Louie suggested that we combine our business. There was plenty of room at the Pike Street location on the waterfront, and we would save the $50 rent that I was paying. Louie and Abe Meyers were partners at the time, so it became the three of us. There were no negotiations as it was just a matter of continuing as we were, drawing the same $15 a week for me, but we would be ahead $50 a month and have a more efficient operation. I was happy to get away from the monster furnace.
The PB Convertible had been serving us well. The Simonize piled up keeping it shiny. It had lots of use, including a trip to apple country in Eastern Washington, not like the adventure with the Model T, but a vacation trip loaded down with Stanley, Joe Kraft, Louie Lazoff and Yudie Wax to Soap Lake. Top down and two guys in the rumble seat, we climbed the mountain in second gear. This rig had free wheeling, a device that allowed for automatic coasting when not accelerating. It was gas saving, but outlawed in 1933 for being unsafe. We coasted down when not too steep. I had learned my lesson with the Model-T touring car ending up with no brake lining after the trip down these same mountains.
It was the Spring of 1939, and Jen was graduating in June. It was time to think about a change in cars, and my sister Sadie wanted the convertible in the worst way. Jen and I would travel up Hood Canal on our honeymoon in a 1935 Plymouth coupe.
After three years, Sadie sold that extraordinary, six wire-wheel, 1932 Plymouth PB Convertible to Marvin Gottstein, who had fallen in love with it when working at the mayonnaise plant. It seems that he used it for years while attending the U of W, and later when he was a school teacher. It does not seem possible that it was a unique car and that the Chrysler company built only one, but it is a fact that I have never seen another like it.
We were playing spin the bottle at a house party, and there it was pointing right at me. In a very businesslike manner she walked over and kissed me on the lips. Jen was only five feet tall, but she had no problem as I was sitting on the floor. Seven years later we were married at another house party surrounded by the Stags and the girls from our old gang. We entered into the second act. Our old friends remained, but the Silvers and Ringolds who were married that same season became our close companions.
In 1939 a war was getting under way over there. We were still in the throes of the Great Depression. No money, but with the New Deal things were looking up. As a one third partner with my brother Louie and Abe Myers, my salary would double to $30 a week the day that I became a married man. Jen was a student of home economics, which, it seemed, taught her how to live on a meager income. Planning a budget was the name of the game. We found a little studio apartment in an attractive building on 19th Ave. and Thomas Street for a rental of $22.50 a month. The fact that we were willing to pull the Murphy bed out of the wall each night left a surplus in the budget to buy my next car. The rationale for the change from the convertible with a rumble seat was that it had no storage area, and we had some camping in mind for after the nuptials. The low-mileage 1935 Plymouth coupe had only one bench seat, but a large trunk area instead of the rumble seat, and we needed a dependable car for the honeymoon trip to Hood Canal. Giving up the tan and red sporty convertible, one of the few with spare wire-spoked wheels mounted in fender wells, was difficult, but it was staying in the family. Sadie was happy with her new acquisition. At twenty-three and wedding plans for the following month, a sincromesh transmission became more important than sexy style.
After the first night in our newly rented little nest, we loaded her up and headed for beautiful Hood Canal. With gasoline at 14 cents a gallon we would save the better part of a dollar by driving around through Tacoma rather than taking the ferryboat to the Olympic Peninsula. The new suspension bridge had received a lot of publicity as an engineering wonder. It was suspended from cables attached to the high towers erected at each side of the span. A tourist attraction that would be our first stop. The picture I took of Jen sitting on this structure is a priceless record. It was less than two years later when a high wind got the Narrows Bridge vibrating, and it actually fell into the sea. As my brother Louie used to say, "We all make mistakes now and then." Besides, the insurance agent neglected to pay the premiums to his company and ended up in jail.
Our style of travel on Hood Canal became part of us. We enjoyed the fabulous drive up the canal with the Olympic Mountains on our left and the gentle protected water on our right. We checked out the resorts for the ideal place to honeymoon. Late in the day I suddenly realized that we were near the end of the canal and approaching the open water where Puget Sound reached the Straights of Juan de Fuca. There nailed to a tree was a small sign to Sequim Bay. We had found it the ideal spot for honeymooners. The bay looked like a lake about a half-mile in diameter with the forest coming to its very shores, undisturbed, just as it must have looked for the past thousand years. The gravel road led us to a clearing with six small cottages, sign for a youth camp and a vacancy notice. The caretaker was happy to have a tenant, and gave us the choice cottage, right on the shore of the bay. Our $1.50 per night included the use of a rowboat. I don't remember catching a fish but do remember rowing with my bride into every nook on that bay. The large trunk area of the car turned out to be of utmost importance. I hadn't realized then, but Jen's compulsion to pick up and transport rocks and driftwood is to this day an important part of her person. Weighted down with the heavy rocks and bulky drift wood we headed home confident that our four year old car would give us the trouble free service advertised by the Chrysler Corporation.
The maroon coupe served us well for five years till we moved up to a 1941 Chrysler sedan, only three years old, practically new as the former owner a school teacher, I was told, had never really learned to drive.
We moved into the apartment with the Murphy bed on our wedding night, with intent to stay put for a year or two, save the $500 needed to buy a lot, then to build the house of our dreams. The $22.50 rent and the strict budget, like one movie with popcorn every two weeks, calculated out to about two years to accumulate the $500 for a building site. A Federal Housing Authority 3% loan would take care of 100% of the building cost. When we received notice that our rent was being raised to $30.00 we were shocked because our arithmetic was affected, and we had the feeling of being at the mercy of a landlord.
It so happened that our best friends, Bob and Fan Silver were living high on the hog. Bob, a graduate chemist, scored high on a civil service test and had a real job working for the Food and Drug Administration. They lived in an apartment with a bedroom and were paying $32.50 rent. From a salary of $200 each month they saved enough to buy a brand new four-door sedan. The four of us had been planning a two week motor trip to California in their fancy Pontiac when Jen and I received the devastating news from our landlord. The coincidence of our departure date and the due day of our increased rent being the same helped to make our decision. To pay $30.00 rent a month when we would be absent for two weeks was adding insult to injury. We gave notice and moved back to Jen's room in her parent's home. Our savings increased; within a year we were under construction. It was the day of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. 0ur dream house [1422 Madrona Drive] was finished.
The trip south with the Silvers had been luxurious, traveling in their four-door sedan. We had arranged to stay a night with Ethel, Jen's sister, in San Francisco. Then down to Hollywood, where we stayed with the Silverstones. Jen's cousins were making it in some mysterious business forming intricate parts through electrolysis. The swimming pool in the back yard, free rent, and compatible friends made the two weeks an ideal vacation. Back on the highway with the comfort of four doors, it was four long days to Seattle. We sped up highway 99 through every city that had built up along this well traveled road. No traffic lights, but we reduced speed to 20 mph in towns. A round trip of close to 3000 miles, and this 1941 sedan performed perfectly. By 1941 these cars were built to drive at 60 miles an hour for hours on end. The piston rings were good for 40,000 miles even at that speed. Some day we would own one, a 1941 four door sedan.
In the winter of 1943 we were well settled into the house on Madrona Drive. The United States was having lots of trouble with the Japanese, our unmarried close friends were in the army, and Jen, with the help of Dr. Jerome Jacobs, the Workman Circle doctor, gave birth to our first child. Serious about this business of marriage, we had so far managed to do everything by the book. Our first baby was a boy. It was time to get a family car.
We heard about it from a friend. This school teacher had purchased a new Chrysler Royal Sedan in 41, had used it a few times, but had lots of trouble learning to park parallel to the curbing. Her frustration after two years was such that she was almost ready to give the monster away. When I heard of her dilemma, and the fact that after three Plymouths I was ready for a Chrysler, there was very little problem arriving at a deal where all concerned were happy. With a factory installed heater, two-speed windshield wipers, and a push-button radio, I was needing some new clothes. With improved sincromesh, I soon learned to shift gears without using the clutch. Not much shifting, as with the power of the engine and the low gear ratio in high, she would climb most hills even in Seattle.
The war was still raging in both Europe and Japan. All able-bodied single men had been drafted; in 43 married men under the age of 30 were being called. It was 1944 and no let up, so the call expanded to include us fathers not yet 30 years of age. The cruelty of life hit us hard in 1943. It was two weeks after the birth of our boy when my mother was gone, home in the afternoon fixing a cup of tea. I found her sitting on the sofa, a dry kettle heating on the stove, her short hard stay of 55 years was over. Her husband unemployed much of the time, she managed to keep the wolf away from the door. Hard work didn't seem to bother her, but worry and constant pressure took its toll. It seems that the shock of our major tragedy was too much for our poor mother. My brother Louie had undergone surgery for brain tumor which was found to be malignant. His time with us was very much limited. So in that year we lost Mama, and Louie was in real big trouble.
Louie and I were finally making a decent living working the small pickle factory. Our former partner, Abe Meyers, had left and was doing well in a restaurant business. With Louie's condition as it was, for me to leave for the service created a problem that would take some time to solve. A deal was made with the draft board for me to go to work for Boeing Aircraft building the Flying Fortress. In the meantime we would look for a buyer for our little food plant. For about a year it was the pickle factory during the day and building airplanes at night.
Louis continued to work, received weekly radiation treatments, and was father to his two youngsters. Eloise became head of the household. We felt maybe Louie was stubborn enough to keep going indefinitely. Eloise was an extraordinary person, giving gentle comfort to all in her presence. My relationship with her was special; I learned that she was loved by everyone who knew her. When Louie got to the point where he could no longer function, Eloise, suffering the most, stood with head high to give him as much comfort as possible. We took turns sitting at his bedside during the last few nights until, finally, he just seemed to relax and was gone. Eloise for the first time relaxed and let herself cry. We were glad that Mama died first. We sold the business to a competitor [Green Garden Foods], and I became a seaman in the United States Navy.
The Boeing job was swing shift from four in the afternoon until midnight. One of about 100,000 workers, I became a senior grade mechanic. With a partner I drilled a lot of holes into a sheet of aluminum and fitted it precisely in its place under the belly of the plane. After a careful inspection of our work the riveters would move in, and this small detail in the construction of a B17 would be complete. Three of these bombers were built each day; it was our responsibility to get this one out during our shift. This job actually gave me relief from the pressure of crucial changes in my life. In this gigantic factory I was able to get a feeling of being needed and of making a contribution.
The four-door Chrysler was put to good use in the carpool program of Boeing workers. My passengers for the ride to work in this latest 41 model car wondered how I had managed to acquire such an automobile. In 1949, when the first post-war cars were produced, I got in line to acquire a brand new three-hole Buick with dynaflow transmission.
The year of 1945 arrived. At Boeing we were building the B-29 Super Fortress in addition to three B17 Flying Fortresses each day. We knew nothing of the plans for this new airplane that was to play an important part in the Atomic Era that lay ahead. After delivering thousands of tons of TNT that destroyed cities in Japan, it would carry out the mission for which it was mainly designed; with one 'small' bomb the city of Hiroshima would be destroyed, killing some 80,000 civilians. World War two would come to an end.
My swing shift job at Boeing ended a few days before Louie died; within days I was preparing for my hitch in the military. Germany was being devastated by daily pounding from countless blockbuster bombs dropped on their cities. The war in Europe ended within days of my enlistment into the Navy where I hoped to qualify as an electronics technician. My favorite subjects in school had been math and electricity so reviewing lots of the stuff from high school was like playing a game; the test turned out to be a cinch. After nine weeks in boot camp in San Diego, which transformed me into a candidate for a professional wrestling career, I was, with about five others from our company, shipped off to Chicago to start what turned into eight months study in math and electronics. The 'bomb' was dropped and the war ended just at this time. We might have been discharged, but the military is probably the most bureaucratic bureaucracy; after three months in Chicago, those of us not dropped from the program were moved on to a Navy School in Monterey, California. On its beautiful campus, five months was like a vacation. A trip to Seattle for Stan and Ma's wedding and Jeannette's visit for a few days made the experience pleasant. The radar labs and classes were too tough except for some of the engineers and those who were natural radio bugs. The younger guys dropped were transferred onto ships for the next few months, but being an old man of 29, I was assigned to tend the library for about three weeks while waiting for my discharge papers.
It was the summer of 1946 when I rejoined the real world; the major decision to be made was regarding 'money'. With a nest egg of $5000 from the sale of our business to Green Garden Foods just one year ago, it should be possible to start making mayonnaise and pickle products on a small scale. Sam Lowney still had a significant route selling supplies from Henry Morin at Green Garden to restaurants. Henry had done well the past year and was ready to retire to a simpler business. Louie's close friend joined with Eloise and me to form a partnership which bought Green Garden Foods, including the property, for $60,000, Al Shulman and I each with 40% and Eloise with 20%. From my point of view we were in clover making enough money to pay off the contract within a year or two. I could consider buying my first brand new car.
In the fall of 1948 when the first post war cars showed up, I was in line. The first General Motors products to arrive for sale were two Buick models, the eight-cylinder Roadmaster with four holes lined up on each side of the engine hood, and the three-holer Super, with a six-cylinder engine and automatic Dynaflow transmission. These were both luxury type sedans, the Super costing about $1600. I was there the first day and stood in line for a good hour before a salesman became available to accept my order. Three days later I drove home in that 1949 Buick Super, a limousine. Jen's sister, Ethel, was happy to accept the '41 Chrysler, still a late model car as none were built during the war years. We had a ball with this fancy car, drove to Southern California a couple of times and took trips into the mountains around the area. In the early '50s we played with skiing and started camping with our two children, eight and five years of age. We became a two-car family; Jen used the heavy automatic to drive the kids around, and I purchased an insignificant 1950 Ford sedan at wholesale from a client of Josef Diamond, a brand new car for less than $1200.
The Buick was aging; by 1954 the Dynaflow transmission was giving out. My secret desire for a five-passenger convertible was about to be fulfilled.
Starting in about 1950 with the Hydroplane races, Seafair has become a tradition in the city of Seattle. Every year in August the city is taken over by the Seafair pirates, the Seafair queens and the Blue Angels in the air. The pirates and the queens were the feature performers in the many parades taking place throughout the city during the week of festivities. The pirates were conveyed in specially decorated trucks; the queens were transported about town in exotic long and low convertible cars. The week of celebration ended with two days of noisy airplane stunts performed over the city by the Blue Angels, the U.S. Air Force performing pilots. The major Seafair parade and the Hydroplane races attract over a half million people to the shores of Lake Washington.
The twenty or so Seafair queens are displayed in fancy open cars provided each year by one of the automobile companies. In 1954 the car used was the Pontiac Star-Chief Convertible. There were a dozen of these gold-colored, top of the line Pontiac with white leatherette seats and automatic folding black fabric top, a luxurious car with a straight eight-cylinder engine, automatic transmission and power steering. These cars ended up with about 300 miles of use. When I spotted one prominently displayed in the window of the new Pontiac agency, I was sucked in to make some inquires. "What is the asking price for this used car?" The salesperson informed me that it was not a used car, had not had a former owner, and had not even been used as a demonstrator. However, because of the fact that it had been used in the parades it could be purchased at dealer cost, $2800. In 1954, $2800 was a lot of cash. Knowing that there were at least a dozen or so identical cars in the area, prompted me to offer the ridiculously low price of $2200 to relieve them of their storage problem. Having this bite, the salesman, to set the hook, informed me that it was not reasonable, as the car cost his boss much more than my offer. However, he would present the offer to his boss, but would need a deposit. These negotiations were taking place as we stood in the show room standing next to the object of our discussions. As I ran my hand over the fin on the back fender I took a $20 bill out of my wallet and handed it to this guy. A few minutes and he was back from his visit to the boss. "You got a real deal for yourself. The old man will let you have this gem for less than his cost, $2400."
Now, all through these negotiations I have not mentioned my real concern with this purchase. Would Jen feel like a Seafair queen as we paraded around the city in this conspicuous vehicle? Would she be pleased with this new acquisition? My response, "Tell your boss that he probably has a deal. Return my $20. I'll fetch my wife, and if she approves he has his $2400 for the automobile". Back to see the boss for the OK to let me off the hook. He returned in five minutes with the answer," You bought yourself a car for $2200." To this day I suspect that the salesman and the boss were one and the same, and the visits into the inner office were a charade.
We both had suspected that the wife would not approve of the purchase. The reaction from Jen was emphatic. "Just don't park that monster in front of our house. Get rid of it at any price." Was it really that bad? The gold color did seem more orange, and the vehicle was extraordinarily long. The rear fender fins seemed to have grown, giving it the appearance of a speedboat. Jen was right, this thing was a little conspicuous and really didn't fit in our neighborhood. Fortunately, the following day was a Saturday, and the sun was shining. Pulling a lever, the top automatically folded into place. Our two pre-teen children were all over the vehicle with the radio blasting. Like in a boat, we were cruising and feeling comfortable with the new toy within hours. A few days and even Jen seemed to appreciate the comfort and dependability of this luxurious piece of equipment with its eight-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. It became a workhorse that mellowed as the years went by, serving us well. When the top was up, the compartment that stored it when it was down became a perfect sleeping crib for Debby, born in 1957. Until about age 5 she could climb up into this comfortable area where she rode in comfort with a 360-degree view.
Later our son, Larry, used it for transport to the University, then our nephew, Danny, and others who needed a car for a week or month. It was still in operation 14 years later when I gave it to a student who had been a part-time employee at the parking pier who appreciated the engineering that had gone into the building of this machine.
1964 was the year that it seemed we had it made. From age six, when the lack of a nickel kept me from the Friday night movie at the Yesler Theater where the next episode of the serial starring Mary Pickford was on, my goal was to some day have financial security. After many years in the pickle and mayonnaise business where I felt vulnerable to the risk always present in a small business, I looked for security in real estate. I met Roger Benson the week that he started selling real estate in 1955. His sale to me of the Shaw building, an ancient structure that I demolished to make room for car parking, was his first sale, and we became good friends. With reduced income but no risk in an investment on 4th Avenue, I was almost there. In order to get the tenant on 4th Avenue to sign a decent lease, I had to give them an 'option to purchase' at a price that seemed like a lot of money to me. One morning there it was in the mail. The tenant was exercising their option. Euphoria for about fifteen minutes, enough time to calculate. After income tax and the paying off of the existing contract a nice profit was left on the deal, but what about that elusive security. I had been planning to retire, after the mortgage was paid, on the rental income from that city center property being used for parking by the adjacent hotel.
I called Roger the morning that I received the check, he picked me up within the hour. We knew that by reinvesting the funds from the sale, capital gain tax would be deferred. Roger had me, a buyer who was needing to make a purchase.
As we rode to Kent, Roger explained how these guys built twelve shopping centers, but the main investor was unhappy about the negative cash flow. With a big bundle invested, he still had to come up with cash each month for expenses and mortgage payments. His order was to sell. The four-year-old Benson Center looked good to me. The sellers took what was left of my check after paying off my contract, and I ended up with a new contract. Instead of a $30,000 mortgage, I now would owe just over one million. Was my elusive security closer? We made a deal where the sellers leased from me the whole property, and I would pay on the contract only after they paid their rent to me each month. After four years I would start getting some income, so it looked like we finally made it - financial security. How to celebrate? As a grown man of forty-nine I was a kid when it came to automobiles.
Sport cars were becoming popular. Jerry, my partner at the pier, was in the car- rental business. He bought a couple of British sport cars, and gave one to me to use, as renters wanted cars that could carry luggage. Actually, it seems that I had needled him into this purchase, as I had a secret desire for one of these expensive toys. I had financial security, but no money. This little TR4 was a gem, fun to drive with the muffler designed to give it the sound of a racing car. The low center of gravity and positive steering made sharp turns while accelerating possible. Not a very practical vehicle for transport as it had very little space other than the two-bucket seats. It didn't seem to have springs or shock absorbers, encouraging me to stay on paved roads that were well maintained. I arranged to use this uncomfortable car for a year. The rationale was that we would need only a two-seater to get to the extension class from the University of Washington, where each month we spent a weekend at a resort with a small group of participants and a couple of professors to study archeology or some other trivia. At the bull sessions after the lecture, sipping a little Bourbon whiskey, we discussed the history of the world as it unfolded.
Flexing muscle and with astute diplomacy, John Kennedy had made a deal with the Russians to turn back their ships loaded with ballistic missles for Cuba. The CIA had other plans and, with the urging and co-operation of the anti-Castro Cubans, went ahead with an attack. Our president, holding to his agreement, refused to support the invasion. The CIA was not happy with their commander-in-chief, and blamed him for the disaster at the Bay of Pigs. In the meantime, our Central Intelligence was analyzing the game of dominos being played in the Far East. Assured by Bell Helicopter and Colt Firearms that we would have little trouble succeeding where the French had failed, they sent thousands of advisors to Saigon to teach them how to win the game against the Viet Cong. It is an understatement to say that the CIA was unhappy when President Kennedy, the big boss, signed a directive to bring those advisors home. The fact that the vice-president was a Texan with influential friends living in Dallas, made it relatively easy for them to replace their boss with a co-operative president. November 1963, a week after the Texan was in office, the green light was on and we were in a big game where the body count score was recorded daily. Was this my country involved in these immoral acts?
I enjoyed driving that little gem of a car, with the four-speed stick shift referred to as 'four on the floor' to these sessions. There was the problem of luggage, but we managed to find enough space behind the seat for a couple of small duffel bags. It was when my back started complaining that I began feeling that we were becoming too American in, it seemed, a decadent society. It was just over a year later when we chucked it all, bought a Peugeot 404 for delivery in Paris and were off to Israel.
Taking a tip from our friends in the academic world, we arranged for a 'sabbatical'. It was a matter of clearing with our son Larry to supervise Piers Parking, a small parking operation in which Jerry Costacos and I were partners, and with Stan Gottstein to watch over the apartment building investments that we were in with a few friends. We like traveling by car, and needed one that would get us to Israel.
By 1965 foreign cars had become popular in America with the discriminating buyer. Their smaller size and efficient engine and the fact that they were produced in smaller volume added prestige and, hopefully, quality. A couple of acquaintances had been happy driving Peugeot 403s, and talked about the new model 404 as the ultimate in automobiles. Jen and I visited the showroom in Seattle where we could see and drive one, and where we could order a new car to be picked up in Paris. The price of $2100 seemed ridiculous for this small vehicle with its 90-horsepower four-cylinder engine. One could own a Buick, Chrysler, or Mercury with double the power and much more comfort for that price, but driving to Israel from Seattle in a Buick was not realistic. We bought and paid for the four-door sedan which we would pick up in Paris the day after leaving for the Middle East. That day traveling by air over half the distance to our destination. With the 404 would take another month in an adventure that I describe in a story called Getting to Israel and the SS Kipriot.
Our first day in Israel and we were off for Jerusalem where our daughter Arlene was in a program for youth leaders from abroad. Private cars were rare and referred to as 'a private'. The traffic was mostly sherut (seven-passenger DeSotos or Mercedes which were shared by riders traveling between cities), busses, and trucks. We found the old highway, not aware that there was a new coastal road. With Debby's help reading the signs, we had little trouble and were soon climbing the 'Shaar Hagai' road to the Holy City. At the time it was a two-lane highway with wrecks of trucks and tanks scattered along the sides, reminders of the siege of the city just eighteen years past. As we neared our destination with the special mystical excitement of approaching Yerushalaim for the first time, the Peugeot was purring along at 60 miles an hour. There he was, a Jewish policeman standing in the center of the road with his hand held high. My driver's license and the French documents for the car meant nothing to this guy. After exchanging a few words in English while he examined the documents we had been issued in Haifa, he, talking into the walky-talky to the culprit who must have alerted him of the speeding car coming, says in Yiddish, "A mishugene (crazy) American!" Then turning to us in not bad English, " This is a small country; you have a large, fast car. The speed limit here is 80 kilometers. Slow down!"
We spent exactly six months in the country studying Hebrew and touring to visit every tel (hill) and wade (ravine), kibbutz and ancient ruin, driving to the extremities of the small nation, a good part on dirt roads. We went through the Negev and the large bowl at Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat. The Dead Sea seemed like on a different planet. The Peugeot functioned perfectly at the lowest spot on earth and what seemed like the hottest. I didn't learn much Hebrew, but did experience a little kibbutz living picking bananas and oranges. Learning Hebrew is worth its own story.
Unlike its arrival from the deck of the Kipriot by winch and sling, our still shiny car was driven onto a car-ferry in Haifa harbor heading for Italy. The uneventful four days to Naples were pleasant with calm seas and the informality of cafeteria for meals, the opposite of the stormy seas and dining with the Captain on our voyage to Israel. Both Jen and Debby enjoyed the rare occasion of being on the water and not feeling sick. In Naples our plans were to arrange through American express to ship the Peugeot from a port in France to Seattle. We had our return air tickets from Paris. The complications started when we learned that the car would need to be empty. This meant that the rocks from Italy, Greece, and Israel in the trunk and six months of accumulated junk would have to be packed and shipped. When in Northern Italy Jen suggested that maybe, if the ship was very large, we could gamble on calm seas continuing and consider sailing with the car to New York, I went into action.
At the American Express we learned that the SS France, the longest passenger vessel in the world, was sailing from Le Havre in just three days. That gave us two long days of driving. With no speed restrictions on most roads we were assured that with our 404 there should be no problem. The agent took our airline tickets and issued those needed for the five day voyage to New York. This included all meals and a stateroom for three on one of the most luxurious vessels afloat. We received a check as the air ticket to Seattle was more than that of sailing to NY. We were off and racing. With enough time for the stop in Paris to replace the speedometer, which was making strange noises, we arrived at the port city in late afternoon. There she was, the size of a small city, moored parallel to the causeway where supplies were being loaded aboard. We were informed to be at dockside the first thing in the morning, part with our trusty 404, and be ready to board for departure.
With the guide book, Europe on $5 a Day that had served us so well, Jen was directing me to drive into the city when a traffic policeman stopped us. He examined our documents and shook his head. He entered the car and directed us the few blocks to police headquarters. The experience of being interrogated by a couple of plain-clothes French detectives speaking only French and my repeating in English over and over that we are leaving the first thing in the morning and would be out of their hair was a great one. The fact that these guys were dressed like Hollywood French detectives complete with felt hats pulled low on the forehead raised the fear that we were caught in an absurd situation with no exit. The cop was outside with Debby and Jen practicing his little bit of English, but these two guys were confused. They accompanied me outside where the documents were again scanned, some words exchanged with the cop, and we were freed. We learned that the French license on the car, issued when purchased in Paris, expired after six months causing this international incident. The cop ended up as a buddy and directed us, as we drove him back to his traffic corner, to an excellent local restaurant and a pension right there within a couple of blocks of the ship.
The five-day voyage on a luxury liner was the perfect climax for our sabbatical. With travel by ship outmoded, we had the experience before the SS France was converted to cruise vacationers in sunny seas. The Atlantic is big; this huge vessel with automatic stabilizers could not cope with the heavy seas. For a couple of days Jen and Debby had to forgo dining; the tables were equipped with little railings to keep the dishes from sliding off.
Circumstances different from when our parents sailed into NY harbor, I could not help but think as we passed the famous statue. With our 404 as part of our baggage we were free to head west. We were in style in Seattle where many of our friends were driving Volvos, Toyotas, Volkswagons and other small foreign cars. It was three years later when we decided to visit Israel again to learn if our love was real. We ordered the 68 Peugeot and gave the 65 to Larry. Twenty years later he gave it to his friend Dragon, but not before Jen removed a small chrome strip that was missing on our 20-year-old 404 waiting for our return from a visit to Seattle.
We decided to again visit Israel in 1968 and like in 65 purchased a 404 to be picked up In France.
The 1968 Peugeot that we drove here from Paris is still serving us well at this beginning of a new century. Rarely, if ever, do we see another 404 anywhere in Israel. It was the car most popular when we arrived and was considered large and luxurious. There were lots of small Fiats and two-cylinder Citroens around. Actually, there were not many private cars in the land at that time, and often, young men gathered around to examine this modern piece of machinery with automatic transmission. By 1978 the 404 was by far the most popular car here; many used ones were sold to Arabs.
By 1980 Israel had become a major importer of cars, with the Japanese dominating the market. The Subaru replaced the 404 as the basic car used by Israelis; almost 100% of the 404s ended up in the West Bank, lots of them. We bought a new car, a small Citroen, in 83, and gave the Peugeot to Debby. Later, we traded cars with her and had our 404 back, making Jen happy. She never did understand why we bought the Citroen, as she saw nothing wrong with the Peugeot. I always managed to get it started again when it stopped on the road or refused to change gears. It may be the sheepskin with which she upholstered to the driver seat that made her so attached to the car. We use it only around Avichail and Netania, as Debby has this GMC minibus that we can use on the rare occasion when we need to travel. So now we are back to square one. When stopped, young men gather round to examine this historic piece of machinery with the automatic transmission.
Crisis! It is June 11, two days after writing the above history of the 404, when horrible noises occurred when turning and braking. It seems that the chassis rusted out with very little holding the front end to the wheels. I did drive it to the orchard this morning, very slowly. Not realistic to get it fixed, but we will look at possibilities.
June 15, I found an ironworker that will weld the frame back together and fix the exhaust muffler system for about $400, so we are back in business. Jen and Arlene are happy. And Yishai hopes that it can be his first car, when he is licensed to drive.
June 17, a new steel bar has been placed across the front to hold the steering mechanism in place, plus some small pieces of 1/4 inch iron in the corners. We are back on the road. Have to use the horn a lot as a new muffler was also installed. I'm getting to be like Jen; it is a great car for local use and we seem to sit up straight and high when riding through Netanya.
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