One of the Register’s wonderful readers popped in the office the other day to place a classified ad. He has an old boat and trailer that needs some restoration, but Father Time has finally robbed him of the ability to do all of the bending, crawling, lifting and other labor it takes.
We chatted for a few minutes. He told me how it was his dad’s boat before him, how it was still in good shape and how the buyer would get 90 percent of the material needed to finish the job. It killed him to place the ad, but he was sure someone out there would take up the cause and give the old boat new life.
I reciprocated, telling him about my dad’s passion for Sunbeams – little British sports cars that went out of production when the U.K.’s auto industry started to collapse in the mid-1960s. My mom often made him take me along to junkyards far and wide from our home in Indianapolis in search of clutches, brake calipers and the other original equipment he needed to restore the derelict Sunbeam Alpine sitting in our carport.
Dad really wanted a Sunbeam Tiger, because they came with bigger Ford engine blocks, but they were all but impossible to find in the U.S. by the early 1970s.
Jack Eads was, and still is, like a dog with a bone when he set his mind to something. That car was his every waking moment when I was a little kid, or so it seemed. His brother Jim, an ace paint-and-body man, probably spent more time with Dad than I did at that time. I’m not complaining, mind you. I learned a lot from watching them without realizing it, things like commitment and hard work and not giving up at the first sign of trouble.
I also noted the pride on his face when the damn thing finally started running regularly. He would pick up me and my friends from kindergarten with the top down. They got a big kick of watching his pony tail fluttering in the wind as he drove us home. The Sunbeam’s street life ended after about a year, but that was enough fun and validation for Dad, and the rest of us.
The reader got a kick out of the story, knowing exactly where I was coming from. Watching or helping your dad fix up the car once was quality time for fathers and sons. The 1970s weren’t that bad, all things considered.
The reader mourned the passing of those days, then confided to me that he feared America is headed to Hell in a hand basket – half communist and half something else. He wasn’t angry; he was despondent. All I could tell him was that I hoped he was wrong. Despite that, I think we parted as friends.
Cars today are much safer, efficient and better engineered than ever before; however, I can’t help but think time spent today watching TV or absorbing nonsense on Facebook and the internet would have been put to better use under the hood of the family car back in the day.
What’s my point, you ask? I think our way of life has changed a lot over the last 50 years – good in some ways, bad in others. Our problems are different than they were in 1972, but a lot of people were certain we were drifting toward the End Times or Soviet occupation or God knows what else.
And it never happened.
Maybe I’m naive, but I still think the world is a pretty resilient place. I also think it’s full of good people – by and large. Let’s not give too much mind to those people who fear things that never happened and will never happen. It doesn’t do them or us any good to stoke those flames. They aren’t likely to change their minds, sadly, and we know that there are bigger, existing fish to fry. It’s enough to acknowledge their dread and get on with the day.
I’m sure that would be a much better use of your time and mine.