My 1936 Chevy 
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"My 36 Chevy looked alot like this one except the doors were missing and of course the wheels were just plain.  There was not any glass in the windows or windshield.  No muffle, no brakes, major leak in the radiator required frequent water refills.  The starter was shot so we pushed it to get it started.  I bought it for about $38. and sold it after I ran it off the cliff for scrap iron.  Tickets were a buck.   Ticket sales plus the scrap iron put me about even steven."

My 36 Chevy

L.J.  Ehrlich,  FHS class of 1953


            The year was 1950.   I was a sophomore in Follett High School.  My best friend was J.W. McClarty, his nick name was  Dub.   We did all kinds of stuff together, camping, fishing, building club houses, hiking, swimming, going to the BIG towns like Shattuck,(u la la) and Perryton (oh man), Amarillo was a very large metropolis and you only went there on a very special occasion, and once we even went on a weekend camping trip to Juarez Mexico.    That trip took a lot of planning.  

            We made our Mexican Expedition  in Squirt Laubhan’s  blue GMC pickup which drank one quart of oil with every tank of gas. (Squirt was my cousin, Franklin Laubhan)    We calculated to make the trip we would need one case of oil (24 quarts) and at lease 70 gallons of gas.   Gas was .24 cents a gallon and oil was 15 cents a quart if you bought the cheap stuff.    

            Our plan to secure the gasoline was as follows:   Each night after the main street in Follett went dead (about 12:00 or later) we would visit each filling station in town starting with the  Co-op  filling station on the south part of town, and drain their gasoline hoses on each pump.    We would get about a quart from each hose, since there were 2 hoses, so you would get about one half gallon from each station.   Some of it was ethyl and some regular which was a good mix.  Even better, it was free!   Now to be honest, although today it seems like stealing to me, at that time it was not!     It was just there and we took it!   Sort of like a bird nest on the ground!  We had a saying back them that said,  “finders keepers, losers weepers”.   (In 1953 I became a Christian and in 1954 I went back to each filling station and made  restitution.)   There were 4 filling stations we visited each night and we drained out about 2 gallons total each night from the hoses.   But the big drain came from the tanks.   There were 3 sets of big 5,000 gallon gasoline tanks (9 tanks total) and each tank had big 2 inch pipes that would allow the local gasoline trucks to pick up gas and deliver to the farmers etc.    These big long 2 inch pipes sometimes had a gallon or more in them left over.    Some of it turned out to be diesel, some kerosene, and some gas. Once we got some kind of weed spray, but we didn’t care, we used it anyway!  It sure smelled funny! But it would work, and after all when you got it for free you couldn’t be choosy!  In just a few weeks we had a full 55 gallon barrel and several 5 gallon gasoline cans full of our free petroleum mix.

            We bought the oil and that made us feel that everything was legitimate.

            No one knew of our planned trip to explore Juarez Mexico (about 600 miles from Follett) except “Bucky Singhisen”   Bucky wanted to go along but we wouldn’t let him because he was too young, (he was at least one year younger) and besides we needed someone to stay behind and tell our parents where we were just in case we didn’t come back!  Bucky was important for us as he reluctantly had stayed behind and sighed a breath of relief when we made it back in one piece.

            We had lied to our parents and told them we were going on a full weekend camping trip to Fort Supply.   They had no reason to doubt us because we were always camping and doing stuff like that.    Off to Mexico.

            For some reason school was out on Friday, so we left on Thursday evening after school, drove all night and arrived in Juarez the next day.   We were scared the whole trip, but had a good time.   Looking back, it was a stupid, dangerous and crazy trip, but we did it.   We learned that the rest of the world (Old Mexico was nothing like Follett!)  I would really punish my kids if they ever done something that stupid!    Those of you who read this, don’t even think about it!


            Well, back to the 36 Chevy..........


            Dub and I were best friends.  I  bought a 36 Chevy 4 door from the John Deere Place in Follett.    It was a 6 cylinder hot water six!  It was in bad shape.   Noble Brown had taken it in on a tractor trade, and no one wanted it.    It didn’t have a muffler, the radiator leaked, no license plate, brakes barely worked, (we used water for brake fluid because it was free and it soon leaked out anyway)   we took the doors off.   Oh yes the starter didn’t work so you had to push it to get it started.   It was a fun machine to own.  It looked good to me.  I paid $38. for it.   Dub and I did our own mechanic work on it and we learned all about distributors, generators (not alternators) horns, windshield wipers, radiator coils, tires, brake cylinders, rear ends, tires, flats, steering columns, lights, almost every part of the car we eventually knew about and had fixed it at least once and sometimes twice.   This included setting the timing gear and adjusting the carburetor for more efficiency.

            The Chevy looked terrible, and it made a lot of loud roaring noise since we did not have a muffler.  It had an exhaust pipe straight from the exhaust manifold that ended about ½ back under the car.   We carried a 5 gallon can of water along because we had to refill the leaky radiator every 15-30 minutes.  It took 5 gallons of water to go to Shattuck and 5 gallons back.   You might say we made about 5 miles to the gallon of water.  Ha!  In fact it took about the same amount of gas as it did water.  About 10 gallons to go to Shattuck and back.  I’m glad the water was free.

            One Sunday afternoon we had the 36 Chevy about 2 miles west of Follett roaring west to Big D (Darrouzett) and minding our own business when from up behind came the Texas Highway Patrol.   My heart jumped up into my throat.   He flashed his red light and blew his siren to scare us.  (He did a real good job!) The patrol officer walked around my 36 Chevy several times with his little yellow note pad making marks on it and shaking his head from side to side.  Thinking back on it, I  suspect  he was in shock and wanted to laugh, but he knew not to!  He wanted to scare us good and he did a good job!

            I was in deep trouble.   Finally the officer spoke, “no license, no brakes, no lights, no horn, no muffler, no windshield, no doors, not much of anything but seats, a motor, 4 slick tires, no tread, and a steering wheel”  and he went on and on.   I saw myself sitting in jail.  

            Finally he said, “I will make you a deal, if you will take this thing  (he called it a thing)  home and park it and never put it on the road again, I will tear up this ticket!”   Since I was pretty sharp for my age I said, “Count it done”

            As I drove the car back to my house the patrolman followed so everyone could see and I parked it on the south side of the house on a hill where I always parked it so it would be easy to start again.   Dub and I walked one block to town to the City Drug Store.

            Now only in Follett will this happen, as we walked into the Drug Store we were asked by several,  “how much was your ticket?” and a dozen other questions from those who were laughing and jeering!  Most everyone in Follett already knew the whole episode.  

 I didn’t laugh although I tried to, I couldn’t!  I ordered my favorite drink a T.C.D.P.W.C.W.  (a Tall Cherry Doctor Pepper With Carbonated Water) and sat down to do some real serious thinking.  Dubs mother worked at the Drug Store and she knew what a TCDPWCW was.

            Now what was I going to do with a 36 Chevy that I couldn’t afford to fix up and drive?    Then it came to me in a flash!     I had a great idea!   I said to myself, “I know, I will drive it off Giggers cliff and charge admission to see it go over the edge”.  (Giggers Cliff was on the Gigger Farm several miles east of Follett out in a cow pasture and the cliff was about 75 to 100 feet straight down)

            I announced my idea and quickly sold about 30 tickets at $1. each.   I would do it now, right away, everyone who wanted to see the car go over the cliff would need to come to Giggers today at 2:00.   The event was on!

            My Chevy was parked at home on a hill, I got in, took it out of gear,  it began to roll, I turned on the key, slammed it into second gear, let out the clutch and immediately the engine fired up.  Sometimes it would backfire and sound like a cannon shot.  I know all the neighbors heard the noise and knew it was me because they had heard it many times before.   Little did they know this would be the last time they would have to listen to that awful roar or hear the sound of a cannon shot!

            I headed east for Giggers, the wind blowing in my hair, water in my eyes, grasshoppers and other bugs coming through the place where the windshield was supposed to be and striking me in the head.    Those who rode in my Chevy soon learned to keep their mouth shut or turn their head when they talked so they would not swallow a bug.  When you were going over 60 mph and a big grasshopper hit you in the head, you knew it for two reason: 1.  It hurt  2.  The brown tobacco juice it would leave on your head where it hit was an awful site and it smelled bad.

            I arrived at Giggers and all who had bought a ticket was already there!   They were standing at the edge of the highest point waiting to see.   I drove up and looked over the edge, I thought (how you gonna get out of this?  You fool, now you’ve done it! what if you  can’t get out of the car?)    I say all who had a bought a ticket was there is true, but there was also one who had not bought a ticket who stood afar off and watched.  He was not going to pay a buck to see this, but he came to watch for free.   I never felt bad about that although I often wondered why, he probably was broke that day and didn’t want to acknowledge it.

            Well, I inspected the cliff real good, and selected a spot where the 36 Chevy would go over, I then stepped off about 100 yards and parked the Chevy heading for the cliff.  

            Everything was ready.   I waved to the crowd, they waved back, and started to chant go, go, go, go, or something like that I am not sure what.   I was scared spitless.   I got in the car, took it out of gear and nothing happened, it was supposed to start rolling, it didn’t.   I jumped out of the car and started pushing the car and steering the car at the same time,  when it had a little momentum I jumped in, turned on the key, pulled the throttle out,  slammed it into second gear, and let out the clutch, it started with a bang and a lunge forward,  I had to get out and make sure it was going straight ahead,  it soon was going faster than I could run and as it was pulling ahead of me the loop in my belt loop caught on the door latch and jerked me a little but soon ripped off.  Had the belt loop not broke I might have gone over the cliff with the Chevy! 

            My 1936 Chevy headed straight for the spot where I had chosen, engine roaring and soon it was there.    I wasn’t, I was still running trying to catch up.   As the Chevy became air born it soared straight ahead into space for maybe 50 feet, now the motor screaming very loud with full and maximum rpm’s since the wheels were no longer on the ground.   The 36 Chevy seemed to hesitate for a moment as to say good bye and then slowly the front end pointed down and it started its descent, slowly at first, then rapidly and very quickly you heard the awful sound of metal tearing, and other sounds indescribable, then . . . silence.   

            I arrived a few seconds later and looked over the cliff, there it was, just a pile of twisted metal, enveloped in steam and smoke.   It was over.

            I walked over to those who had witnessed the event.   They didn’t say anything for awhile and then all agreed it was worth the dollar.   In fact, I remember they said they would pay another dollar to see it again.

            Some remarked that they had a sick feeling as it happened and it made them stop and think about what a car crash really was.

            Looking back, I had probably just taught 30 young people more about car safety and car crashes than they would have learned in four years of school. And the tuition was only one dollar!

            I sold the car for scrap iron for 8 dollars.   All total, I broke even on the deal, but the memory was priceless.

See L.J. playing the piano  PIANO


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