Feb 20, 2011

Pursuit of Persistent Rumors, Part 1...

In the 1950s, there were still a lot of small-town Ford dealers.
I was working on the Taj-ma-dog yesterday with my friend Monty Love.  I was reminded of two separate times in my life when I was involved in following up on some persistent rumor and the result was surprising and rewarding.  This is the story of one of those times.
The 1930 Model A Sport Coupe

It was 1956.  My brother Bill had been invited to leave the University of Michigan at the beginning of his senior year.  He had returned home in disgrace.  He had decided to paint houses while he figured out what to do with his life.  I often worked with Willy on weekends and during the summer to help him in his painting business.  We conducted business out of a 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe.  When we had to transport ladders, we opened the rumble seat and slid the ladders into the space in front of the rumble seat cushion with the ladders extending skyward.  We were true professionals, but Willy was earning a decent living under the circumstances.  (Unbeknown to my parents, he had submitted an application for the Navy's Naval Air Cadet Program, and his selection to that program would bring his Model A-based painting career to a close).

Both Willy and I had a love for and interest in old cars.  We had been active in the Model A Restorer's Club as well as the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley, a local but very active car club.  At several car meets, we had run across rumors of an alleged low-mileage 1930-something Ford stored somewhere near Northville, New York.  We decided after hearing about this rumored car for about the third or fourth time that we might go searching for it.  At the very least, it might be a fun chase and we might meet some interesting people.

One Saturday, we headed for Northville, some 40 miles from our home.  We went to a small Ford dealer.  I don't remember if it was actually in Northville, or in a nearby town, but it was a very small dealership.  My recollection is that it was next door to a hardware store and that the two businesses were related.  We spoke to a man and asked if we could look through their records of service provided in 1935-1938.  The man laughed at our ambition, but allowed us to look in several very dusty file cabinets that were nearly twenty years old.  We searched through folder after folder of records of maintenance service, overhauls, and wreck repairs  Remember that in the 1930s, it wasn't unusual to do a "ring and valve job" on a car after 30 or 40,000 miles.  After several hours of poring through these old records, we hit paydirt.  There was a record of a service call on which the dealership had put a car on blocks, removed its wheels and drained its fuel, and preserved the interior with moth balls!

The gentleman informed us that the person for whom the work was done was still a customer, but was quite elderly.  He had bought several pickup trucks from the Ford dealer over the years.  We got directions to the man's house and proceeded to the rural address, a small dairy farm.

The beautiful 1934 Fordor Sedan
Willy knocked on the door.  An elderly man answered.  We asked about the legendary car in storage.  The man informed hat it was his and that it was still on blocks where it had been put in 1936!  Would he sell it?  Yes.  But he would take no less than $735 and would accept cash only!  We proceeded to a barn where we beheld the car, which displayed barely over 10,000 miles on its odometer.  He informed us that he had bought the car for his daughter in 1934 when he was 65 years old.  She was a nurse.  He promised to take good care of her if she would care for him in his old age and remain single.  In 1936, she got married and moved out.  He took back the car and put it in storage.

Fortunately, the man honored his word.  We drove back home in the Model A, where Bill retrieved $735.  We went back to Northville and bought the car.

The 1934 Ford flathead V-8 engine

After putting a battery in the car, replacing the fuel pump diaphragm, and putting gas and coolant in it, it started perfectly.  We unwrapped the Goodyear diamond-tread tires, and remounted the wheels.  We removed the blocks under the car and Bill proudly drove it out of its time capsule.  The little V-8 purred.  This gorgeous car became Willy's everyday transportation.  A couple of days after we retrieved it, we did a "Cadillac Blue Coral" wax job on it.  It absolutely glistened.

Within a few months, Bill was accepted into the Naval Air Cadet program.  He drove the little Ford to Florida to begin his aviation training.  That's a subject for another entry...

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Feb 17, 2011

Food, At Last...

It's been quite a while since I wrote about food.  This week I happen to be in the Washington, DC area.  I'm working with two colleagues, Bob Grow and Carol Kelly, both of whom are rather adventurous about trying new places to eat.  As you may know, I'm all in favor of that.

Zeffirelli's Famous Veal Chop
On Tuesday night, we went to a small Italian restaurant in Herndon named Zeffirelli's.  Bob had been there before.  Their specialty is a center cut veal chop that is marinated, then braised, then finished in the oven.  Bob got that.  Carol enjoyed a rockfish dish that looked wonderful.  I started with the Insalata di Finnochio described as, "Shaved Fennel Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Truffle Oil."  Spectacular!
My main course was the 
Tortellacci Alassio.  This is, "Homemade Tortellacci filled with braised veal and beef, served with a reduction of Veal sauce and sage."  It, too, was absolutely wonderful.

Last night we found ourselves with some other colleagues at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg.  The atmosphere was really fun, surrounded by a large 19th century mill with its massive oak timbers and remnants of old machinery.  I had a delicious corn chowder followed by a
Thai Scallop Pasta.  This consisted of braised scallops served with glass noodles, lump crabmeat, and stir-fried vegetables in a Thai basil-lemongrass-tomato sauce.  I would probably order it again, although the menu was wonderfully varied and I might have to try something else.

I would highly recommend either of these restaurants.

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