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A great neighbor mechanic offsets other old-fashioned one

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Following up from last week on my neighbors in Wenonah, New Jersey when I was 3 until 12 years of age before moving to Pitman, New Jersey in August 1941.

Last week I wrote about one neighbor in Wenonah, Edwin Sayers, who immediately drove his ‘38 model Pontiac to Pitman at Brown Bros. Mercury dealer when he learned I had traded my ‘42 Ford club coupe there for a spiffy cream-colored ‘49 Ford convertible earlier that day. He knew how particular I was with that car. My sister, Jeanne, and brother-in-law, Calvin, moved there and I moved there, too, as a roomer after graduating from high school.

I want to tell you about my neighbor on the other side, Johnny Brown, who was very talented when it came to working on cars and remodeling his home because his wife always had something more for him to do.

Johnny was a World War II veteran and he was still in the service when his son, Kenny, was born. Johnny just didn’t ever get along with Kenny as he grew up. I guess he just felt out of touch because he missed being present for his birth.

Johnny washed his immaculate ‘41 Chevy on weekends. Kenny would pull his four-wheel wagon over to my home so he could wash his “car,” too. I was single at that time and dating or going out with my buddies every weekend and I had to have a clean car. I kept conversations going with little Kenny who was about 4 or 5 years of age.

In fact, I enjoyed having the companionship of Kenny and although our talks were far above enlightening, they made the occasion far better than dull, like it would have been washing by myself. However, I felt awfully sorry for my good friend, Johnny, but it seemed like there was nothing I could do to help with better relations between Johnny and his companion-hungry son.

So I just helped by humoring Kenny the best I could.

I loved having Johnny as another next-door neighbor who knew how to repair cars and get the best out of their operating capabilities too. Johnny had been a mechanic before he became an insurance adjuster.

I will never forget some of the things he offered to do for me as a friend. First thing, he said he could make my ‘42 Ford with about 42,000 miles on the odometer, run better if he could just put the car out of operation for an afternoon and a short while the next morning.

Then he went on explaining what he was going to do: take the carburetor off after disconnecting the fuel lines, other connections and take the main unit down into his basement and boil it in hot water overnight on a little stove he had just for that purpose.

Can you imagine a young bloke like me doing this on my own accord? Of course not, because it just never entered my mind to do that. Let me tell you about something else you may find weird. But it is something young people did in those days back in the early 1950s.

After the initial shock of buying that beautiful cream-colored convertible ‘49 Ford convertible with only 6,000 miles on the odometer and shining like it was brand new, my thoughts began to wander after reading Motor Trend magazine.

The “cool” thing to do was install dual exhaust mufflers and exhaust pipes. But there was a problem for a convertible: to make convertibles more rigid because of the opening for the convertible roof, an X-frame went underneath the car between the front and rear frames. This causes a problem if you want to install dual tailpipes and mufflers. A cutout on each diagonal part of the X-frame has to be cut out with a torch. Hardly something a young lad like me could do by myself without the tools and experience.

The mufflers and tailpipes arrived by Railway Express from California and I was excited and could hardly wait for Johnny next door to do the cutting with a torch.

Look for a follow-up in next week’s edition!

Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, invites comments at 919-556-3059 or