How to leave a comment on this blog.

If you open the individual stories from the links on the right side of the page you will find a comment box beneath each story. You can also open the comments box by clicking on the "Comments" link at the end of each story. I would love to hear your thoughts about the story, my writing style and/or any constructive criticism you may have.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't Judge a Person by Their Looks

My son was sixteen in 1986 and he was getting ready to have his own car. He wanted an old car he could fix up and make into a hotrod.  So we took a day trip to look for an oldie but goodie.  I knew where there were several old cars scattered around the country side and also where a bunch of old cars were sittin all together in one place. They were in a town a few miles from where we lived but I didn’t know who owned them or if they were for sale.  We stopped by my cousin’s house and asked him if he knew who owned the cars and how to get in touch with them.  He told us who and where to look for the owner and that the old gentleman was very eccentric.  He said that when we found him he might tell us to get lost or take a liking to us and offer to sell us anything on the place.
We drove  to the town and the location in town where the cars were.  When we got there it turned out that there were a lot more cars there than I had noticed before.  When we arrived I drove around the block in that small town, yes block, the entire block was covered with cars.  I noticed  one old house on the back corner of the block.  There was an old man in the yard working on a push lawnmower.  We stopped, got out and approached him.  I said “Hello, having problems with your mower?”   He told me yes he was and asked if I knew any thing about them.  I told him that I worked on them all the time and asked him to let me see if I could help.  After checking it out I found the problem quickly, fixed it and when I pulled the cord it started right up.  He offered to pay me but of course I refused; it had only taken me a few minutes and cost me nothing.  When he shut the mower down I asked him if he knew Mr. Jergens.  He said “I been knowin him for 82 years.”  At my odd look the informed me he was Mr. Jergens.  So, with just a bit of dread, I told him what we were there for.  He looked at me, smiled and said I was a nice guy to have helped him and refused payment so we could have any car on the place we wanted.
Our adventure began.  He walked us around telling us where this car came from and how he came to get that truck. The entire city block was covered with cars. Cars in rows, cars in old sheds, cars in an old barn and one huge pile of cars stacked in a haphazard fashion forming a small mountain of autos.  All of this was behind a tall fence covered with rusty old roofing tin.  He told how he had sold used cars from his lot on the property.  He showed us a 1952 Chevy pickup that was sitting there with scrap metal stacked against it.  He said that a guy that worked for him stacked the metal there the day he took the truck in trade on another car and that it had never been moved since it was parked there in 1956; thirty years before that time.  He explained how during WWI he started selling scrap iron from the old junk cars and that selling the scrap iron made the used car sales take a back burner in his business. 
Most of the cars had sat outside so long that the paint had rusted away and the seats had rotted into rags.  Yet even with the rusty finish and rotted away seats the cars were in amazingly good condition.  The bodies were not rusted out with holes; just surface rust and the seat frames were all intact and would be able to be reupholstered. In most cases the chrome inside and out of the cars was still there and in good condition.
We came upon five rows of cars parked nose to tail, thirty in all, sitting up on blocks with the wheels gone.  I asked him if he had the wheels and he pointed to a pile of cars in the back of the lot. He said he had all the original tires and wheels for every car on the lot in the barn labeled with what they went on.  He then explained how he had a used car sales lot across the road next to a service station.  The owner of the station owned the lot his cars were on and had tired to get him to move them but he had a life time lease on the property which applied regardless of who bought it.  When the owner of he station was elected mayor of the town he got an injunction from the local court forcing him to move his cars.  The old man had an old derrick crane sitting there which he said he used to load junk cars on semi trucks to haul to the scrap yard.
Mr. Jergens said the injunction made him so mad he had his workers drive or push the cars from the lot to the road ditch between his property and the city street.  He then used the crane to pick up each car and pile them into a pile at least 40 feet tall. He said the oil and antifreeze leaked out of that pile for over a month.  That is when he shut down his business and put the tin roofing fence around it.  He told me how he had bought a lot of land in that area back in 1920 and 1930. He sold the timber off the land then sold the land for farm land. He said he had all the money the government would insure in twenty six banks; at that time FDICA insured one hundred thousand dollars.  This old man in his bib overalls living in an old house on the corner of a junk car lot had over two million and a half dollars cash in the bank in 1986!!!
My son picked out a 1936 Lincoln Zephyr that was sitting on blocks in the row of thirty cars as the one he wanted.  Mr. Jergens said he could have it for three hundred dollars.  But he said we would have to get all the old tires out of the barn, air them up, fix flats if necessary, roll the cars out of the way and then put them back after we had ours hauled away and take the tires off and put them back in the barn.
The Lincoln Zephyr was made from 1937 to 1942. It was a beautiful old automobile and real find for us in 1986.  We left with the agreement that we would let him know within three days if we were going to take that car and when we could come to get it.  He said he would help me get the tires out and fixed so the other cars could be moved out of the way. We would have to move seven cars to get the one my son wanted out of the lot. 
We were very excited about our find but things happen and this time for sure they did.  Before I could let Mr. Jergens know that we wanted the car he died. His lady, his wife had died and he had never marred, and one grandson held an auction.  People came from all over the Unite States and every car sold, even the ones that had been in the huge pile.  Our Lincoln Zephyr sold for three thousand dollars and not to us. 
Many times since then I have thought of that old man living in a run down house on the lot with all those cars.  Of him working to repair an old push lawn mower and having over two and a half million dollars in the bank. He could have bought a new mower every day.
His place was actually an eye sore in the town and I think he liked to torment the town government with it because of what he felt they had done to him.  Regardless of how much money he did or didn’t have he was happy just the way he was. His accomplishments over his life time made him happy not his money.
So remember "Don't Judge a Person by Looks".

1 comment: