Friday, January 5, 2018

On The Road Again

I've spent an inordinate amount of my lifetime traveling and living in different places.  My home is in Columbus, Ohio, but that wasn't always the case; I was born and raised on a horse farm in Sylvania Township, Ohio, near the Michigan line.

Old Grandpa Parsimonious had a very colorful life.  He served in WWI in the US Navy as a radio operator, and as a result learned how to repair a radio and could send messages in Morse code (actually International Morse, or International Code).  When he got home from the war, he went to work for the Kroger company, then opened his own truck line, which he later sold.  After the truck line he worked for the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).  If you were in the trucking business and you wanted to haul freight, the route had to be approved by the ICC.  Hence Grandpa Parsimonious got a collection of various items (and probably cash) with the idea that we're all pals here, and from one old buddy to another maybe you could see your way clear to approving this particular route.  The old boy spent a good deal of time in Washington D.C., and he used to be able to point out various elected officials and tell you what it would cost to buy them.  No, I'm not kidding.  When that little misunderstanding known as Watergate hit the TV airwaves, the old boy knew some of the people involved and knew they were crooked.

The Whiskey Man (my father) served in WWII with the Coast Guard.  He was on the mounted beach patrol in South Carolina, then got transferred to the Aleutian Islands where he was assigned to a secret LORAN base.  He didn't like any of it much, but then most men felt that way.  He hated the Japanese, Germans, and Italians right up until the day he died, and I firmly believe he would have cheerfully dropped a nuclear bomb on the USSR, followed up by several more, then promised to do the same to China if they failed to straighten up and fly right.  A true diplomat was the old Whiskey Man.  When he got back from the war he finished his college degree (business administration) and went to work managing a truck line.

All this was back in the bad old days.  I know that the old Whiskey Man kept a gun in a holster under his desk in case he had union trouble - he never did, preferring to ignore the union representatives that would ostentatiously park their car in the middle of the drive, where it was in everyone's way.  Most of the truckers he did business with were owner-operators, and they really had to work for a living.

I got me ten forward gears and a Georgia overdrive
I'm takin' little white pills and my eyes are open wide

- Six Days on the Road by Dave Dudley

Most semis had ten speed transmissions.  The Georgia overdrive (AKA Jewish overdrive) refers to the practice of taking the tractor out of gear and letting it coast downhill, which saved on fuel as well as saving wear on the engine.  All that aside, it was dangerous as hell as brakes wouldn't be invented for another thirty years or more.

Back in those days, Benzedrine (bennies) was a legal, over the counter drug, and truck drivers took it to stay awake.  This was particularly true of owner-operators, who weren't making money if the truck wasn't hauling freight.  They'd start off with a bag of sandwiches, a thermos of coffee, and a bottle of bennies, drive for twelve hours then take some bennies and drive for twelve more.

For any of you youngsters reading this incredible hound of a blog, I'm here to tell you that's really the way it was.

Back then there was a company called J.H. Cristil Co. from Edgerton, Ohio, who manufactured aluminum glasses of various kinds.  Naturally they wanted to ship their products to various wholesalers, which meant getting a route approved by the ICC.

Enter Grandpa Parsimonious.  They wined and dined him, then offered a set of eight martini glasses as a sort of gift between pals.  Old buddies, right?  They got the route they wanted, but the company didn't last all that long.  I can't remember if Grandpa Parsimonious told me they went broke or got bought out, but they didn't last.  The martini glasses, however, outlasted the company quite neatly and a full set of eight is rare.  I've seen sets of six, but very rarely do I find a set of eight.

J.H. Cristil Co.
The Whiskey Man was a horse trainer of no small repute, and he eventually bought a truck camper to live in at horse shows.  In the evening following the show, people from all over would stop by to talk to my folks and enjoy a little hospitality.  Many of them brought their own bottles with them, and I remember the kitchen counter / bar being fairly crowded.  Almost everyone drank cocktails, and in fact I can't remember anyone drinking beer.  One night two fellows showed up with guitars and there was a community sing-along until closing time - which is when the last person left.

In need of stemware, the Whiskey Man managed to acquire these aluminum martini glasses from Grandpa Parsimonious, although I can't imagine what he did to get the old miser to part with them.  The fact that they weren't in use and never would be used didn't enter into the picture.  But they did, eventually, end up in the camper.

The Camper - Trailer Rig with the Whiskey Man
One way or another the Whiskey Man's finances improved and he bought a four horse trailer and an RV to tow it with.  I think the RV was 30 feet or more, and it was comfortable.  I remember that the Whiskey Man understood horses and dogs real well, and he had a pet parrot that he liked, but he never really understood automation.  He was fascinated by the various gadgets in the RV, and couldn't begin to tell you how they worked.  I think his limit was an on/off switch and a channel changer.

Eventually the past became the past, and I inherited the glasses.  Here they are, displayed in la maison de Mad Jack.  I think they're quite attractive, and looking at them brings back a lot of memories.

Set of Eight
Each guest would have their own favorite color, you see.  The glasses are quite light, and the color is actually embedded into the aluminum so it will never chip or fade.  Now I believe it's time for a dry martini.  Here's how!


CWMartin said...

That was a very interesting post, and look back on how things used to be. Thank you!

Mad Jack said...

You're welcome, CW. Thanks for reading.