Tag Archives: service stations

Dad’s Homemade Tow Truck

My brother asked if there were pictures of Dad’s tow truck in Mom’s photo albums. We only found one, with Bing the service station dog inside.

It was an International pickup, 1941 I think, blue. He rebuilt it to take the wrecker.tow truck and bing may 1963

It had a 3 speed transmission. He put in a 4th speed. He mounted dual wheels on it. The fenders had to be extended. The strips welded in them never got painted. It wasn’t welded too good either. I can still see the holes, but it worked.

Dual exhaust coming out up behind the cab. The smoke would stream out of there. An orange flashing light on top. He put a switch for that under the dash.

For the wrecker, he started with a gearbox affair – small gear going to George's Esso Oxford and Wistow London ON July 1959a bigger to a bigger, about 4 sets of gears in there. Then he welded all the angle iron to put the cable on, the crank, all that stuff.

The cradle for hooking up cars was his own invention. It changed over time. First, it was a hand crank he welded on the side. You’d stand there and crank and crank and crank. The cars weren’t that heavy, it just took a lot. Eventually you’d get her up.

Then a Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine took the place of the George Anger in station July 1959crank. But that was a pain in the ass too. It had a pull start. Awkward and hard to start, but it was better than cranking.

The last one was a power take-off on the side of the transmission. That drove the gears that lifted the vehicle. It was the best deal. You could shove the lever forward and back and up she went.

Vacuum Snowplow

He built a snowplow for her. The plow was made out of an old culvert. He hooked it up to a vacuum system. He got that off a transport truck.

w-d-brown-1959 vacuum plow -www.google.gg_patents_US2867921
My brother found this vacuum attachment at www.google.gg_patents_US2867921. He says Dad put the vacuum under the hood, not out by the plow as here. (click to enlarge)

There’s a drum with a vacuum system to lift it. The engine creates a vacuum in the cylinder. The cylinder would lift the plow and gravity would lower it. The cold air hitting the hot valves would cause engine problems down the road. But it worked good. She barked though, loud!

I’ve never heard of anybody else ever doing that. I remember Dad and Jack talking about it, and the next thing I knew it was done. I never saw them working on the truck. I don’t know how it got done. I likely saw, it just didn’t register.

She was a thing of beauty. If I had any idea where she was, maybe parked someplace, I’d have her back home and I’d be working on it.

Dad would be 99 today. Happy birthday, Georgie.

Watch Dog

watch dog Bing with Dad at Esso station grand openingBing was a small German Shepherd or Alsatian as Mom called her.  She was a watch dog. My dad got her from another service station when he opened his.  She was very good at her job – the perfect Walmart greeter during the day and to those who had legitimate business, a holy horror of snapping teeth and bristled fur at night or to those without good reason to be on the property.

Bing-in-WindowWhen Dad sold the business, Bing came home with us.  She quickly adapted to house living, but she kept her principal loyalty to Dad.  Mom was second on her list and we kids, well, she liked us all right but didn’t pay much attention to us.

One summer evening my parents were out and only my older sister and I were home.  My sister was talking on the phone and I had nothing to do.  So I decided to teach Bing to walk on a leash.  Well, Bing had never been on a leash in her life and had no intention of starting now!  But, out in the driveway, she humoured me or figured the bits of hotdog I was using as bait were worth her putting up with my foolishness. Dusk started to fall.  I noticed a car pull up and stop in front of the house.  I didn’t recognize it, so went on with the “training”.  Bing noticed it too, and kept one eye on the car and the other on the hotdogs.

After quite a while, the driver opened the car door and started to get out.  A rumble started deep in Bing’s throat.  She took off, ripping the leash out of my hands.  She flew towards the car, roaring.  The man jumped back in, jammed the car in gear and took off, door still open.  I stood in the driveway crying and screaming for Bing to come back, which she did, of course, as soon as she realized she couldn’t catch the car.

My sister came out to see what the noise was about.  When my parents got home, we told Bing at homethem.  My dad’s face went ashen, lips white.  He asked for a description of the car.  It was light blue – that’s all I knew.  My sister had seen it through the window and knew a bit more, it was a sedan and I think she knew the make.  Turns out, the police had put out a notice that there was a man trying to abduct little girls in our area.  The car they had seen him in fit the description of the one in front of our house.

I don’t know what would have happened to me, a little girl playing in her own driveway, if there hadn’t been a dog there too.  Bing had been alert to his presence the whole time, but had been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he opened the car door.  I have no doubt he was the child molester.  She did not react that way to strangers simply stopping to ask directions.  Bing saved me that night – perhaps my life, certainly at least my innocence.  She got extra pats that night from my dad, I remember. Bing may have retired, but she was still a watch dog.

Many dogs have watched over me, guarded and protected meBing on home watch.  In childhood and teenage years, my dogs always helped me solve my problems or at least comforted me so that I could cope with them.  I guess I never had problems so big that a dog couldn’t deal with them.  For that I’m thankful. I’m thankful too for those dogs who shared their brave, big hearts with me.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, July 4, 2010