Brad Ferguson is back, along with the '32 and Pete and Chickie. I hope you enjoy this episode. Part Two will be here next Tuesday.
Chapter 2: Beginning of an era and the end of another one.
as from the eyes of Pete...
That night I lay in bed with thoughts running wild and with a little anxiety. I sure hope I can cut the mustard. About two minutes later… well, that's what it seemed like, the alarm clock went off. I jumped up and turned it off and rewound it. I got myself ready with the morning duties and walked into the kitchen where Mom had breakfast waiting for me. "Mom, you didn't have to do this.”
She said she wanted her boy to start his first day on a full stomach. The bacon and eggs and pancakes hit the spot only like a mother's cooking can do. Ahhhh, the best mother in the world!
Dad came into the kitchen as I finished and was heading out and he says, "Have fun.”
"OK, Dad.” That seemed kinda odd, telling me to have fun when I was heading to my first day at my first real job, but it put a smile on my face—maybe that was his intention.
I arrived at work a half hour early and thought I'd be the first one there. I was wrong. Howard was already there and had the work schedules nearly all filled out. We exchanged good mornings and he said he was glad to see me come in early , to make a habit of it , and that is what he had done for nearly 50 years.
Howard walked over to a locker, grabbed a set of new uniforms, and tossed them to me saying, "You work here; you gotta look the part." I stepped into a restroom and slipped them on, looked into a mirror and saw the outfit on me and then noticed a big smile on my mug. And I thought, "Wow.”
The other mechanics came in and were looking at the schedule now posted on a bulletin board. Howard walked me over and introduced me to a few of them and then told me that I would be paired up with Johnnie at Bay Three. Howard said, "Just work with Johnnie today so you can get a feel for how we do things.” Johnnie was a 40-year-old Italian-looking fella who appeared a little sleepy but was sipping on a cup of Joe—and it didn't take long for that caffeine to kick in.
Johnnie and I headed for Bay Three where he informed me that we had a Mr. Walker's F100 Pickup in for a brake Job. Johnnie explained how we would disassemble the brakes, inspect everything, acquire parts, install them, and test drive. Sounded pretty basic, so I commenced the tear-down while Johnnie watched. After I had one wheel disassembled, he said, "You know what you're doing. I'll start on the rear brakes.”
I found a bad brake hose while inspecting and brought it to the attention of Johnnie. He said that is exactly why we inspect things during a job. We acquired the new parts from the parts room and assembled everything. Johnnie looked over my work and said, "Perfect."
We bled the brakes and test-drove the pickup. Everything was working as it should and we reported that to the office. Mr. Walker was brought before us and Johnnie explained that it was my first day and what all we had done and then told me to tell Mr. Walker what I had found. I told him about faulty brake line, showed him the part, and that we had to put a new one on. Mr. Walker looked at the part, looked at me and then told Johnnie, “Your new kid is gonna work out just fine.” I thanked him and we were off to a second job.
The day went by fast, Johnnie said I did a great job, and Howard said, "See ya tomorrow," as we left for the day. And so ended my first day, and then my first week followed by my first month. My thoughts: "This is great!"
I occasionally stopped by to visit Old Man Zimmermann and his wife and he was very happy that I was working out. He said, "My son’s and my reputations are on the line every day there. I'm glad you take your job seriously because now your reputation is on the line—always remember that.” I took it to heart.
Chickie, my love, was now attending the local art academy. She had taken four years of art in high school and had several of her drawings and paintings at art shows around town. The newspaper had given her rave reviews. Her specialty was drawing or painting portraits. Personally, I would think that would be the toughest thing to draw or paint because it just has to be perfect or it wouldn't look like the subject. She had drawn several pictures of me and we kept them all in her big ole scrap book. It was definitely her passion.
One day when I was visiting with the senior Zimmermanns, I told them about Chickie and her artistic talent. Two days later, he called me at work and asked me to stop by his house and to bring Chickie. I got off work , picked up Chickie, and headed over there. Chickie and I were discussing why he wanted both of us there so suddenly. We arrived at "The Mansion,” rang the doorbell, and as we were waiting Chickie said she always wanted to see inside this beautiful house.
Mrs. Zimmermann answered the door and graciously invited us in. Mr. Zimmermann was sitting in the parlour and when we walked in, he got up, said hi to me, and looked at Chickie intently. He shook her hand and asked us to sit. He began the conversation abruptly. " Pete says you are quite the artist and if that is true we want to employ you to paint our portrait. If it is up to snuff; we will make it worth your while. If it's not; we simply won't accept it."
Mrs Zimmermann cut into the conversation as she could see that Chickie was taken aback by his blunt approach, " Now, Chickie, don't let him scare you--he's a pussycat. I'm sure you will do just fine. Are you interested in painting our portrait?"
Chickie replied in her sweet and innocent manner, " Oh, yes, I would be quite honored.”
I looked at Mr. Zimmermann and saw that a faint smile briefly escaped his face thru the sternness. He was pleased.
For the next few days, that is all Chickie could talk about. All the particulars were worked out as to when, how long, what they wanted to wear, and her task began three days later. Chickie told me that they were stately attired; she in her full length gown and he in his best tuxedo with a fancy cane.
Another three days and Chickie had finished and I was there for the unveiling. She was very anxious about if they would like it or not—I imagine as many artists are. When she had placed the gilded frame around her painting, she asked them to look.
Mr. and Mrs. Zimmermann walked over to the easel, stood back from it, and didn't say a word. A tear fell from Mrs. Zimmermann's eye and she was quick to catch it before it reached half-cheek. Mr. Zimmermann seemed to stand a little taller as he gazed at the painting. He didn't say a word, but held his wife in a loving embrace. I had to break the silence and asked, "Well, do you like it?”
They both rushed to answer, saying it was beyond their expectations. Mrs. Zimmermann gave Chickie a big hug, looked her in the eyes, and told her thank you. "We have wanted a portrait for so many years.” Mr. Zimmermann was still looking at the painting and it seemed as though he was nearly looking through all the years. He walked over to Chickie, took her hand, and softly said, "Thank you.”
Mr. Zimmermann excused himself to go to his study, but returned shortly thereafter. He handed Chickie a sealed envelope and thanked her again. We said our goodbyes and took off in the ole '32. Chickie opened the envelope, pulled a check from it, and started crying. I pulled over on the road, gave her a hug and asked what was wrong. She said, "Nothing. Look.” She handed me the check-- it was for $3000!!
I figured that with me having a full-time job and Chickie pulling in money here and there that we could afford to rent a place, our first home. And, of course, it had to have a two-car garage not to mention a studio for Chickie. We started looking through the rentals in the newspaper, looked at a few places, and then found a house for rent/contract six blocks away from Mom and Dad. We went for it—no furniture, just a bunch of hopes and dreams.
Now I wasn't the only one whose fortunes were looking good. Frank's uncle retired and sold the machine shop business to Frank. His hard work through the years had paid off. I had a couple of Frank's new business cards posted on the dealership bulletin board. As far as JD— unbelievably, he was looking into attending the University of Texas. He had really straightened himself up and it turned out that when he applied himself, he was smart as a whip. He was getting straight A's— even in Dad's history class!
End of Part 1 of Chapter 2--come back next week for part 2!