|July 1925 - December 1970|
|Gus Wilson's Model Garage|
Homage to Gus - Dave Mantor
by "Martin Bunn" (Dave Mantor)
The music coming from the Model Garage was a testimonial of the season. The radio was playing Christmas carols, giving the needed festive feeling for Gus and Stan as they were working hard to finish up the last several jobs before they closed up for the following Holy Day. A white Christmas was going to be a sure thing as a few moments before, a special winter weather announcement had interrupted the radio program telling all residents in the wide spread area to be ready for a significant snow storm that was due this evening.
"Stan, how's it going? It's getting close to 4 o'clock and I'd sure like for us to get closed up."
"I'll be done in just a few minutes with these new spark plug wires. Is George Knowles picking his car up this afternoon?" Stan asked.
"No, not until after Christmas, but it would sure be nice to not have to finish it when we get back. There will probably be more jobs waiting for us if the forecast is right."
The shop phone rang and Gus stepped over to answer it. He listened for a moment, asked several
questions, made a quick answer and then hung up.
"Hey Stan, that was the state police on the wire. My old friend, Johnny Carter, has broken down about 12 miles from here and has asked me to come out and help him." Now Gus is not a family man, having never married. So, with his sister living in far off Denver, and no other family, he takes great pride in his friends. They, in turn, all know that should misfortune befall any one of them, they need only to call and Gus will do everything he can to help.Stan started to ask if Gus would want him to go, but before he could ask, the phone rang again.
After a brief conversation, Gus hung up the telephone and turned to Stan, saying, "Well, we have a second call to attend to as well. I need you to run out to Liberty Corner and replace a blown tire for one of our customers. Let's see…you take the service pickup and whatever you need to put another tire on Mrs. Miller's sedan. There should be a used tire on the rack that will fit. Sorry to have to send you out, but I want to attend to Johnny Carter myself. I haven't seen him since he went off to the war."
Both Stan and Gus quickly checked the tools and supplies they each needed and then locking up, Stan started out to help Mrs. Miller and Gus left in the wrecker to meet up with his friend.
Leaving the garage, Gus noticed the snow was beginning to come down lightly. Since everything was going smoothly, he confidently continued on. As he approached the place where Gus was told that Johnny was at, the wind was beginning to pick up.
"There's the car. I hope I'll be able to get him going. A broken generator belt won't be the hardest job to do, but with the way the wind is blowing, it's not going to be easy."
Gus rolled down his window and called out, "Hey, Carter. Hey, Johnny Carter, are you there?" He pulled the wrecker up in front of a modest sedan that was almost covered up with new snow. Setting his brakes and turning on the truck's flashing light, he stepped from the cab, pulling the collar of his coat up around his neck.
"Gus, is that you? Honey, stay in here. I'll be right back," was the answer to Gus' hail.
The two old friends shook hands. Then Gus asked, "Who's with you?"
Johnny's face was seamed with worry. "I'm awfully glad to see you, Gus, although out here in the sticks is hardly the place to renew a friendship, is it? That's my 8 year old daughter in the car. My wife passed away a year ago after my discharge from the army, and I'm trying to raise Nancy by myself. We were on our way to the cities to see a doctor as she has two lame legs. She wears braces, Gus and she's getting awfully cold."
Gus' response was immediate. "Hey, that's why I'm here. What are good friends for? Put her in the wrecker to get warm while I pull the hood release and fix your car to get you going."
Turning on his lantern, Gus looked in on the belt that had supposedly broken. The shock of what he saw, however, spilled over him like ice water. There was not going to be any quick fix possible on Johnny's car.
The corner of the generator had broken off and the belt had merely dropped down. With Johnny not
noticing any problems as he drove, his lights and heater blower had drained the battery and with no
water pump working, he stalled along the road and was unable to restart the car.
"Johnny, the housing of the generator is broken and I can't fix it out here. But I can hook up your car to the wrecker and we can see if we can get back to town. Get yourself in the truck so you can get warmed up."
It didn't take Gus long to turn the wrecker around and get the chains hooked up to the front of Johnny's car and ratcheted up. Releasing the car's hand brake, he slipped into the truck beside Nancy and her father. It wasn't until that moment, though, that he noticed the added intensity of both the snow coming down and the wind.
Looking at Nancy, Gus said with a wink, "Well, young lady, we may be in for it. I don't think that I'll lose traction but it's going to be hard to see. I sent my assistant on another service call in the other direction so I won't be able to have his help."
Gus was speaking his thoughts out loud as he slowly negotiated the slippery road. A roadside sign showed up through the slanting snow suddenly giving Gus an idea of where he was at.
"Johnny, do you remember that little burg about a mile off the road up here? There's not much there but maybe we can find a room or some place to stay the night. At least, somewhere that's warm."
"There's the turnoff, Gus. Easy does it. Seems to me I remember an old garage there, too." Johnny was trying to help Gus see through the gloom of a dark night filled with quickly accumulating snow.
The little town's street lights were barely visible through the storm as Gus drove into the small
community. But a house with bright Christmas lights seemed to beckon them to stop. Gus parked, and leaving Nancy and her father in the warm truck, he trudged through the snow to the front door.
In answer to his knock, the door was opened by a man in overalls. "Why, Gus Wilson, what are you doing out in this weather? Come on in here!"
Gus stepped into the front room recognizing at the same time, one of his customers who did in fact own the small garage in town.
"Hello Lon. I'm on a service call and the man and little girl who are with me are the ones I'm trying to help. But I think the storm is too severe to go on back to town so I'm looking for a place we can get a couple of rooms."
Alice, Lon Fredrick's wife, who had just stepped into the front room along side her husband said, "We wouldn't think of having you go anywhere else. Get your friend and his daughter in here and stay and have supper with us. I'd love to have the little girl here to fuss over. We have plenty of room. Besides, it's Christmas Eve and we have no one to share this special evening."
Lon added, "Gus, once they're in here, let's drive your wrecker and its load down to the garage. It's
only a block and we can easily walk back here. I've got room where you can pull in and we can work on it after the storm lets up."
Gus helped Nancy and her father into the house. Then, with Lon showing Gus where to drive, it didn't take long at all to put the wrecker and Johnny's car inside, close the doors and then walk back to the house.
Gus made a quick phone call to the Model Garage and was able to catch Stan so that he wouldn't worry about Gus and could head on home himself.
The visit at the Fredrick's home that evening was a vintage Christmas delight. The soft winking lights on the tree, Lon and Alice sharing their delicious meal with Nancy, Johnny and Gus amid the warmth and friendship of their home and the singing of Christmas carols over by the old pump organ...well, Gus decided it was a mighty fine way to celebrate Christmas.
After Alice had shown Johnny and his daughter where they could sleep, Lon put a fresh log in the fireplace to add to the glow of the evening as he and Gus had decided to sit by the fire for awhile. Lon summed it up when he said, "You know, Gus…there had to be a reason for you being in this area, picking up that car, deep in the snow and all. Well, my wife and I were really lonely tonight with all the kids grown now and gone their own ways. I reckon I'm thankful for the storm because it brought you here and you've brought happiness to us tonight. Thanks for coming by."
Gus realized anew just how special the season of Christmas is and how he wished it could be kept that way all year long.
"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!"