|July 1925 - December 1970|
|Gus Wilson's Model Garage|
Story by Dave Mantor
Gus Goes Fishing
by "Martin Bunn" (Dave Mantor)
Gus was late getting to the shop on this particular Thursday morning after a late night tow. When he had driven back to town, Gus just pulled the wrecker and its disabled burden into the shop and then went home for a few hours sleep. The telephone was ringing in the Model Garage's office as Gus walked in.
"I'm right here, Stan, so I'll get the phone. Hello? Model Garage. Who? Joe Clark! Is it really you, Joe? How's Florida? Good. Wilderness Lake in South Carolina? Sure, I've been there several times with Elmer Stoddard and Pete Vancourt . When? Let me look at the calendar. No, I can't come right now. I have to finish an engine rebuild, but I could meet you there, say, a week from tomorrow. Good. Sure, we can meet at the lodge. See you then, old friend. "Bye."
Stan spoke up, "Sorry Boss, I didn't mean to eavesdrop but was that really Joe Clark?"
"Yes, he wants me to join him for a few days of fishing in South Carolina. This isn't a good time for me to get away but a guy can't always pick the time, especially since I haven't seen Joe for such a long time. Well, let's get busy on some Model Garage business or there won't be enough money for me to even think of going."
The days following Gus' conversation with Joe went by quickly. Before Gus knew it, it was Thursday morning and he was packing the trunk of his car with clothes, food and fishing gear.
Stan had just driven up to Gus' place. "Hi Gus. You about ready?"
"Yes. I was planning to stop and see you after breakfast. You ready to run things for a week or so?"
"Yup. The two brake re-builds are done, billed and ready for the customers to pick them up, and the schedule for today looks good. Greg will be handling the customers at the pumps for me, and the jobber is sending over the load of parts this afternoon that you had me order. I'd say that everything is looking good."
"That sounds fine," Gus said as he backed his car out of the driveway. "I'll be over after breakfast."
Gus' breakfast was uneventful until Elmer and Pete stopped in for coffee. When they found out where Gus was going, they couldn't hide their feelings of envy. After quick good-byes and well wishes from his friends, Gus stopped at the Model Garage to top off the fuel tank of his well-cared-for coupe.
"Well, I guess I'm ready. Stan, are you sure you've got everything in mind for next week?"
"Yes. Gus, you'd better get going. You don't want to hit the heavy traffic in the city." Stan was trying to get Gus on his way, as he knew how his boss was looking forward to fishing with Joe, his business partner of years gone by. He rolled off giving Stan and Greg a "thumbs up" as he passed the pumps and into the street.
The miles sped by and after having a good night's sleep in a roadside motel and an early breakfast Friday, Gus was ready for the final miles to the Wilderness Lake area. In a little while, he got to the turn-off and could see how things had changed. There were signs at the corner and the old rutty road he traveled down years before had been graded into a fairly wide stone road. Even though the road into the Wilderness Lake lodge didn't have the rustic and quaint atmosphere it once had, it was a much smoother road to travel. Knowing that Joe had said he'd be at the lodge around noon, Gus figured he had better get going so that he could get their rooms.
When Gus pulled up into the lodge's parking area, he could see the crystal clear lake through the trees. The steps leading to the boat dock looked the same and the air had the familiar pine tree aroma that he remembered so well.
"Well, I don't see any car with Florida plates, so I guess I got here first. I'd better check in," Gus was thinking to himself as he mounted the steps to the lodge's front door.
"Mr. Wilson," a voice called out. "It's been a long time since you've been here."
Gus turned to see his old friend, John Wells, the lodge keeper, coming toward him. "John, it's good to see you." Gus suddenly felt like change hadn't completely come to Wilderness Lake, as his friend looked the same. "Our rooms ready?"
"Oh yes, everything is ready. By the way, Joe called earlier. His car broke down and it's probably not going to be until evening before he arrives. He said to get checked in and to try not to catch all the trout before he gets here." John could see the disappointment in Gus' face so he hurried over to the desk to try and get Gus all squared away.
Gus spoke up, "Well, if it's not going to be more than a few hours until he gets here, I reckon the repairs aren't too serious. After I get my things into the room, I'll get a bite to eat and then go out and fish for a little while."
The fishing was as good as Gus remembered. Using an electric trolling motor, he was able to quietly pilot his boat from several tree-lined inlets to rocky drop-offs and the trout were eager to accommodate his efforts. When he was ready to go in, three fine rainbows and one bass were ready to be cleaned and fried.
As Gus walked to the lodge, he was again disappointed to see that Joe hadn't arrived. Then supper went by and still no Joe.
Gus was sitting on the lodge's wide veranda enjoying the restful night air when John Wells walked out onto the porch and sat down, ready to visit.
"Gus, how long did you and Joe operate your garage together?"
Gus replied with the memories of the early days stirring quietly within him. "We started together in the '20s and were partners until the fall of 1950. He figured he'd had enough of the cold winters at home and sold his half of the business to me before retiring to Florida. Nearly 30 years in business together. It will sure be good to see him. But it sure isn't like him to be late for a fishing appointment."
Gus hadn't been in bed long before he heard his door creak open and a voice called to him. "Gus, it's Joe. Are you asleep?"
"Hi Joe. No, I wasn't asleep yet, but it's sure good knowing you're here. What happened?"
"Gus, you won't believe the crazy trip I've had. John said my room is ready so I guess I'll wait until morning to tell you about it."
"Alright, Joe. Get some sleep and I'm sure there will be ham and eggs waiting for you tomorrow." With that, Gus rolled over and went to sleep.
Early the next morning, Joe sat down at Gus' table and the waitress quickly delivered a hot steaming cup of coffee and took Joe's order.
"Gus, it's good to see you. After I retired and moved to Florida, I found it hard to settle down into a different schedule but things are going good and I'm making out okay. John Wells said he thought you left a few trout for me." Joe rattled on about the beauty of the lake's setting and how nice the lodge was. But finally, he began to share with Gus about the difficulties he had getting to the lake.
"It all started with a little bit of steam that I noticed coming up around the hood. I'd driven for a while and wasn't happy to see a potential problem. I found a service station and they said it was my water pump. Neither attendant seemed capable of much mechanical work but since I was in a hurry, I told them to go ahead.
There was a small cafe' near by, so I thought I'd get my lunch while they were working. When I got back, the new pump had just been delivered and they were struggling to get it put on. Finally I heard them pouring my antifreeze back in. My car was running and seemed to be ready, so I paid them and left.
"But I take it you had more trouble," Gus interjected?
Joe was beginning to get excited. "Gus, it leaked worse than ever. A guy at another shop showed me where they had cobbled up a small hose at the top of the pump. He loosened the pump, replaced the hose and put it back together. It stilled leaked but not as much so I paid him and left. What do I do now?"
While Joe was explaining his problems, Gus had begun to visualize the probable source of his leaks, so his reply was soothing. "I'll look at it, Joe. It'll be okay"
After breakfast, Joe led the way to a modest Thunderbird and opened the hood. With one look, Gus confirmed what he'd already thought. "No, it's not serious, Joe. Ford used a water pump configuration that has an easily removable impeller. The fellows at the first shop evidently didn't know that you have to snug up the bolts on the back of the pump holding the gasket. Manufacturers do it that way so the gasket isn't flattened out by the tightness until it's installed. The small hose that they messed up supplies coolant to the intake manifold so they actually initiated several problems. I'll get a long ½ inch wrench from my toolbox and hopefully I can tighten them without removing the pump again.
The week following Joe's mechanical problems went along smoothly. The clear, warm days couldn't have been better and both Gus and Joe enjoyed lots of fried fish. They reminisced the years of working together and had many a laugh remembering some their customers. However, it was soon time for them to part ways and head back to their respective homes.
Both Gus and Joe found it hard to leave but after shaking hands, they promised each other to meet at Wilderness Lake for another week of fishing as soon as they could. And they did.