Remembering when you could fix your car yourself

A 1939 Hupmobile

A 1939 Hupmobile could be fixed on the spot if it broke on the road, one of the Old Men of the Mountain fondly remembered. John R. Williams recalls his family’s earlier model was dark green with wooden spokes in the wheels. “That vehicle was a limousine; it had shades, with fringe and tassels that could be pulled down in the back, but the car had a sad ending,” he said.

The Old Men of the Mountain, at breakfast when they were together, talked many, many times about the vehicles they drove when they were younger. These vehicles are considered collectibles today, as are much of what the OFs used brand new when they were in their teens and twenties.

If they purchased these vehicles used, some of these items would be 100 years old today. Even the OF is now a collectible.

This vehicle memory came up in two conversations this week. One OF’s grandson purchased a new vehicle and the OF, of course, gave it the once-over with the required OF hmms, here and there.

The gist of the conversation was, when the OFs were young, many cars and tractors came with a repair manual and a set of tools, and the owner was expected to be able to repair the vehicle himself. Well, those days are long gone.

Today, the OF said, the new owner of a new car better take roadside assistance, and belong to AAA.

The OF said looking at the new car he couldn’t even find where to start the engine; everything seemed to be hidden. To him it looked like it was necessary to take half the car apart just to change the plugs — if the car even had any.

The other OF commented that, even with a newer car today, he is a little leery when starting out on a long trip to somewhere where he is not too familiar. In the old days (in the 1940s,’50s, or ’60s?) if the car should have problems he could jump out, figure out what is going on and probably fix it right there with the emergency repair box that he would have in the trunk.

This is not a fairy tale; it was done by the OF and this scribe, actually more than once. This scribe has a story about a broken spring but that will be for some other time.

Today, the number-one thing, the OF said, he would have to have is a cellphone and know how to use it, and that phone only works if there is reception in the area where the car happened to decide to give the OF problems.

These new vehicles are so full of artificial intelligence that, if the owner doesn’t treat them right, the car will wait for some godforsaken place in the middle of the night to say, screw you and quit.

One OG said, “My 1939 Hupmobile wouldn’t do that, but if it did, most of the time I could fix it right there with the parts and the tools I carried, and a flashlight. But today all I could do is look at the thing and scratch my head; heck, trying to fix a flat tire is a circus.”

The stories continued about how the OFs had problems with vehicles when we were younger; however,this scribe interjected, “The vehicles today seem to go many more miles than they used to, before there are problems.”

The scribe got from one OF a cryptic comment, which seemed to mean much more than these four little words: “Don’t count on it!”  We did not go into that because it seemed like deep water.

Checking with the online car guy it seems that remembering how things used to be also included a reminder of how many weekends we used to spend on Project Cars. Back then, clean fingernails, free weekends, intact knuckles, and financial stability were totally overrated.

Hilltown vaccine

One OF said it looks like the Hilltowns are finally getting some attention regarding the COVID shots. The sheriff’s department is taking care of Knox and Berne with vaccine PODs. The OF commented that “we” (OMOTM) have been saying there should be something like this for the old people that can’t get around. 

This scribe mentioned it must have been short notice and happened rather quickly because this OF knows he doesn’t live in a cave but he had not heard about it until the day of one taking place and the day before the other came to pass.

Either way, the scribe was glad to see it happen. The conversation continued on that both the OF and the scribe hopes this type of vaccine distribution is going on in the Adirondacks and some of the other sparsely populated counties.

Young county

This drifted into another thought — that New York State may be having an increase in age of the median population of the state; then again, maybe not. So this scribe decided to check out some statistics. Hello, Google.

In Albany County, the ages of the Old Men of the Mountain are rare. Albany County is a young county with the average age being 31.

In Hamilton County, the average age is 56; in Schoharie County, it is 45; in New York City (the five boroughs), it is 37, and going up — and the United States national average is 38; all this is as of 2019. That was a fun little project.

Breaking out?

One of the OFs spoken to said he had to go out, and took a chance (because he has not had his shot, at least at the date of the phone call). At the restaurant where he stopped to have a bite, he bumped into a couple other OMOTM having lunch there.

An interesting coincidence or are many of us getting antsy and wanting to venture out of our cages?


The Old Men of the Mountain are sad to report that they have lost another OMOTM member. Bill Krause passed away on Feb. 28. The OMOTM offer their condolences and prayers for the family and friends of Bill.

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to also offer our condolences and prayers to the family and friends of another faithful Old Man of the Mountain, Jim Heiser, who passed away on March 6. Both of these men’s families have our deepest sympathies.