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On top of old Smokey all covered with cheese

May 2, 2017

PART 7:  REACH OUT & TOUCH THE SKY, but don't fall off the garage.

  I have a very old picture of the back yard when no garage existed.  I can only speculate that Grandpa built it sometime after buying the house.  I had not been born.  If fact I don't think my Mom had been born. 


The newly built garage had a pointed roof, not very high at the edges, I’d say 7 feet.  It was positioned next to the neighbors garage.  Both one car garages were about the same size and only about three feet separated them.  Ours sat on the left property line.  I know this because if you walked down the isle between the garages, the chain link fence separating the property (the one Grandma’s garden was next to) had its main post anchored next to our garage, and a little three foot chain link section was built across, connecting  the other garage so you could not get into the back yard without climbing over it.  Once you climbed up and stood on the fence, it was an easy reach to the top of the garage. 


Even a little guy could grab the top edge of the roof as he was climbing over the fence to steady himself and then jump down to the other side.  The back of the garage had a sort of room built on it so if you went in the front you could go out the back room and out the door into the back yard.  The “add- on” room had a slightly slanted, but mostly flat roof.  I found when I was standing on the fence separating the garages, that this flat part of the roof came up to about my chest, and I guess I was about three feet tall at the time.  I could then put both hands palms down, on the tarred surface and push myself up in a straight armed position. It was a simple matter of swinging one leg over the top and then rolling over to pull the rest of me up and I could stand upright on this part of  the garage.  Then, it was a simple matter to climb up to the pointed part of the roof  (what a roofer calls the ‘cap’) and suddenly there was a birds eye view of everything in the neighborhood. 


This was one of the greatest places you could be when you were 5.  Grandpa new I played on top of the garage and he kind of tolerated it.  So did Grandma but she liked it a lot less.  Usually she made me get down.  I used to sit up there for hours.  Once, after a particularly long and gratifying visit,  Grandma & Grandpa came out, ready to go someplace and he walked to the edge and said I should get down.  I can’t remember how I regularly got off .  I think I went back to the flat roof in the back, hung onto the edge, swung my legs down, extended my arms and sort of just dropped to the ground.  But this time He held his arms out and said “Jump!”.  I hesitated and then stepped off the edge.  Well, I sort of launched myself....he didn’t quite catch me.  He did not exactly drop me, it just wasn’t what you would call a success.

I hit the ground on my hands and knees, with Grandpa breaking my fall.  It probably wasn’t the last time I played on the roof of the garage, but it was the last time I remember jumping off into anybody’s arms. 


  Grandpa kept all sorts of interesting things in his garage.  Many tools and supplies.  The barn type garage doors were secured only with a small pad lock.  Grandpa never had problems with burglars.  There was the usual ‘open’ space for the car, and two small rooms built on the left side.  There was so much stuff in the garage, the car was never parked in there.  The room in front was about the same size as the basement office and had been built later.   There was a window in this room and a small desk.  This clearly was for “CUSTOMERS” and visitors.  I don’t remember ever seeing any customers.  Pops business was, I think,  mostly ‘word-of-mouth’ and he went to the customer, not the other way around.  This was still clearly an office for the public.  In any case, I wasn’t allowed in there either. 


  The other room in the garage was really a long narrow back room, running the full width of the garage, with lots of tools in it. It had a 'back' door.  This was the roof I could reach while standing on the fence.  

Grandpa made many of his own tools.  If he needed a special tool, He did not run out and buy it.  He simply used his ‘other’ tools it make what he needed.  He could soften and bend steel.  He could melt certain types of metals into a liquid.  He could make and thread his own bolts and spikes. He could bend, pull, twist, shape, punch holes in and remake just about anything he needed in his plumbing business.  He had vices of various sizes, a lathe, a pipe threader, and an anvil. 


It you have ever seen an old west movie, where there is a “LIVERY” stable and a blacksmith banging on a horseshoe, sticking it into the hearth fire and the banging it and bending it some more, then you have seen Grandpa at work in his garage.  Of course he wasn’t making wagon wheels or horseshoes, he would be making water supply valves for a bathtub or drain pipes for a toilet.  It took skills not just anyone had. 


In 1980’s and 90’s plastic pipe and fittings are being used in houses and general construction, but in the 1930s, 40s, & 50s there was only steel, lead and iron.  It took training, practice and a real talent to walk into an empty room, look around and respond to the customer what it would take to transform that room into a bathroom or a kitchen.  Not only could he do that but usually bought the appliances, the supplies and fixtures, then gave the customer an estimate of the costs, including his bill for labor and technical expertise.  He installed the fixtures, replaced floors, pipes, ceramic tiles, grouting and sewer drains.  He put in drop ceilings, did sub flooring, laid linoleum, and nailed up plaster board.  He could replace outdoor well pumps and do a little electrical work on the side.  “Plumbing, Heating & Cooling” were his mottoes. He was not an electrician as evidenced by the jolt I saw him get one day working on his 'fuse' box (better know today as the electrical/breaker box inside your home). 


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