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WHAT IN YOUR GARAGE?
Story by Lois Grace


After a long hiatus, VolksWoman is back! By way of explanation, just let me quote John Lennon and say that "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans".

As I hit the remote and the door goes up, I'm struck by just how much stuff one can cram in such a space. There are plastic storage bins on the floor. Two bicycles hang from hooks on the ceiling on one side. Shelves line both sides of this big, rectangular room, and all the shelves are full of boxes. Treasures and trinkets are everywhere. At one time, two motocross dirt bikes sat on the floor next to the shelves. A workbench sits at the rear of the room, on one side, and is stacked high with tools and coffee cans full of things, and a radio with stereo speakers. Zip-up portable "closets" are arranged here and there. A shiny galvanized garbage can is placed next to the door to the house - it contains dog food. You can't see the washer and dryer due to all the boxes and bins stacked on the floor near them, but they are there. And, in the middle of all this grand chaos, sits the one who has ruled my life for more than the past fifty years: a shiny blue 1959 VW Single Cab pickup named Vernon.

I am describing our garage, of course. And I say "our" only because Rob's name is on the deed to this house as well as mine, but none of his stuff lives inside unless you want to count the floor jack I gave him for Christmas several years ago, and the case of oil that belongs to our Dodge Ram pickup. Really, just about everything in there is mine, including the roll around tool cart and the tools within. They WERE his but he doesn't use them anymore so I got ownership by default. Rob's been remarkably gracious about all this, he really has. The only car that ever lived inside the garage that was even part his was our Saab. And the poor Saab got evicted from the garage as soon as the newly-restored Vernon came home.

A garage is a wondrous thing. It sometimes holds (as in my case) the most precious things I own. Nearly every other garage on our street is nothing like mine. Those hold the debris of life; boxes and furniture and junk that doesn't fit in the house. But those garages don't shelter vehicles. In the house I grew up in Mom and Dad always put the cars inside the garage. Of course there were always a few parked in the driveway too. Since we were a family of six, there was never enough parking inside for all of us. Then there was the travel trailer and, later, the motorhome, both of which lived in the backyard along with my older brother's defunct Model A and several tiny little Crosleys. I spent many happy hours with my dad in that garage, fixing things and learning stuff and generally being his question-asking shadow. That garage was where I learned how to gap a spark plug, and why it was done. That garage was also where I sat behind the wheel, usually in Vernon, while Dad primed the carb on a newly-rebuilt engine. I turned the key and would hear the engine roar to life and think what a miracle it was to think that just a few weeks before that engine was nothing more than a pile of parts, and now it was sitting behind me making noise and puffing that faint white smoke that new parts generate when they all work together for the first time. Mom would stand in the doorway clapping her hands and shouting "it's alive!", while Dad would fiddle and fuss and goose the throttle. And this new-engine-starting event would happen just like this, every single time Vernon got a new motor (which was quite frequently in those days). What fun! What memories!

When Rob and I bought this house, it wasn't even built yet. I'd go to the site a couple times every week and take photos of our new residence going up. The best part of the house, to me, was the garage. I had plans to make lots of happy memories in that garage with my cars. And, when we moved in that's exactly what I did. Before we ever moved in, two cars went into the garage, and then we moved in around them. It was a nice house, but we thought we would soon outgrow it and be gone to bigger locales within a few years. Forty years later, we are still here. Having run out of space and outgrown the house 35 years ago, we stayed put because our families were all here. Not wanting to move too far away from elderly parents or our friends, we stayed put. The wild West Coast real estate market kept us here also, as we couldn't buy anything nearly as perfect for us as this place.

And oh, the memories in this garage! In addition to Vernon, we had other vehicles that were at times both precious and irritating as hell. And thus the Garage Stories were born: Rob was changing the oil on our 1978 Saab when the oil filter wrench ripped the bottom half of the filter nearly completely off. Oil spewed out, all over Rob and the floor……and he still didn't lose his cool. He got the biggest screwdriver he had, and shoved it through the remains of the filter, horizontally. That gave him a handle to twist with. Brilliant, right? Well I thought so but all it did was remove the remains of the filter completely. It was about that time that I was doing something in the kitchen and heard a voice screaming obscenities at my Saab. I opened the door to the garage slowly to see a giant screwdriver come flying past my head and land handle-deep in the drywall of the garage. I still don't remember now how he got the oil filter off, but he did. The Saab went to a new home years ago, a fact Rob celebrates and one I regret.

We have had lots of VW fun in that garage too. Our VW club had a tech session in there in the late 80's. One member brought her Bug, and the rest of us learned how to replace the rubber seals on the windows. I think one guy even did the scrapers on the driver's door. We spent one Sunday afternoon sharing lunch, trading tips and learning that our cars weren't nearly as intimidating as we thought.

Then, there was the time before Vernon was restored, and I was obsessed with stopping the little bits of rust he had. I bought a bottle of something called "Rust Mort", as it had been recommended by a friend to be the restorer's Best Friend when it came to rust. Now, I'm not too sure exactly what is IN Rust Mort that allows it to do this, but when it contacts rust it will convert the rust through some chemical process into a black metal-like substance. That sounded like the kind of magic I could do myself! I decided to start with the doors on my Single Cab, and stripped them down to bare metal so the Rust Mort could do its thing. I was specifically focused on the inside of the door frame, as the drain holes on the bottom of the channel had been plugged up for many years and the rust seemed a little too comfy in there. I poured a liberal amount of Rust Mort into the channel and waited for the magic to begin. (I had taped off the newly opened drain holes already) Sure enough, the liquid began to fizz. I was thrilled! If a little Rust Mort could do this, imagine how fast and thorough more would be! I reached around to grab the bottle and my hand HIT the bottle, knocking it over. Of course the caustic stuff splattered all over everything, including my '69 ORIGINAL PAINT Beetle which was parked next to Vernon! I ran to grab a towel and watched in horror as the Rust Mort (not caring what it ate through) began to fizz on Bogie's fender. Thinking a towel wouldn't be enough I sprinted outside for the garden hose and it was right about then that I noticed my legs were starting to burn. No time for that right now, I needed to get the vile stuff off my Beetle fender! I hosed down everything within slopping distance from the bottle on Vernon's bed and then, right inside the open garage door, I peeled off my wet jeans and hosed myself down. By this time my skin was a bright red and my neighbor across the street had stopped his mower and was staring at me curiously. I stood there with the hose watering everything in the garage and waved at him.

One truly terrifying episode in 1989 featured the biggest earthquake we had ever felt in these parts. The Loma Prieta earthquake struck us just after Vernon had returned from his second stay at the body shop for restoration work. We were soon to remove the engine for detailing and resto work, and had taken his shiny, newly-painted rear bumper off for that job. Meanwhile, I had taken all four of his original wheels to the paint shop to be refinished. Vern himself was up on 4 jack stands and that rear bumper was safely tucked under his rear end. After the shaking stopped (30 seconds that seemed like hours) I crawled out to the door that led to the garage to survey what I was sure was Vernon and Bogie's demise…….the noises that came from that room during the quake were truly frightening. To my great relief both of them looked fine but there was a strange list to Vernon's port side: his rear was suspiciously low. The power was not working by then so I grabbed a flashlight and made my way out there to find Vernon's rump sitting squarely on top of his new bumper. The quake had literally thrown his back half up into the air far enough to release the jack stands and when he came down again, the bumper broke his fall. Unfortunately, his rump broke the new bumper but at least my truck was safe. That was singularly the most terrifying event of my life but it all worked out just fine. It's only money, right?

I am remembering too the time we got a new fridge and had the ice maker hooked up……which led to a leak………which let to a strange consistent wet spot on Bogie's hood (our water heater is in the garage and the pipes go above the cars in the garage)…… which led to me doing a lot of loud complaining and frustrating bursts of emotion……..which led to both Rob and I finally looking UP to see wet drywall above my Beetle. All is well now, but suffice it to say that more swearing was done when the drywall all had to be sawed apart and then replaced to repair the offending leak. Ah, the joys of home ownership.

So many memories! Some scary, some funny, but all of them precious. For these reasons and so many others, I will never understand why the garage is oftentimes the most ignored and overlooked room in the house. So........what's in YOUR garage?? Maybe a treasured old vintage vehicle with family history. Baby clothes and toys in boxes, belonging to your adult children, now with children of their own. Perhaps trinkets of your own childhood, toys that were special to you or things you are proud of. Whatever it is, I guarantee you also have lots of stories there.


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