ELVIS THE WRECKER ~ Summer 1960 ~
a true nostalgic All-American truck story, from a girl's perspective:
By 1960, Fairfield's roads
were buckling and groaning under the load
Of wildly-increased traffic flow
and just wondering how it would go.
Bumper-to-bumper cars all day;
all night the eighteen-wheelers held sway,
With rumbling past our homes at night,
till I fell out of bed in fright,
... and, more!
One winter, van-to-van-to-van,
the pileup of a caravan,
when one, up front, slipped on the ice,
a line of following trucks jacknifed
Bang! Crash! Crash! Bang!
The pile of metal and racket rang
It broke the still and chilly nightime quiet
and brought us up and out to view the riot.
We grabbed our coats and ran to help with aid -
till dawn 'twas quite a bit of work it made!
No one was killed, though all were shaken,
and all the folk and wreckage taken.
No one sufferred seriously,
but howled for action, deleriously !
To prevent a repetition of the same.
The new interstate was opened soon,
and glad to sing a different tune,
the trucks sailed by, but not so near,
and auto traffic, too, my dears,
And now the road along our way,
was nice again, just as we prayed.
American Ingenuity saves the day !
We do it right, the American Way !
90-year-old neighbor Webster's style
of entering traffic now was safe for smiles,
When earlier, our true distress
would make an afternoon a mess.
his long old Plymouth cut a swash
as we would wait to hear the crash,
But nottannymore -
the new highway took the traffic flow
and even Mister Webster could come and go
in relative peace.
It sounds like Heaven, but soon, of course,
the interstate a Trojan Horse,
a hidden glitch, always a catch;
still, we felt ourselves a match.
For toll booths, speed, dirt, more tire wear...
the interstate still lightened cares.
And then, just when we thought we'd won,
a thing that might leave us undone:
The interstate empowered super-trucks,
but eighteen wheelers run amuck!
And when they wrecked it took a week
to pull and pack and stop the leaks,
When off the road and down the bank,
the big trucks rolled with big gas tanks.
So fire extinguishers grew to match,
and yet there still remained one catch;
how to move the monstrous things
that crashed in winter... ' might be spring
Before ten wreckers or a crane,
could hope to make it right again,
In righting toppled mega-trailers,
The town was "borderline for wailers"!
Fairfield's Smith Boys joined the fray
With talk on homestead porch one day
They had the guy-fun hobbies with the cars,
But never one that went so far
As this idea that now took form
A bit above the SmithBoys norm:
Bill and Jim and Al and Charlie
Bob, and Hank - the day got Jolly!
Their Dad "The Chief" presided well
The Lights alive so much to tell!
Joe and Tom not there, and so reprieved.
The Front Porch Quorum happily achieved!
Our men began with working talk,
Pen and paper board and chalk,
Gestures, laughter, shouts and plans,
Arguments - real man-to-man!
With Mother, I just watched , wide-eyed,
aghast and full of secret pride,
In such a special demonstration
Of life response and occupation.
The plan was set and next, the scene
To Charlie's house and work machines:
"Look out, Mother", Father said,
"We're up and at 'em...watch your head ! "
My Father's shop was closed at five,
but then, that's when it came alive !
Sometimes two and sometimes four,
Smith men trotted out the door
From happy supper conversation;
I thought they'd build a whole new nation !
I watched it from my windowsill!
I see the site in mind's-eye, still :
A truck, to start, and disassembled,
In its parts, till it resembled
Brother Ricky's model building kits,
with life-size parts, not plastic bits
And then great piles of metal stuff,
Brought in, till all seemed quite enough.
Sometimes three and sometimes five,
Smith Brothers' welding - nights alive,
Every evening was "The Fourth",
the night all sparks and welding torch.
Axels huge were soon created,
And pulleys set them separated,
Joined to truck tires, just to start,
And then the sheet iron did its part,
"To tow a mega-trailer, dear,
needs this mega-wrecker here",
My Dad explained, this should be great:
Weight provides the counter-weight!
And this machine must be so strong,
To pull the mega-trucks along !
And that is what we mean to do;
"Hope we're entertaining you !"
He grinned; and, well, they were !
For many evenings, industry
was in our yard, for all to see!
Summer sunset not till nine
Gave those men the block of time
They needed for the job and more
Worklights helped when, still, the task went o'er.
Sometimes two or three or five,
Smith Brothers more than just alive...
The welding rods, the blue-flame torch,
the children kept back to the porch,
the sparks lit up the evening sky,
the smell of smoke and flame! Oh, my!
The molten metal took exciting form!
The engine power was stronger, too,
though "how" this lady can't tell you
This little girl, with interest real,
Was still a little girl, I feel
With Mother, our part of the task
Was aid and comfort, start to last.
Me the eldest, then Rick and Lor,
Thrilled to help with any chore
Till bedtime found us off the scene
The dinner served, the dishes clean
And upstairs to our window observations.
The truck bed "mondo" now supported,
steel I-beams for winch , purported
tough enough to do the job,
and chains for ships, I think, were lobbed
Round wheel-sized reel,
and tow-hook fashioned from good steel!
We gasped in awe, and all stood back ...
the iron monster, big and black !
An elephant , a dinosaur?
Better than the sketches dared
The wrecker born and how we stared!
Twice the size of any seen before!
Twice the power to do the double chore!
This wrecker's good, will do the trick,
but our invention must look slick !
Sometimes two and sometimes four
Smith Brothers right back out the door!
Pencils, pads and paints and sprayers,
sketches, fights about the layers
Needed to achieve the shine,
but the color choice went fine -
This machine - red, white and blue!
American pride, none else will do !
Ok, ladies, have no care ...
we're back to work, and "getting there"!
And new excitement in the night,
no summer torpor, hearts went light !
Smith Brothers sanded, scrubbed and smoothed;
the mega-wrecker, next was moved,
Indoors, no dust to mar wet paint,
and the fumes would make you faint,
but one coat, two coats, and then three,
for start and rust and then beauty!
And things began to look amazing,
but still the trim would want its glazing
into place to make it right,
but work was then stopped for the night..
Pin-striping was the rage with men,
and so, now, all were back again,
One could mix and one could draw
and all could paint and give "hurrah"!
a special Angel, helped them get it,
and soon the job was "copacetic",
"good to go"...
nothing made it could not tow!
Finishing touches best of fun !
it seemed the wrecker now was done!
Five Smith Brothers stood aside,
and at the site, they swelled with pride,
And shared cigars, so well-deserved,
and tipped a brew and sang with verve !
"This one's so good , we oughta name it!"
But what on Earth? What name, dad blame it !
Hiding in my Mother's skirts,
I don't remember all their words,
as trials, rejects and more and more
Ideas for names fell on the floor!
But even from a distance safe,
I could see them chide and chafe...
"We got it!",
and laughter's roar, " ;
and back to paint name on the door...
"okay Mother!", Dad called, with glee !
The painted name says "Elvis" - see?
Pretty good ? "
"Elvis?" Mother laughed along...
"I guess it does sing quite a song !"
And all stepped back, and praised the name
that all knew well - enjoyed its fame:
In 1960, girls would rave
for Elvis Presley's pompadour wave,
Superman style with girls and guitars,
made him their favorite superstar.
From his powerhouse of fame,
"Elvis!" sure, the only name,
For the Mega-wrecker they built that year.
"Elvis the Wrecker !
" Give a cheer !
And that night Mother poured the toast!
"Amazing work! You are the 'Most!' "
We'll see if all this fancy work will do,
the job it is purported to!
Mother and the rest of us,
and all Smith Brothers slept in trust,
that life would bring the test before too long.
Too soon the call went over town:
" We've got a Tractor-trailer down !
Up on the highway, down the bank
We'll be hoping we can thank
"Elvis the Wrecker" on this night,
if you fellas can set her right ! "
The word had spread, they'd clued them in:
we'll be there, through thick or thin !
King of Wreckers strode, not rode !
And easy work, that mega-load,
like brownbag lunch,
with gas to spare !
The truck on land,
its wheels in air!
Elvis' Winch and Hook and crew -
let's see what Elvis' team can do!
With Elvis on it , hooks in place,
and ten good men to watch each place
The mega truck first budged an inch,
then more and more, beneath the winch
the truck soon rolled and turned and righted...
the crowd and all on hand, delighted!
...right back in line !!!
and Elvis eeeeeeased it up the hill,
and on the road, again!
And mighty pleased and proud to do it!
Not "a song and dance" to while
away the time, or lazy smile....
This Elvis did the job and well,
And now, was proven good, we tell !
"Elvis - Hero of the day, and more !"
the crowd would cheer and roar.
They say they built him from the floor !
All Smith Brothers, and their "crew"
were jubilant , you would be , too !
And I hope this story now,
will, at least, provoke a "wow " !
And warm your mind to happy days
that warmed your heart in your own ways !
Elvis The Wrecker won its place
and served for years and still elates,
in story-telling memory,
of workers and their work, you see,
To me, behind my Mother's skirts,
Elvis' the Wrecker never hurts
to remember !
The happy industry that summer,
of our Father and his Brothers!
The adventure of just helping others,
Seemed a special thing to me,
and makes me smile in reverie !
elle fagan 3-29-2005
If you enjoyed the story of "Elvis the Wrecker", you may also enjoy"The Saga of the Little Whitehouse
- the Saga is the source story for this one, an American Song poem, easy to read, and its archive page shares photos.