A 1941 Ford in Jamaica Plain

In 1952, I was making 50 cents an hour at C.B. Rogers’ drugstore and had saved some money. I bought a used 1941 Ford. It was dark blue. It was one of the last models that Ford made before WWII ended all American car production during those years. I paid $60 for it.

 Painting by Peter O'Brien. Copyright 2015, all rights reserved.

Painting by Peter O'Brien. Copyright 2015, all rights reserved.

The dashboard was rusty so I painted it maroon and grey with house paint from Yumont’s Hardware store in Jamaica Plain. Yumont’s is still there. The passenger-side window was missing, so dates at the Dedham Drive-In movie theater were interesting. During snowfalls I put cardboard in the opening.

I learned that you could start a car by pushing it and letting the clutch out at the right moment. I did that a lot. Used cars were advertised in those days with, or without, R&H (radio and heater). I had the H but no R. A man at work sold me a radio from a 1936 Buick for $3 and I rigged it up under the dashboard and installed a coat-hanger antenna. It blew a lot of fuses though.

I put a rebuilt engine in the car after a year or so of breakdowns, black smoke pouring from the exhaust, and grinding noises. Precision Motor Rebuilders in Somerville did the work. I think it cost $295 plus my old engine. I don’t remember where I got the money.

The Ford became a communal car. Anyone in the gang could use it if they had gas money. Gas in those days cost 19 cents a gallon.

One day, several of us packed in and we went to Atlantic City. We barely had enough money for a ten-cent hot dog when we got there. Perhaps it was at Nathan’s. I don’t remember. We stayed overnight and slept under the boardwalk. The next day we came home on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut and we had a flat. The State Police stopped to ask if we needed help. I said no. (I had changed a flat tire once before on the night I bought the car.) We nearly tipped the car over using the bumper jack on the steeply sloped embankment of Merritt Parkway. It was a fun trip though.

Before I had a car I went everywhere by streetcar. Some streetcars were parked in a terminal on South Street, up at the end of our McBride Street. McBride enters South on the right in the picture. The side-entrance streetcar on the far left is coming from the Arborway Terminal, heading into Boston. The two streetcars in the South Street Terminal went back and forth to Dudley Street in Roxbury. The streetcar cost five cents for students, and ten cents for others.

We called the South Street Terminal the “Car Barns,” because fifty years earlier a big barn housed the streetcars behind the billboard. However, its official name was the “Jamaica Plain Loop.” A carnival came every year to the former car barn lot. There’s a housing project there now. The Jamaica Plain Loop is long gone and the American Legion Post No. 76 and its flagpole have moved away too.

I joined the Army in 1954 and never saw the car again, until now.

Peter O’Brien

Copyright © 2015, All Rights Reserved