The Hot Rod Taxi Idea
Hot Rods and Racing Cars #8
Dr. John Mastin, principal of Crampton High School, was an exceedingly busy man. There were six reports on his desk, seven vouchers to be signed, nine letters to be read, and a memo of two appointments he had in the afternoon. He turned to the young instructor seated in the chair and eyed him carefully. Lester Reynolds, State instructor in driving and automotives was evidently a bit upset as he kept on bending his fingers.
"If you keep bending those fingers the chances are that in a hundred years you might break one. Suppose you relax and tell me what's on your mind."
"I knew nothing about the petition sent to you by my Hot Rod Club," apologized the young instructor who just passed his twenty-fifth birthday. "I explained to my students that I am paid by the state and assigned each year to a different high school in the county. But I will admit I do like this town very much and nothing would make me happier than to stay here for the rest of my life."
It was on the tip of Dr. Martin's tongue to ask a very simple question. He wanted to know if his own daughter, Helen Martin, who taught English at the high school, had anything to do with the desire of this instructor to want to remain here. Instead he said something else.
"Under the education law we could borrow you indefinitely from the state of our school board paid your salary and protected your tenure. As you know, Mr. Maximillian Foster is head of the board, and I'm not so certain he likes the idea of hot rods. He always likes to talk about the past when his father drove a horse and buggy. Hence I believe it is doubtful whether you can convince Mr. Foster that hot rods are essential for our youth. He won't even admit that woman suffrage is a good thing."
Jimmy Flath, president of the Crampton Hot Rodders, knocked twice for order. But there was excitement in the shop where the boys met. Finally Jimmy grabbed a big wrench and held it in his right hand in a menacing manner.
"If you dopes don't shut up and listen to some sense, we'll never solve our problems. And we got two tough ones on hand. We want to keep Mr. Reynolds here. If he stays here you can bet he'll marry Miss Martin. She's too tough on us fellows in English 7. We need an easier teacher next term. So let's do everything we can to keep love going in the right direction. Joe Brewer will tell you our next problem."
A chubby fellow got up to the front of the room and looked at his club members. He had sad news to tell them and he began to speak in his peculiar shrill voice.
"I saw Mr. Altman at the airport and talked about having a drag race on field six. He said it is out of the question this year because Army planes may fly in any time use that field. Old Man Foster is our only hope. He owns Merry Island and that would be a swell place to hold a Dave with our cars."
In spite of the seriousness of the situation there were smiles and Benny Harper took the floor to have his say about Mr. Foster.
"Sure he'll let us run our cars on his private beach if we put horses on them. Every time he passes a gas station he wants to sell them hay and feed."
Talk about the devil and he usually appears in one form or another. The door to the shop opened and in walked Mr. Maximillian Foster, followed by Helen Martin and Lester Reynolds. The principal's daughter did the introductions.
"We talked to Mr. Foster about letting you fellows run a drag meet on his island a week from this Saturday and he gave his consent. He wants to tell you something about his plans for this meet."
"The future of this country is in the hands of its youth," began Mr. Maximillian Foster. "We are great because we have mechanic and inventive genius way ahead of other countries. This will continue only as long as people can handle tools. It is what you boys have been doing with your hot rods that shows how ingenious you really are. I am going to purchase space in the newspapers and on the local radio station to advertise your drag meet. I'll even put it in the billboards. I will have oil, gas and other supplies for you. I want you to do two things. Explain to the public about your hot rods. And take the spectators for a ride north on my beach at not less than sixty miles an hour. There is no speed limit on that beach because it is my private property.
When the three adults left the room there was a silence and you could have heard a pin drop. Benny Harper arose and wanted to say something about how wonderful Mr. Foster was. But the words just stuck in his throat. Call it shock and let it go at that. Jimmy Flath realized he was still holding that big wrench in his hand.
"I don't get it! I don't get it!" he kept on repeating. "Mr. Foster is a clever guy. But what's his motive? I don't get it!"
Lester Reynolds drove Helen Martin in his car over the South Side Bridge that connected Crampton with Merry Island. Cars from all over the county were headed for the island.
"Mr. Foster has been so wonderful to me that it seems like a dream," said Lester to Helen. "Somehow I am convinced he knows what he is doing. His word is almost law in this county. If he says hot rods are good, then they are good. But why? That is the sixty-four dollar question and it has me stumped."
Jimmy Flath was the first at the microphone and he explained about his car to the mob of people on the beach.
"Don't let it scare you folks. You'll never see one like this in an auto salesroom. It is a half '26-T touring body on a shortened "T" frame. Got a Rexal rear end with a '38 Ford front end. The engine is "T" bored to "A" with Johns pistons, light rods and counterbalanced crank. I reversed a Delco Remy distributor which works o.k. And I have a '23 Chevy transmission using the original "T" clutch. Who wants to ride with me?"
A middleaged man raised his hand and soon the car raced north on the beach at a mile a minute and then returned.
Benny Harper got up to the mike and coughed twice before he spoke.
"My car is a '32 Ford, channeled and the front axle is from a '37 Ford. The brakes are hydraulic. My engine is 3 3/16, ported and relieved, milled heads and a ¾ cam. My car is painted a bright blue because that is the color of my girl's eyes. Who wants to ride with me?"
A young man raised his hand and the car soon was on its way north at better than a mile a minute and it returned. All the boys in the Hot Rod Club had a chance to explain about their cars and race up and down the beach with passengers. Then they held their drag meet. Next to Mr. Foster was a thin middleaged man.
"Are you convinced it can be done?" asked Mr. Foster in the kind of voice that demanded an affirmative answer.
"Only because I have seen it with my own eyes," was the reply. "I'll sign that contract and you go ahead and explain your great idea to those kids."
The Hot Rod Club was again meeting in the class room and listening to Mr. Foster explain his great idea.
"The Winton People are erecting a factory at the end of Silver Beach. That means a great demand for housing. I own 400 summer cottages on the bay side of Crampton which I rent only two months in the year. The speed limit on our highway happens to be 40 miles an hour. By using the country road it would take ¾ of an hour to an hour to go from Crampton to Silver Beach. But the inlet is now closed between Merry Island and Silver Beach. You could run a hot rod taxi service and take people from Merry Island to Silver Beach within 7 minutes. You fellows can organize this for it won't interfere with your school hours. And of course, Mr. Reynolds will be in charge of the project. The Winton People have rented my 400 cottages on a yearly basis provided I supply a free taxi service for their workers. So you are all in on the deal."
Yes sir, Crampton is a unique town. Has a wonderful high school, a new English teacher, a newly-married automotive instructor, and the only Hot Rod Taxi Service in the United States.
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