A short story about how my Dad build us a car
when we were kids

My Dad, the original techie, a short story

From my earliest memories, my Dad was always a gadget man. Our house looked like a porcupine with all the TV and radio antennas protruding from the roof. Everywhere around our house, yard and garage there were tools, parts of cars, electronics, and a range of ongoing projects at various stages of completion.

Dad ordered one of the very first electronic calculators via an offer he found enclosed with his Shell credit card statement. In 1972, Texas Instruments introduced the rare TI-2500 Datamath, and we got one! It used 6 rechargeable NiCad batteries and to reduce power consumption, it would shut down the display after few seconds of not being in use. When it arrived in the mail, we all gathered around excitedly as he opened the package. By today’s standards, it was very simple in design and functionality. It had no memory and only the most basic calculation functions, but it worked! All for $119.95, which is over $690 in 2016 dollars so it was no small investment! But yeah we got one, much to my delight and that of my childhood friends.

Dad was an audiophile when I was growing up. One of my favorite memories is hanging out in our unfinished living room (he was building our house from payday to payday) listening to music. He had this monster reel-to-reel system and I can still see the look of glee on his face when he cranked the volume well beyond a comfortable listening level. He built the speakers himself and he wanted to “see what they could do”. 

Dad often played some of Simon and Garfunkel’s early work. The Sound of Silence remains one of my personal favorites 50-odd years later so I’m thrilled that it has made a comeback. I’m tickled with the stickiness of that song and every time I hear it I am transported back to the 60's version of our unfinished living room. The Sound of Silence has taken on even deeper meaning for me recently. It speaks to my desire to quiet my mind and find new meaning and significance in nature, silence, music, and meditation.

A kid needs wheels, right? When I was a teenager, Dad decided to build us a car. We ended up calling it the “Dune Buggy” even though it went nowhere near any actual dunes. He had acquired an old Ford pick up truck. Picture this, he removed the truck body, cut the truck in half and moved the rear axle up to the front half of the frame. It had the front end of a normal Ford pick up, a VERY short frame and then the rear axle of a full-size truck. There was no body on it so now you are picturing a naked truck frame, cut in half, with wheels on each corner. Man, we had fun with that thing!

One day, a group of us decided to roll this buggy up a nearby hill and ride it down. No brakes. No seats. No steering wheel. Four of us climbed onto the buggy and two of us had the job of kicking the front tires to steer and keep us on the road. It wasn’t the most precise steering method. So off we went, rolling down the hill. Naturally, the further down the hill we got, the faster we went. About two-thirds of the way down our tire-kick-steering couldn’t keep up and we crashed into a ditch, laughing our faces off. Our neighbor across the street watched while grinning and shaking his head. The buggy was eventually, and brilliantly, fitted with steering, brakes, a bench seat and an engine from a snowmobile. I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours driving the buggy over the years and yes, that is how I first learned to drive.

Seriously fond memories. What are your favorite memories?

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