I am a retired United Methodist pastor who moved down here in June 1985. When I was a senior at DePauw in Greencastle, Ind., in 1947, I was going to be appointed to a student church in Gosport, Ind., about 15 or so miles from the college. I needed a car, which was very hard to get . . . but my father, who was a minister in New Albany, found that a neighboring pastor had one for sale. That man was James Keith, who, as a retired minister, was on the staff of St. Paul Methodist Church in Largo in the 1980s. Jimmy had gotten a 1936 Chevy when it was about worn out and he had driven it during his seminary days, commuting between the school in Wilmore, Ky., and student churches in Indiana. It probably had over 200,000 miles on it.
But it was a car! And I soon learned its problems. One was a habit of blowing out the "freeze plug," which drained all the coolant out of the engine when you got it above 50 mph. I didn't have much of a problem with that because the road from the college to my church was not that kind of a road. But one day, three fraternity brothers and I took off for Indianapolis on U.S. 40, a four-lane divided highway. The temptation was too great. Suddenly there was a great cloud of steam and it was stopping time. With the car beside the road, four of us were on the road looking everywhere. We finally found the 3-inch disc, pounded it back in the side of the engine block, got some water out of a ditch and were soon in Indianapolis. My father started looking for another old car for me.
But he didn't find it soon enough. My girl (who became my wife two years later) and I were out about a mile or two from campus on a school night during the half-hour when female students were allowed out of their dorms or sororities for a snack date. After a few hugs and kisses, we were heading back to town when smoke began to pour out from the hood. I jumped out, raised the hood and then saw the smoke was coming out of the cowl vent. Looking under the dash, I found that the ignition cable had burned out. In a couple of minutes a truck came along and I heard, "Hey, do you need help?" Boy, did I! When he heard my problem, he said he was a mechanic. He needed wire, but didn't have any. All I had was an old table lamp from which he snipped off the cord and wired it in place so the car started. He wouldn't take the $5 I offered. Within a month, my father got me a low-mileage 1937 Dodge. He also sold the Chevy. I have often wondered how long that car ran with the lamp cord for the ignition cable.