Excerpt from Southern Fried Plus Six:
We lived on the corner of Mulberry and Stewart in a small five-room clapboard house that had never been painted. The front porch was level with the clay sidewalk.
A thick pea vine grew around the front porch and there were always peas in June. It was the only thick vine on the block, and on hot afternoons two and sometimes three of the hound dogs from down the street would sneak through the broken railings and sleep in the solid shade at the edge of the porch near the swing.
In the house next door the Mullinses lived. Mr. Mullins was a small thick man who smoked a pipe and never talked much. He wore a black leather band on his right wrist and a Mickey Mouse watch that never worked on his left. Mr. Mullins worked for the sanitation department. In the evenings he would park his big Mack truck right up on the clay sidewalk in front of his house. He always brought toys and things home from the city trash pile, and after supper me and Earl and Clyde and sometimes Lucy Mullins would climb into the rear of the open truck and toss everything out.
There would be bells and balls and skates and parts and wheels of wagons. There would be water-soaked Big Little Books, crushed model airplanes, wind-up toys with sprung springs and big china dolls with missing arms and legs and hands. There would be false faces, Zorro whips, xylophones and bits and parts of Tinker Toy sets. And nothing was good enough to work or bad enough to throw back in the truck.
And after we had inspected everything and returned what couldn't be used or sold or buried or given to the hounds, Mr. Mullins would appear in the doorway. He would be smoking his pipe and most of the time he would be barefoot. He would cough and he would always say the same thing, "All right, you kids, quit messing round that truck."
My buddy, Coley Simms, lived next to the Mullinses. His father Harlis had two jobs: he was a loom fixer at the Columbia Cotton Mill and in the evenings and on weekends he repaired automobiles in the open field across the street. His only advertisement was a big Seiberling Air-Cooled truck tire that had been painted white and hung from a link chain on the front porch. It read CAR REPAIRS-- CHEAP. He had a fine collection of mechanic tools and the older boys would bring their cars in for repairs.
And there were automobiles. There were Fords and Chevrolets and Buicks and Hudsons. And before that there were A-models and before that there were T-models. And there were tires to be fixed and tubes to be patched. There were valves to be ground and carburetors to be cleaned and set. And gas lines to be blown out and radiators to be soldered. And when it was cool in the big field they would jack up the rear end of the car and prop it up on Coca-Cola crates or swing it on a hoist from the big limb of the chinaberry tree. And the rear end would be pulled and the clutch plate would be changed or the differential packed. And cars needed timing and fresh spark plugs and points had to be filed and cleaned and set and sweated over. There would be ring jobs and valve jobs and brake jobs, and special tools would be borrowed from the big Crescent station on Broad Street.
And the hard job, leading... Joe Snyder would bring a plumber's sink over and with a blowtorch melt the lead and prepare to wipe. And when the lead was right and Joe was ready he would fill the dips and curls and breaks in the fenders and in the roofs of the cars. And when he worked on the older cars he would say, "No sir... they don't build them like this any more."