Thursday, November 15, 2012

Harker's Body Shop

Jane, of Hard Work Homestead, wrote a comment to my last post which detailed all we had to go through to get our smooshed high-sided trailer brought back to life.  Jane wrote:

"Hum, I feel like I could use a little resurrection
myself.  A little fix to my frame, bring in my sides.
Breathe some new life into me. 
Can I get an appointment with you 'cause my
wagon has really been draggin' . . . "

Jane's words brought some pleasant memories back to me from long ago.

This tale started way back before I was born.

My mom, her five sisters and one brother were born and raised in a little house in a typical residential area in a town in northern Illinois.  In the first half of the 1900s there were no big malls or even anything resembling a strip mall or big box store anywhere to be seen.  Privately owned and operated businesses were interspersed right within the residential neighborhood.  Often there was a small grocery store (the only one the people in the surrounding houses ever used) on the corner of the block.  The neighborhood in which I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s had a funeral home across the street from us, a grocery store one house down and a store that sold wallpaper and house paints in the next block.

So it wasn't at all unusual for my mom's family to live next door to Harker's Body Shop when she and her siblings were growing up.

Uncle Frank, the only male child of the seven siblings, was first-born in the family and used to complain mightily about being the only boy among six sisters.  The family wasn't well to do financially so Uncle Frank went to work sweeping floors (literally) at Harker's Body Shop when he was thirteen.

Harker's at that time was a small establishment and did a little of everything having to do with vehicles.  They did mechanical work and sold tires along with doing all types of body work including repainting cars.  A one-stop service store for your car.

Being a very willing, hard worker, Uncle Frank slowly worked his way up in the business (he never worked anywhere else) and eventually ended up owning Harker's which had grown substantially into a much larger establishment that specialized in vehicle restoration.  He chose to not change the name of the business so it was always Harker's Body Shop.

So, in a way, Harker's was a very real part of my close-knit, extended family when I was growing up.  (I have to admit it caused a bit of jealousy when I became a teenager and got my driver's license because the only car available to me -- on not very frequent occasions, I might add -- was our family's 1956 Chevy.  Uncle Frank's two kids, a boy my age and a girl a couple of years younger, had sole access to their own snazzy cars.  [Can you say Jaguar or MG?]  Uncle Frank would take cars in as a total wrecks and then painstakingly restore whichever one his kids wanted to have as their own.  Me?  Envious?  Nah, what makes you ask?)

Anyway, whenever anyone in the family (usually my mom or one of her sisters) would have any kind of an ailment, they would say, "Somebody call Harker's and make an appointment for me to get in for a tune-up."  Or if one of my aunts was seen walking across the floor with a hitch in her get-a-long, someone was sure to comment, "Looks like you'd better get in to Harker's for some realignment."

I can remember my youngest aunt sitting at our kitchen table after giving birth to her fifth child, laying her head down on crossed arms and saying, "Call Harker's for me.  I'm sure my valves are stuck." 

One of the times my mom came up here to Minnesota for a visit, she was sweeping the kitchen floor and collecting the debris in a metal dustpan.  I heard her say, "Uh-oh!"  I asked what the problem was and she said, "I think I'd better take this dustpan home with me and get it into Harker's."  I was puzzled so asked why and she replied (Mom was a hefty gal), "'Cause I just stepped on it."

Silly little memories, I know, but when Jane alluded to needing some body work done (which I know for a fact she is NOT in need of) and maybe a tune-up, it brought back these memories.

I don't even know if Uncle Frank's business exists anymore.  Probably not.  Uncle Frank, my mom and all of her sisters are gone now, too.  But back in the day, our family sure got a lot of nonsensical mileage out of Harker's Body Shop.      

33 comments:

  1. Great story I never heard before!

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    1. Brother Pea - Probably because you were so much younger than I. Heck, you're still so much younger than I. WAAAHH!

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    2. Okay, we're gonna have to get some clarification here! Is Brother Pea Uncle J or Uncle M? Technically, he should be Uncle M (bearer of the Pea family name), but methinks he's Uncle J. In which case he should be . . . brother . . . uhhh . . . QUICK! We need another pseudonym to use as Mama Pea's maiden name!

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    3. Chicken Mama - They have both signed in as Brother Pea one time or another but that's fine 'cause we're all peas in a pod. (Ha-ha-ha-ha!) And your Uncle M wouldn't have related to Harker's Body Shop because he's never heard of it. Your Uncle J didn't know the particulars of the story because it was a "thing" that the women of the family perpetuated (mostly, I think). Clear as mud? Brother Pea, Mama Pea, Papa Pea . . . your label of Baby Pea is still the one that brings the giggles!

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  2. Fun story. My son would say "you have to know the story to understand the reference." He says that lots about shows he watches that have references to video game characters or certain games.
    And I could use some body work myself or a bit of chocolate.

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    1. Sparkless - Are there any spas that serve chocolate as part of their pampering? (I'd prefer one with potato chips. What are the chances of getting that??)

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    2. LOL! I think some spas do a chocolate mask but it's not for eating. Who could resist though?!! Darn waste of good chocolate I say.
      And don't even get me started on potato chips. Those are my big downfall.

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    3. Sparkless - That settles it! Someday, sometime, someway, somewhere you and I are meeting for a weekend of guiltless potato chip eating!!

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  3. Great story, thanks for sharing with us :)

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  4. I love hearing family stories like that :)

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    1. Stephanie - My daughter is always on me to write these simple stories down . . . before I kick the bucket, I guess! (Hee-hee.)

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  5. What a cute story. You know you can go on the horribly invasive goggle street maps, put in the address and see if it is still there. Even if it is gone you could see what is there now.

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    1. Jane - Invasive is right! I know I have trouble growing with technology(!) but some of the stuff available now makes me feel so uneasy. Ish.

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  6. love the way words poor out of you when your talking about your "growing up years"

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    1. judy - Thank you, ma'am! Sometimes my brain works easily, sometimes not so much!

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  7. What lovely memories. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. DFW - You're welcome! Thanks for commenting!

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  8. Brother Pea? Oh, I LOVE the Pea Family! I hate to admit it, but I had car envy, too. My (tiny) gang of one that had befriended me in high school drove a Fiat convertible (red, of course). I was able to rarely borrow the blue Beetle. I seethed, I tell you! That is such a wonderful story - and you are a wonderful storyteller! Listen to your daughter!!!

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    1. Susan - I have enough trouble with my daughter. Now if you go siding with her, I'm sunk! ;o] (Thank you, Bloggy Friend.)

      P.S. We (the Pea family) had a Fiat once. It had more mechanical trouble than any one car should ever have had!

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    2. YES, listen to your daughter! Get more of these stories out (here)!!! And, that was another great one I don't remember ever hearing.

      xoxo

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    3. Chicken Mama - Maybe I have a lot to say. It's just that nobody around here lets me get a word in edgewise! (For those of you who don't know, both husband [teacher for 40+ years] and daughter [charismatic personality who can literally talk to anyone, anywhere, any time] are the talkers of the family. I observe and listen.) :o}

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  9. What a great story!!! Memories of your family are so sweet ☺ Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Kelly - Thank you! It's so important to keep all the happy memories alive.

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  10. That was a very nice trip down memory lane. Thank you.

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  11. Love this story, thanks for sharing! Everyone needs stories like that...and we are lucky to get to hear yours! :)

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    1. Mama Tea - You are very sweet. And you're welcome.

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  12. Such a great story!! I should blog the stories my grandpa used to tell of his growing up. I have great memories of him telling his stories and laughing till tears were streaming down his cheeks (and ours too!). He died earlier this year and I think I'll always wonder what wonderful stories he never got around to telling.
    Thanks for sharing your "back stories" mama pea!

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    1. Aimee - Oh, please do write down those stories of your grandpa's that you can remember. In this day and age (of families being scattered all across the nation . . . and the world!), so much of our families' history is being lost. People do forget and there's nothing like the written word to bring it all back!

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  13. Wonderful story! I agree with CM, you need to write more down...HERE!! My husbands father grew up in a large family like that. They farmed and all lived in houses along the property in a big arc. All the kids (many many) ran wild between the houses. I think the sence of "family" fell apart in this country with all the ease of travel and the loss of the front porch!

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