A series of loud musical snorts interrupted. And there, coasting to a quiet stop was the big green roadster with Ella and her husband in it.

By Gregory Clark, April 26, 1930.

Madge and Bill decided last November to make the old car do another year.

There was a lot of deciding done last November, if you recollect. Last November was a time when, if you did not decide yourself, matters were decided for you – by your broker.

Anyway, on one of those evenings, when we all sat about consoling each other, I recall Madge saying:

“It takes a thing like this stock crash to bring people like us to our senses. Take cars, for example. Our car is perfectly good. Yet we’ve got into the habit of buying a new car almost every year. The minute we pay the last payment on the old one, we dash down and buy a new one. It’s absurd.”

“For fifty dollars,” said Bill, “or maybe seventy-five, I can put the old car into better shape than she’s ever been in.”

“Fifty dollars,” said Madge, “is a lot of money, even if you haven’t got it.”

“She’s only gone thirteen thousand miles,” said Bill. “The tires are in good shape. We’ll just have the engine overhauled, the body bolts tightened up, and you won’t know her. She’s good for another year.”

“And I’ll save the sixty or seventy a month we would be paying on a new one,” said Madge.

That was last November. The long winter has rolled by. As far as I know, the old car was not overhauled. The fifty or seventy-five was not spent on her. And whether Madge has been saving the sixty or seventy a month that they would have been paying on a new car I do not know. For they had the usual lavish and expensive Christmas up at Madge and Bill’s, and Madge’s Easter finery was just as fine as ever.

All washed up and gleaming, the old car rolled up to my house Sunday for our Easter drive. They always take me with them on their Easter drive because I say handsome things about Madge’s clothes. And Bill gets a real kick out of having a back-seat driver he can actually frighten into silence.

“The old car certainly looks great,” said I, stepping into the back seat. “You’d never know she is sixteen months old.”

Perhaps right there all the trouble started. Because I mentioned the car before noticing Madge’s clothes. I tried rectify matters by exclaiming, staring, throwing myself back in amusement as I beheld the vision sitting beside Bill. But I knew by the little hard look in her eyes that Madge would have no car coming before her.

“Listen to that second gear,” said Bill, as we slid away. “Isn’t she sweet?”

“Like a new car,” said I.

“Sounds like Bill putting out the ashes to me,” said Madge.

“Wonderful the way you have preserved the looks of her,” I said to Bill. “And yet you are not one of those finicky birds, always sheltering your car.”

“It costs us two dollars and a half a week,” said Madge, “a hundred and thirty dollars a year, the income from two thousand dollars, to keep the old crate looking the way she does. And if it weren’t for me, it would never be washed or polished.”

“Well,” said I, “I think you’ve got a wonderful car for well into its second year.”

“I feel kind of funny sitting here all dolled up like this in an antiquated car.”

“Madge, nobody will even see the car so long as you are sitting in it,” said I.

Just Nicely Broken In

“One thing,” said Madge, “we won’t be conspicuous. Everybody is in the same fix. Everybody is making the old car do. Not one of my friends is getting a new car. That makes it easier.”

We went bowling merrily along Bloor St. in an endless procession heading westward to the Lake Shore and the Dundas highway, for the wide open spaces where you are lucky if you can go eighteen miles an hour. The car ahead of us was enough to make all our hearts beat with pride. It was a ramshackle old schooner with wobbling wheels, and an engine like a brick truck’s. The one behind us was one of those plain family cars. A couple that passed us in a pathetic effort to speed things up were no better. Madge reeled the window down her and leaned back happily.

“I can’t understand,” said she, “how we enslaved ourselves to the new car habit for ten years.”

“You just get a car nicely broken in,” said Bill, “and then you trade her in for a new set of problems. Why, this car is just like part of me. I can make her do everything but take off the ground.”

We went across the Humber bridge and ahead of us streamed the endless flow of cars. As we approached the slight grade by the cemetery there was a check, and everybody had to go into second gear. It sounded like a great industrial centre, machine shops, planing mills, rivet hammers.

“Just listen to them,” said Bill. “If we don’t need a new car, there are them as does.”

The man ahead of us stalled. Before he got started he had coughed and banged and blown smoke all over us. Madge shut her window.

“Poor chap,” said Madge. “He, too, is making the old car do.”

“Do what?” asked Bill.

Out to Islington we crawled. Bill, with usual disregard for public rights, gaining a couple of lengths whenever traffic permitted. The old car did not jump to the job with quite the zest either Bill or I expected, so that we got into line again only after causing a general squeaking of brakes and an air of bad temper all about us.

“I wouldn’t do that, Bill,” said I. “Just find a nice place in the line and keep it.”

“Right,” said Bill, promptly stepping on the gas and attempting another cut-in. But luck was against us. There was no place open for us. We blocked the other-way traffic. It had to halt, and with loud braying of horns all about us we had to creep shame-facedly into a hole some kind-hearted lady driver left for us in our own line.

Past Islington and out on the Dundas highway, we drove along, amidst fumes and nerve strain, slowing down and speeding up in that irritating way familiar to the wide open spaces of our beautiful countryside. The car was warm. And presently it began to exude a smell as of frying rubber.

“Is that us? Or the car ahead?” asked Bill, anxiously.

“Look at the meter.”

“It isn’t working. I bet it is us. We are heating up.”

“Go a little faster,” said Madge, “and the fan will cool her off.”

“People are Awful Liars”

Bill just stepped on the gas to do another cut-in when a loud hoot from behind warned him to keep in line, and a green and gleaming craft zoomed soundlessly past us.

“Good heavens!” cried Madge. “Did you see who that was?”


“It was Ella!” cried Madge. “And only last week she said they were going to make the old car do.”

“Maybe they went out motoring last Sunday,” said Bill, starting another attempt to cut ahead. But again a loud snort behind us kept us in line while a gorgeous tomato roadster swept grandly past us.

The smell of fricasseed rubber increased. Madge leaned down and smelt around.

“It’s us,” she said. “Turn into the first service station.”

We did. The fan belt was gone, frayed to a rag. A new one adjusted and we took our place in the Easter queue again.

At Cooksville we turned north for a spin up to the high country, Brampton, Caledon. Traffic promptly thinned.

“Ah!” breathed Bill, settling back and letting her have her head.

Except for a tappet click and a slight shimmy that suggested the wheels had got out of line during the winter ruts, the car did very nicely indeed. In the first two hundred yards four new cars, two of them little roadsters of a well-known brand, overtook and passed us smoothly, effortlessly, the occupants deep in conversation as if it were nothing to pass us at forty-five.

As the fifth one slid by, Madge stifled a scream.

“Did you! Did you see that? It’s Harry! Harry! And not ten days ago he was sitting at our table bragging about how good his old car was. Honk him!”

“Too far ahead,” said Bill. He stepped the gas deeper. We increased our pace, but the glittering bit of gray blue ahead faded into the distance.

“What’s our speedometer say?” asked Madge, bending down. “Fifty – it’s likely broken, too.”

Before we got to Brampton we were quite hardened to being passed. Bill wouldn’t let an old car pass us, but the new ones, the shiny ones, the silent, leaping kind, just acted as they pleased.

“It’s great to have new Easter outfit to show the cows and chickens,” said Madge, as we bowled along.

“You chose this road,” said Bill.

“I think people are awful liars,” said Madge.


“No, people who talk about hard times. We are getting the same salary as usual. Other expenses have dropped down, entertaining, for one thing, and because everybody’s doing it, we’ve cut down housekeeping expenses and so on. I can’t get over Ella. Just plain lying. I bet she had that car all picked out for Easter. How much do you bet they don’t turn up our place to-night for tea? In the new car.”

“It will be an old car in a month,” said Bill.

Those Practically New Tires

At that moment a curious dragging sensation was apparent in the car, and Bill slowed and slewed her to the side of the highway.

“Tires practically new,” muttered Madge. It was indeed flat. Flat as only balloon tires can be with a complete and utter flabbiness.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Bill. “The spare!”

“What about the spare?” demanded Madge, grimly.

“At the garage,” said Bill.

We found a good grassy place for Madge to sit on the rug. We dug out of the bowels of the old car a sixteen-month-old tube repair set. We took off the wheel, demounted the rim, a terrible job, requiring hammers, wrenches, strained grunts and really the assistance of a good mechanic. But we managed. We got it off. We gummed up the tube. We battled the tire back on to the rim and tried to beat the rim back into a circle.

All the while Madge watched the Easter traffic soaring by.

“Six out of ten cars are new cars,” said Madge. “People are awful liars. I bet that whole stock crash and all that talk about tight times was a put-up job by people just wanting to make a dash at Easter.”

“Rrrrmph! Ummph!” said we, from the ditch.

“Anyway, why should people be hard up when all the profits they had were paper profits?” asked Madge, cuddled on the rug. “They lost a lot of imagination, that’s all. But losing your imagination doesn’t prevent you from buying a new car when your old one starts falling to pieces all over the road.”

“Immph!” said Bill.

“There ought to be a law against old cars endangering the public on the highways,” she went on. “Some people hang on to their cars year after year until they are actually a greater public menace than murderers.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Just look at the people in the old cars that are going by! Just look at them! Mean, crabbed, bent-over people, with starved-looking children and brow-beaten-looking wives.”

We hadn’t got the rim snapped back into shape yet.

“They look as if they thought they were saving money,” laughed Madge. “But they aren’t. They are spending more money on new tires, patching, mending, overhauling than the monthly payments on a new car. A car is only meant to last so long, anyway…”

Bill winked at me, in the ditch. In whisper he said:

“You don’t have to be married as long as I have to learn how to get new car. Just listen to this.”

“…little by little,” Madge was going on, as her eyes followed the various models by, “little by little, they disintegrate like old people, like old servants, they just go to pieces gradually. But to have the gift of renewing youth, beauty, power, just by turning in the old model!”

Seeing It in His Face

A series of loud, musical snorts interrupted Madge. And there, coasting to a quiet stop, was the big green roadster with Ella and her husband in it.

“Need any help?” squealed Ella.

“Do come over here and sit down for few minutes,” called Madge.

“Listen to her get out of this,” murmured Bill to me.

“Can you imagine,” cried Madge, as Ella ran across to us, “just look us! Look at Bill’s face! And we came out here just to see the new models.”

“How do you like ours?” asked Ella.

“So you beat us out after all, you fibber,” said Madge. “Here we have been burning our tires out going from motor dealer to motor dealer trying to decide on a new car. And you said last week you were going to make the old one do.”

“So did you,” cried Ella. “But I knew you were only fooling. Something told me.”

“And because Bill and I couldn’t agree, we came out here where we could really see the new cars and get a real idea of them.”

“How about ours”‘ asked Ella.

“Very nice,” said Madge. “But…”

“But what?”

“Well,” said Madge, gently, “we wanted something a little better next time. This one went to pieces so fast. Think of it, sixteen months and it’s ready for the dump.”

Click went the rim. Bill and slammed the tire back on the car while the girls chattered. They toodle-ooed and parted.

“What a line that was,” said Bill to Madge, as we got into the car. “How are you going to get out of that now?”

“Hadn’t you decided we should have a new car?” she retorted.

“What’s, that!”

“With the fan belt going phut!” cried Madge. “And the tires blowing out! And heating up! And no pep to her! Everybody that likes walking past you! Why, Bill, I could tell your face back there near Cooksville that we were going to have a new car!”

“Can you beat it?” begged Bill.

“You dear old boy!” Madge laughed. “You can’t hide a thing. That dear old face just shows every thought in your head. Why, of course I knew all about the new car. Hours ago.”

“Can you beat it?” doggedly repeated Bill, while he eyed my long-drawn wink in the rear-view mirror.

“And it’s going to be Christopher Eighty,” said Madge. “Maroon, with wire wheels on the side.”

“Did you see that in my face, too?” asked Bill.

“I certainly did,” said Madge. “When that Christopher Eighty went by us there just before the tire went flat, I could see absolute determination written all over your face. ‘That’s the car,’ your face said, just as plain as if you had spoken.”

Madge slipped her arm along the back of the seat, where Bill could feel it. Her hand petted his shoulder.

“Car,” said Bill, “car, take a good look around you. Gaze on these greening fields and spring-bathed hills. Rub your old feet into the warm pavement and breathe your lungs full of fresh air.

“For this your last trip in the country, car.”

Madge dropped her hand from the cushion at Bill’s back and gave me a sharp and victorious pinch.

Editor’s Notes: This is another proto-Greg-Jim story from a few years earlier than the time they started. It seems to me it is an exaggeration that cars were so poorly made that they had to be replaced every year.

A tappet is a part of the engine above the cam shaft.

Christopher Eighty is just a made up car model.