Just A Bit On The Nose

On Saturday morning all the younger crew started work at 7 am. We had an hour and a half cleaning up the place until proper work started at 8.30. Jeff Martin and I would get to work at 6.30 and although it was unofficial, we cleared the buses off the forecourt so that Bill Howden could open up the petrol bowsers. We ran all the parked buses around the corner, down the side of the workshop and parked them on a flat section behind Arthur Franklin’s workshop. Then we would back them into line so they could be driven out without any hassles. It was a narrow parking spot, so we both got good experience with the length and parking close. If there were no buses to park, I would hang around with Bill Howdin for a while. When a bus driver came in to start work I would park his car down the road. It was all good experience.

A couple of years passed and I had my drivers licence. Bob Smith had been the service man at US motors in the few years I had been there. Then there were a few changes made. Bob Smith went to the bus garage and we got a new man. He wasn’t very good so he didn’t last. Alf Lawry and Vic Jones were talking about getting a new man when Alf pointed at me. What about Robin? He could do the job he said. They kicked it around for a while and decided it was a great idea. It didn’t worry me. I would give it a go. So Jim spent some time with me. It was important to get someone to do the servicing properly because a lot of work was generated while the car or truck was on the hoist. To check the vehicle properly also gave the customer confidence in the workshop at large. One morning, I was siphoning petrol from out of our Ford Blitz tow truck for cleaning purposes when I accidentally swallowed some. It was not very tasty, but worse still for the rest of the day because I burped petrol fumes.

That afternoon on Friday, after work, we all had a few beers in the storeroom before heading home. Jim was laughing at me because I could still taste petrol.
“It is alright for you.” I said to him. “I have never see you siphoning petrol.”
“Ah! No one ever saw me siphoning petrol, but I have siphoned more petrol than you can shake a stick at. You all know that JK (Jack Kallosche the owner of US motors) and I and a couple of mates have been going down to Western Port Bay a couple of weekends a month fishing for many years. Of course it is a mix of drinking beer and fishing. Jack has a good sized launch moored there and we have a really good time. Now, when the war started there was a whisper that petrol rationing was to come in so JK and I decided all buses left overnight at Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave should be looked away in the workshops. This would stop any pilfering of or petrol. And in addition, Jack and I would do a security check on these buses at least one night a week. This of course was to help the war effort. All through the war, and as long as petrol rationing lasted, we checked all the buses; usually on a Wednesday or Thursday night. While JK kept a lookout, I siphoned a little bit of petrol out of every bus. This gave us enough petrol to continue going to Western Port. We thought that keeping moral up at home was also helping the war effort. The department handling the supply of petrol to essential services was not happy with the petrol mileages we were obtaining from our buses. They rang often complaining, but JK was a very good talker. He convinced them that the big passenger numbers combined with the consistently steep terrain on all routes was the reason. As a matter of fact, the steepest terrain of any bus company in Victoria made them grudgingly agree that good mileages would be very hard to achieve. So after many years of rationing, I got to be the best siphoner in the hills.” Jim said with a laugh.

One day, JK rolled into the workshop driving a brand spanking new FE model Holden. All of the workshop gathered around to look at this sparkling new addition. Jim was standing nearby. I said it is too good to be a dirty smelly fishing car Jim. No, that nice new smell will be gone as soon as we put some fish in her. We are off this weekend, which will break her in. Never a truer word was said in jest.

Just over a week later, I was outside the workshop gate and about to get into a car when I swear this is true, a terrible smell hit me. I looked around but did not see anything. Over the bridge, about 100 yards away, I saw JK’s car coming into Belgrave. I drove the car to be serviced onto the hoist but the smell seemed to follow me getting worse every second. JK drove in right behind me. The smell was horrific. JK went to see Vic Jones. Vic looked around the workshop. Len, unfortunately for him, was gazing out the gate, switched off with has mouth open. Vic called Len, handed him JK’s keys and Len went to open the boot. JK did a very fast exit from the workshop as though he remembered an urgent appointment. Len opened the boot and if he wasn’t quite awake before that, he was now. He staggered back from the boot as if someone had slapped his face with a big smelly fish. He looked white and sick.

So as it turned out, the first fishing trip in the new car started beautifully. JK hooked a 4 foot gummy shark as soon as they arrived at Western Port. It was put into the boot and then they all go down to the main event, drinking beer. A great weekend was had by all but by the time they got home, JK’s wonderful catch was forgotten. A week of very hot weather soon reminded JK of his wonderful catch that after a week was decomposing very rapidly in the boot. Not only that, but a smelly watery slurry had run over the hump in the boot under the rear floor mats, under the front floor mats and under the dash. At this stage, I really would have liked to help the cleanup but I was very busy.

The big fish took much longer to catch a second time. It slipped and slid all over the boot, with Alf, Jim, Vic and Len trying to catch him. Finally, Jim stopped him with a knife and he was put into a cardboard box. Alf took a tray truck that was in for repairs and road tested the truck to Kallista. He dropped the box in the forest. So then all mats were pulled out. Underfelt was burnt in the incinerator. The floor was scrubbed with straight detergent and dried thoroughly. The mats with new underfelt were fitted and only a slight smell remained. JK was very happy and off home he went.

Next morning, fortunately it was after morning tea, in rolled the Holden again. The smell was as bad as before, so another cleanup. But this happened every day for more that a week. Everyone was sick and tired of this car. Luckily, so was JK. It was decided to wash it out once more early one morning and then JK took it to Dandenong and traded it in before the smell came back.

I thought about that car a bit after that. It was virtually a new car. The car yard would never be able to sell it except to someone with a really crook sniffer. But if it was sold it did have a few advantages over all other cars. First, it would never have to be locked. No need to ever take the keys out of the ignition. No one could get within 50 yards of it, especially in warm weather. The passenger seats would remain as new with no passengers. Parking was good too, no dings on the paintwork from anyone parking too close. But best of all it would be very cheap to buy.