Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Garage Unlike All Others


In Iowaville, most of the old brick buildings along main street have collapsed into rubble and eventually turned into empty lots or occasionally, having a new prefab building built in its place. One of the few remaining brick buildings resides at the south end of main street and is the home of Bell Garage. Where the apostrophe 's' went or if it ever existed, I don't know.

Mostly what I know of Bonar Bell and his garage are what I can see from the sidewalk and a couple stories that I've heard. I'll start with what I can see from the sidewalk, which is that Bonar is the mother of all packrats. The inside of his garage is completely full of various engines, transmissions, tangles of belts, hoses, pipes and several cars one of which appears to be a mint condition and very dusty 30's era car. Judging by the surrounding content on all sides, it hasn't moved since it was in its prime.

My neighbor runs a business and took one of his trucks into Bonar Bell's garage to get worked on and it was the last time he saw that truck for four years. Why it took so long or why he didn't do more to get it back and take it somewhere else, I do not know, but that story is always heard at gatherings where people talk about the Bell Garage.

The final story involves the ancient wrecker truck that sits parked out front. My cousin who was helping with the spring dirt work on the farm buried the tractor up to the axles in an old "buffalo waller" as my grandfather called them. It was a Sunday afternoon and time was tight and Bonar was the only one who would come. He brought that wrecker and a huge pile of chain. I gathered up every bit of change that I could find and met Bonar out in the field. We chained the wrecker to the nearest tree a very long ways away and using all the cable and the rest of the chain were able to hook onto the tracker. Bonar fired up the wrecker with a belch of black smoke and began to reel in the cable. How the tracker came out without the wrecker twisting up into a wreck and coming apart at the seams I will never know.

So on a recent foray into Iowaville when I spied that old wrecker sitting out in front of his garage, I couldn't resist taking a few pictures and posting them here with those few snippets of memory I have.

11 comments:

sage said...

I love these pictures and the wrecker story. Is one of the reason the bricks buildings are gone due to the quality of bricks and lack of good clay?

TC said...

I love stories like this, even if they kind of make me sad at the same time.

This country has been all about progress, progress, progress, but sometimes I think that we lost out on a lot of the best things when we got away from our small town roots.

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - In this case, no as the bricks are still solid and we have some of the best clay (Edina) in the world. The collapse of these buildings has everything to do with them basically being abandoned. With no heat or cooling to moderate temperatures or abatement of humidity or dryness, buildings, even houses, seem to fall apart pretty fast when left vacant and these buildings are no exception.

TC - It's funny how when I grew up in Iowaville, it was just another small town, nothing special. Now that time has passed it by and I'm old enough to appreciate what we had when Iowaville was thriving, I've grown more nostalgic for the town.

Murf said...

He should turn that old wrecker into a Mater (from the movie Cars). He could earn some big cash driving that around and making kids pay to pose with it for pictures.

The Real Mother Hen said...

he took 4 yrs to "fix" your neighbor's truck? unbelievable :)

time stands sill in Iowaville...

great story

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - I haven't seen that movie so I'll take your word for it.

Mother Hen - Thanks

Murf said...

One day you will be a true parent and immersed in all things Disney/Pixar.

geri said...

Yeah, the first time I saw that truck it reminded me of the character in the "Cars" movie.

Beau said...

Cool photos- I love old stores and grages like that. Makes it even more neat that you remember things about it. What a great truck for someone to restore. And Murf's right- you haven't seen the Cars movie?!?!?! You would really enjoy it- and that truck is 'Mater if I've ever seen it. Disney/Pixar is the "bees knees" for kids.

PhilippinesPhil said...

When (what period) do you think that "style" of brick building was mostly built across the country. You see them everywhere, those still standing. I figure 1910 to 1930 or so. I think it was when the automobile first started hitting the streets and they needed something substantial to house all the new garages and gas stations for them. What do you think Ed? Stuff like that fascinates me.

Ed Abbey said...

Phil - From what I've seen in old pictures, I'm guessing early 1900's. Most of the ones that have fallen down were probably between 1890 and 1920 range. The old 3-story brick school that used to sit on the hill was built in 1910.