Believe it or not, there was a time when the SUV wasn’t the de facto choice for burgeoning families. Yet, in the summer of 1978, my parents bought a brand new blue-and-white Chevy K5 Blazer from Riverview Chev-Olds in central Newfoundland. This was mere weeks before heading to the wilds of southern Labrador to teach at a local school. Brave doesn’t even begin to describe those decisions.
Fast-forward 24 months to find your author ready to make his appearance into the world at the delivery room of James Paton Memorial Hospital, about one hour distant from where Dad was working at the time. My grandmother shouted across the garden that his bundle of joy was on the way, leading to a frantic search for Blazer keys. This being rural Newfoundland, they were in the ignition, naturally.
The blue Blazer was only two years old but, as those of us in a certain age bracket will remember, Detroit’s assembly quality was not at its finest in the late ’70s and the Blazer could be unpredictably sluggish at times, delivering power like cold molasses through a garden hose. Murphy’s Law chose this day to rear its head, of course, and Dad was making poor forward progress.
Thirty minutes into the drive, he frantically stopped at a local garage and yelled some approximation of the words “Truck! Won’t run! Baby!” The mechanic, with years of experience on Detroit small blocks and hands the size of frying pans, hoisted the Blazer’s hood and fiddled around for a couple of minutes before coming up for air.
Slamming it down, he instructed Dad “She’s good now. Go tend to your new family! But,” he emphasized “You can’t keep driving it like this. Stop in on the way back and I’ll undo my changes.”
As you’d predict, the Blazer now ran better than it ever did. Dad made it to the hospital with plenty of time to spare and was with Mom when I appeared. Being in the room, by the way, wasn’t the most common thing for fathers to do in that part of the world 40 years ago. Even then, Dad was something of a pioneer. Judging his ability to grow flowers in his garden out of seemingly nothing, he still is.
What did the wizened mechanic do that day? Dad still doesn’t know … or maybe he’s just not telling. Brave decisions, indeed.