"Just like old times"
"Octogenarians recall their first car which they bought at age 12"
By KEVIN SWEENEY Journal Editor
NEW ULM -- "Times were simpler back then". Arnie Schweiss of New Ulm and his boyhood pal John Garrahy recalled some of those simpler times Friday as they tooled around New Ulm in Arnie's Model T Ford.
When the two 81-year-olds were growing up on neighboring farms north of Fairfax, they bought a used Model T from a neighbor when they were just 12 years old.
They bought it from a neighbor "on a handshake," said Arnie, "for $25 in 1932" In those days it took the two a couple of years to pay off their debt to the neighbor, making installments of as little as a quarter a month sometimes.
"We nearly lost it once or twice," said Arnie. "But we finally paid it off." In those days it wasn't unusual for 12-year-old kids to drive, especially out in the country. They stayed on the country roads and avoided the public highways.
"My dad had a Model T before that and he used to let us drive it all the time," said Arnie.
John recalls his father's only comment: "Seems to me you could find better things to spend your money on."
The Model T was a four door with a raggedy old top on it. The two took turns keeping it a week at a time.
When they were 15 the two finally got their drivers licenses, heading into town and paying a dollar to the banker at Citizens Bank, and signing the form. No tests, no exams.
"They knew we could drive," said John. "They'd seen us driving all over town already."
To pay off the car, the two did just about anything they could to make money during the Depression, trapping skunks and selling the dried skins at Marlowe's Produce, or picking mustard and Canadian Thistle out of fields, or shocking grain for 50 cents a day.
In 1941 John left for California, where he worked in construction before enlisting in the Marine Corp. After World War II he worked construction again before becoming a firefighter, retiring as a captain in 1971.
Arnie stayed in the area, eventually operating Arnies Septic Service (the motto on his van: "Nobody sticks their nose in my business.") He lives on North Broadway where he collects antique cars and tractors.
This week John came back for his first visit since 1981, staying with his sister, Mary Murphy. His brother Tom lives in New Ulm too, while a sister, Catherine Murphy lives in Fairfax and a brother Edward still lives on the family farmstead.
Of course, stopping by to see Arnie led to reminiscing about the good old days and their Model T. What else was there to do but take Arnie's Model T out for a spin.
It's in a lot better shape than the old one they bought 70 years ago. "By the time we were done with that, I don't think anybody wanted it," said John. "We probably parked it out in the grove.""
** Photo and story are from the New Ulm, Minnesota "Journal" **
** courtesy of Renee Wendinger **