by Robert Gaeddert…..
Another true story? Well…okay.
Decades ago in the late 1970’s my older brother and I lived in a house near a building that was a grocery store. It had been part of a local chain of IGA (Independent Grocers Association for those not old enough to remember these) stores that went out of business. The building was taken over by a guy who also sold groceries and other things. His groceries were of the less known brands type, but they were fine. He would also buy odd lot collections and close out inventories. He had an ecliptic variety of merchandise and it was interesting just to go in and look and see what stuff he had. For example, one day a friend of mine dropped by to tell me about several boxes of; what looked like some kind-of filter. Citroën was on the box so he thought I might be interested. I took a look and lo and behold there were six pieces d’origine oil filters fitting the D models. One dollar each. So I bought all six, supplying me with filters for my 70 D Special. We had a Citroën agency in Wichita for a short time in about 1970; the only place these filters were likely to have come from. Now, several years later, these filters show up on a liquidation shelf.
One spring day my brother was walking by the store and noticed a black Citroën in the parking lot. He went inside, looked the dozen or so people over, and picked out the owner. It was a man named Vernon. My brother brought him over to our house and we became acquainted. His car was a 70 D Special, like mine. Vernon was probably in his sixties at this point but I’m not sure because when you are twenty-two everyone over thirty-five looks pretty old. He had 5 other D types which still sit beside the 23 Hudson’s on the property he owned; but that’s another story. We chatted and I mentioned having a couple of new Michelin XAS tires that needing balanced. He said he had a set-up at his place we could use to static balance them, and claimed we could get within ¼ an ounce of perfect. Besides a Citroën will tolerate an out of balance tire, so come on over Saturday morning and we’ll take care of it.
At the time I and my coworkers considered our jobs pretty stressful so to compensate we would gather at the corner liquor store after work on Friday afternoons. I may have been a little hung over when Saturday morning came around. My brother and I drove from the North end of town to the far south end and found Vernon’s place. Vernon had lived through the depression as had my parents and his lifestyle reflected this. He couldn’t let go of much. To describe his lifestyle would be another long story, so suffice it to say he had lots of things. He had worked for Boeing Aircraft during WW2 as a machinist and tool maker. He had a certain amount of pride as he described how they built the B29’s from scratch. He stayed with Boeing until he became so frustrated with his situation there that his wife said to him “why don’t you just quit”. Later she told me “I thought he would get another job”. That was in 1955. He went into business raising Carin Terriers. (After all this is Kansas and Toto was a Carin Terrier). Vernon didn’t object to being called a Puppy Mill because as he said “I am in the business of commercial dog production”. He took good care of his animals and wanted to raise healthy pups. There were 28 of them to greet us that Saturday morning.
My brother was a veteran who had some issues involving his time in the military. Now-a-days I think it would be called PTSD. In those days you were just maladjusted. Again, that’s another story. The point is he couldn’t stay still for more that 2 ½ minutes. Every time he got up to light a cigarette or otherwise move around it would set off a chorus of all 28 dogs on a barking fit. Carin terriers probably make pretty good watch dogs.
We took our time balancing the XAS tires and did a thorough job. Vernon invited us into his humble domicile where we sat and talked for a while. He offered us some very nice dark bread his wife had made and then he brought out a jug of elderberry wine he had made. We had a small glass of that. It was kind-of like having communion with out anyone wearing a robe or saying anything.
I knew Vernon until his death about fifteen years ago. He taught me a lot about repairing things without buying new parts or spending much money. Despite a forty-year age difference, we became good friends and spent many hours and days together. We went on many adventures, tackled some tough projects and philosophical questions. Unintentionally, he mentored me in many ways besides D Citroëns. I think of him almost every day and hope to cross paths with him in the next life.