Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: When Fixing Flat Tires Was a Way of Life
One of the things most of us do not miss about the days before the synthetic breed of tires came along is fixing flats. In those days of less durable tires, the rite of passage from passenger to driver included the ability to not only change a tire, but also to fix a flat. The following Mid-Missouri Memory probably won’t mean much to younger drivers, but to those of us with a little grey in our hair, it will.
When Fixing Flat Tires Was a Way of Life
There are some things missing in the garages of today, some things so common prior to the ’60s that we thought would always be around. One of those is the patching kits used to repair the inner tubes all tires required back in those pre-tubeless days. Other items include a supply of various sized boots used to cover the holes in the tires themselves that might still have a mile or two left in them.
There were two types of those do-it-yourself patching kits in those days. One was a cold patch and the other was a very smelly hot patch that required a clamp to hold it in place as it worked. The hot patch had a flammable backing that burned off as it vulcanized a rubber patch over the hole in the rubber tube. I have seen some of those hot patch clamps in garages, but they are usually just rusty pieces of metal now that no one has bothered to remove, maybe for nostalgic reasons.
Whenever I have a flat tire, I can’t help but think about a man I knew in the late ’40s and ’50s who drove an old 1937 Chevrolet. The car was not that distinctive, but its tires were since they usually consisted of more patches and boots than original rubber. Like many cars in those days before steel belted radials, the man’s car spent a lot of time up on a jack. It was a rare weekend that he didn’t spend most of his time patching and booting the many spare tires he needed to make it through the next week.
It was always an adventure to take a trip in his old 37 Chevy, too. The time required to reach a given destination in that car always had to include calculations for the number of blowouts and tire changes that were sure to happen along the way. I believe it was a sense of pride that made the man refuse to buy new tires, choosing instead to add boot after boot to keep the ones he had on the road for “just one more day.”
He was not alone either. A lot of my neighbors would have thought it wasteful to buy a new tire when a fifth or sixth boot would get them by another day with the old one. This behavior may have been a holdover from the ration days of the war. During those days, it was nearly impossible to buy parts for cars, especially tires. They were needed at the front. I guess you could say the man with the 1937 Chevy was still being patriotic, long after it was necessary
Today, most people wouldn’t even think about fixing their own flat tire, and since it is quite a chore to break one down without a machine, who can blame them. The patching kits are still around, but are now used for bicycle tubes, farm equipment or that rare stubborn old-timer who still takes pride in getting one more mile out of a tire past its prime. It’s not that they are cheap mind you, just still patriotic.
Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’