Growing Up At Gay And Young Motor Company
Updated: Apr 24, 2019
My mamma and daddy moved to Big Lake in the early 1950s due to the demand for mechanics in the booming oilfield. Growing up my daddy owned an auto garage called “Gay & Young Motor Company”. It wasn’t that he could make your car feel gay and young. My daddy’s name was Clyde Gay and his partner at one time was Elbert Young, thus naming the company Gay & Young. My mamma kept the books for the garage so growing up we spent many days playing or doing homework at the garage, that we called the shop. Daddy always wearing his crisp khaki or gray uniform. If you ever saw him with anything else on he was way out of his element. For that very reason when he passed away we lovingly buried him in his uniform, with a few dollar bills for change and his ink pen in the shirt pocket just the way we saw him every day.
I never once remember dreading going to the shop. It was a fun place. There was the pit that daddy would lift a car up over, so he could easily get underneath it and if they weren’t working there we could play down in there. It was a magnificent fort. There was the upstairs storage that was a little creepy and fun at the same time. There were all kinds of old stuff up there to pilfer through. We had many races on the mechanics creepers. You learned really quick to keep those arms stretched out and hands out of the way as you were barreling to the finish line. We never lost any fingers, but we sure had some mashed ones. If you can imagine all of that cement inside and along the outside with a good pair of roller skates. They were the old metal kind that you tightened with a key to fit your foot with shoes still on. We skated a million miles inside and out of the shop on a daily basis. Yes, I do realize my parents would probably be turned in for child endangerment or neglect these days. They did always caution us to watch for cars, yes moving vehicles. I don’t remember any near accidents of collisions with us and cars. Those were the good old days when you could just be a kid, use your imagination, get your butt whipped if you needed it, get good and dirty and you still knew how to sit still and be quiet in church on Sunday morning!
Being at the shop you could expect to hear lots of humming and whistling. My daddy was a hummer and whistler happily working day in and day out. It makes my heart smile to hear some of my grandchildren humming or whistling. I know he would be so proud. He also was a song writer, no rhyme or reason to his songs but he sang whatever popped into his mind. After work each day he picked Trent and Bryan up for a ride down the county road to chase the train. It came through shortly after he closed every day. I have heard the train song many times and many different versions. He never wrote the words to his songs down they were just in his head. I’m sure that was so nobody could steal his original. You could also expect to hear lots of loud noises, air tools and yes occasionally a cuss word would slip out loud and clear.
The smell of grease and oil is etched in my brain forever. It was the potpourri of the shop, you couldn’t escape it. Daddy used to give us old ball bearings to play marbles with, those were “steelies”. If you were lucky enough to have a “steelie”, let me tell you were the most awesome kid on the block and you could make some awesome marble trades for the best of the best cat eyes or whatever your heart desired. We happened to have a great source for steelies. My best steelie story is too funny not to share. Forgive me Bobby. Bobby and I had a new bag of steelies and just couldn’t resist the aroma we had all come to love. As I recall, it started here smell this one, oh smell that one as we passed them back and forth smelling the wretched grease. It was all fun and games sniffing and smelling until Bobby sniffed a little too hard. Up his nose went the steelie! Well we did what normal kids did to get a booger out, we started picking and pulling. He would pick awhile and when he couldn’t get it I’d pick awhile. After we got it pushed up there somewhere close to heaven or his brain, we decided our efforts were futile, so we went together to tell mamma what happened. It wasn’t her proudest moment with us, but a trip to the doctor ensued and we got the prize steelie out. I really can’t remember if we smelled any more of those after that or not.
Back then it was service with a smile and you didn’t just go in to get your car worked on. You went in to socialize, talk about the weather, compare rain gauges, listen to all of the stories your customers had to tell you or plan a good quail or dove hunt with one of your rancher buddies. Back then you didn’t hook the car up to a computer. You drove that baby around and felt the shaking or heard the rattle or noise and that my friend is how the problem was diagnosed. You crawled underneath on the mechanics creeper and picked and pulled. Speaking of customer service, daddy had an old Dr. Pepper machine and too many times to count he offered his customers a soft drink out of that dime machine or his customers were buying us a drink out of the machine. It wasn’t just mamma and daddy that got to visit with the customers it was Johnnie, Bobby and I too. It was an important duty of my mom to make sure there were always dimes readily available. I clearly remember when cokes went up to a quarter and daddy insisted on keeping his drinks at a dime, he just paid the difference. For many years the drink machine stayed in service. I still have a few glass bottles from the machine and Johnnie has the machine. It was recently refurbished, and it is as shiny as it was in my memory. What a treasure to pass down along with the story that goes with it.
As a teenager having a mechanic for a dad had its advantages. You usually had a vehicle that was operating. It might be a grass green, ½ ton 1960 model Ford with a three on three standard shift bomb, but it got us where we needed to go! It had a bolt through the floor board that kept the gas pedal from going past 70. I think that was a daddy thing and it probably didn’t come standard equipped with the vehicle. It would hold 6 teenagers in the one seat at lunch if our friends needed rides. It could get a little cramped for the driver so occasionally one of the passengers would have to do the shifting. The three of us kids had to share the Ford bomb, but we were pretty considerate to each other using it and most of the time we just went places together. Being a mechanic’s daughter, you could also call for help when the alternator went out at 2:00 A.M. returning from an Alice Cooper concert. I won’t lie and say we were greeted with a smile at that time of the morning, but help did arrive at Texon within record time.
Johnnie worked beside daddy for several years and eventually bought the shop from my dad after he was in an automobile accident and later developed cancer and could no longer work. We were lucky to have him carry on daddy’s legacy with good work ethics that he had been taught for many years. Now with Johnnie reaching retirement age he recently sold the shop to his employees. I trust they will carry on the tradition of keeping service with a smile for Gay and Young Motor Company for years to come. I wanted to share some of our family memories of the shop and I know they will build their own legacy for their families.