One of the perks of running a small town newspaper is that you get first shot at some pretty good deals now and then. I’ve always been into guns, classic cars, and motorcycles, and the people working the front desk at all of my newspapers knew that if somebody came in wanting to place an ad to sell something like that, I needed to know about it.
At the time, I still had a Federal Firearms License as a dealer, and I can’t tell you how many guns I bought and sold. More than once, somebody came in who needed money right now to pay the rent or make a car payment, and I bought a gun from him, listed it in the newspaper, and sold it within a matter of days for a little profit.
And I always loved election years because everybody knew that if a Democrat got elected, his first action would be to take their guns away from them, and they rushed out and bought every firearm in sight at inflated prices, just like they have been lately. And a few months after the election, when they found out that their fears were unjust and their rent was past due, they needed to unload those guns in a hurry. Hey, don’t blame me for their foolishness. I gave them more than the local gun shop would and got to play with some fun stuff along the way.
I also kept some people from getting ripped off. An older lady came into my newspaper office in Aberdeen, Washington, and said she had a gun and a box of ammunition she wanted to sell. I asked her what kind of gun it was, and she said she had no idea, but her husband had bought it from the National Rifle Association many years ago, and the box of ammunition was huge. A “friend” of her husband offered her $10 for the gun and ammunition, saying it was old junk and he would be doing her a favor to get it out of the way.
I knew that the National Rifle Association did sell a lot of surplus military weapons back in the 1950s, and whatever it was, I figured it had to be worth more than $10. So I followed the lady home, and the gun was a mint Inland M-1 carbine. The short-barreled semiautomatic rifles were used by the military from World War II and the Korean War all the way through Vietnam. Inland, a division of General Motors, was just one of many companies pressed into service to build weapons and material for the war effort. Other companies that produced firearms, or at least parts of them, included the typewriter company Underwood, and Singer, better known for making sewing machines. Even back then, the gun was worth at least $200 (and many times that now), and the box of ammunition held 1,000 rounds. I forget what I gave her for all of it, but it was many, many times more than her husband’s “friend” had offered.
Another time, a lady came in to place an ad for a 1965 Thunderbird. She said the car looked good but didn’t run, and she had called a junkyard to come and take it away, but they didn’t show up twice on the appointed days. She wanted to give it away if someone would just get it out of her garage. I went over to look at the car and was amazed. It was a pristine white T-Bird with every option. Meanwhile, sitting outside in the rain was her current car, a new Thunderbird. I guess the lady liked T-birds.
Just based on the condition of the body and the interior, I knew the car was worth something even if I needed to replace the engine, and offered her $500 for it, which was still a steal. No, she didn’t want to sell it because she didn’t want somebody coming back saying it didn’t work and she had cheated them. She just wanted it gone. I actually had to talk her into taking $75, and she made me write and sign a note saying that I knew the car didn’t run and I wasn’t going to come back later and complain.
A friend and I towed the car to my house, pushed it into my garage, and looked things over. We turned the key and the battery was dead, so we went to the auto parts store and bought a new battery, spark plugs, air and fuel filters, and oil and an oil filter, and went back to the house and started playing with it. Even with the new battery, it would not turn over. My friend, who was more of a mechanic than me, determine that the engine was not seized once he had the spark plugs out. The last step was the oil and filter, so he crawled underneath it with a drain pan, took the plug out of the oil pan, and then we went inside to get something to eat. An hour or so later, when we went back into the garage, the floor was covered with oil, and it was still trickling out. What the heck?
The oil drain pan held something like eight or 10 quarts, and there was no way that that car could have that much oil in it. But once it was finally empty, and we spent most of the next day cleaning the garage floor, then replaced the old oil and filter with new, my buddy sprayed some starting fluid in the carburetor, and it fired right up. That thing ran just like it was brand-new.
I called the lady I got it from and asked how much oil she had put in the car, and she said she didn’t know. Her husband always handled that stuff. All she knew was that before he died, he told her to put in oil every time she bought gas. I think he probably told her to check the oil, but at any rate, that was the only thing wrong with the car. I offered to bring it back to her and get my money back because I told her she could sell it for a lot more, but she was very adamant that a deal was a deal, and I wasn’t bringing that pile of junk back to her house!
Of course, not every person who showed up with something to sell had a deal to offer. One time a woman came in asking for me because it was known that I liked cars and boats and things like that, and she wanted me to buy her ex-husband’s pickup and bass boat. Unfortunately, he had bought both vehicles with little or no money down and was upside down, owing much more on both of them than they were worth. And they were so far behind in payments that the bank was looking for them to repossess. She told me that I was rich and I could afford it, so why not buy them anyway? Well, I wasn’t exactly rich, and I would never get that way making investments like that, would I?
I also had someone come into my newspaper office in Lakeside, Arizona with four guns for sale. My secretary came back to my office and told me about them, so I went up front to talk to the man. He told me he didn’t know what kind of guns they were, they belonged to his brother, who had died. We walked up to his car to take a look at them, and by the time we got there, he told me that he had taken the guns as collateral on a debt from a coworker, who had moved out of town without paying him. He opened the trunk, and I looked at the guns, all middle-of-the-road stuff. That’s when he told me that they had belonged to his father and that he had been keeping them in his closet for the last ten years since his dad had passed away.
The only problem with this latest story was that I knew for a fact one of the guns had just come on the market within the last two or three years. I asked him if he minded hanging around for a while, while I called my wife and had her go to the bank and get some cash. He said he would wait in his car, but somehow I dialed the wrong number and talked to my buddy, the police chief, instead. A few minutes later, two police cars showed up in the parking lot, and before long, they were giving him a ride. It turned out that not only were the guns stolen, but he was also a felon, and even having possession of them was a guaranteed ride back to the joint.
Somewhere along the way, I sold that 1965 T-Bird and the M-1 carbine. I wish I still had both of them today. But then again, a lot of toys have passed through my hands over the years that I wish I still had.
Thought For The Day – Why is there no mouse flavored cat food?