Archive for the October 2013 Category


As I am dictating this essay, it is approaching the end of October.  When I worked in the filling station business, the people who owned the filling stations ordinarily would set out to buy antifreeze at this time of year. 

As everyone will recall, the radiators on automobiles are almost always located near the front of the automobile.  This means that they enjoy the use of the fresh air before it is circulated to the rest of the car.  Looking back perhaps 80 years or so, I can recall that at this time of year that there were always radiators that did not have antifreeze in them.  It was a certain bet that on cold winter nights that if the car had been parked outside, the radiator would freeze.  It has been a long time but I can recall seeing automobiles approaching with great plumes of smoke coming from under the hood.  My memory tells me that when an automobile did not have antifreeze in it, the water in it froze.  It was generally a freeze that caused the smoke because the radiator did not have enough fluid to cool itself.

There were two kinds of antifreeze in the late 1930s.  The cheaper one had to be checked regularly to see that it had retained its efficacy.  At that time, a new product appeared on the market which advertised itself as permanent antifreeze.  The permanent antifreeze was expensive, so it was avoided by car owners.

It was a common sight to go into a filling station and to see hydrometers being used as a means of testing the antifreeze.




When a car that had a frozen radiator due to the lack of antifreeze was brought in to a filling station, we would ask the driver to spend a few minutes with us because we had to first drain and de-ice the radiator.  Now if it was completely frozen, there were great consequences.  But that did not happen often.  Once the commotion under the hood had been contained, we would inspect the radiator to see any signs of leakage.  At that point we knew that the owner of the car was a candidate for either the one-time antifreeze solution or the permanent antifreeze.

It looks as though I have entered a period of nostalgia with my dictating a story about my mother’s expression of “Well, well, I declare” and a second essay about frozen radiators.  If that is the case, I will not deny it.

These days, automobiles come with permanent antifreeze in them and there is no need to use a hydrometer to test them.  That has not always been the case.  So this essay is a tribute to those days prior to 1946 when putting antifreeze in your car radiator was a necessary and vital function.  With that thought, I will now salute the manufacturers of radiators that do not require constant surveillance even in colder weather which we are now experiencing.



October 23, 2013

Essay 773


Kevin’s commentary: I like the nostalgia essays, though the mechanical / filling station ones always make me feel a little bit ignorant. For instance, I know how antifreeze works from a chemical perspective but I don’t think I’ve ever bought any or put any into my vehicle, whose name is Larry.  I suppose he has the permanent kind but I have to wonder what kind of antifreeze manufacturer decided that that kind would be a good move. I guess you have to have to price it high enough to compensate for a lifetime of selling the cheap stuff yearly?


If my mother had lived, she would now be 131 years old.  But of course she didn’t live.  Curiously as I grow older I am given to thoughts about my mother.  I suppose we enjoyed a normal relationship as much as could be expected under the circumstances.  My mother came from Golconda in Pope County, Illinois.  She retained her rural ways until her death at nearly age 80.

There was one expression that she used fairly often.  When someone would tell my mother about an event she would often respond by saying, “Well, well, I declare.”  I have not the foggiest idea what her declarations might have been.  But in any event, it was an expression of wonderment.  Perhaps the conversationalist with my mother would tell her about a man who was, let us say, seven feet tall.  Lillie Carr would often declare, “Well, well, I declare.”  I am not certain what her declaration would be.  It was her expression of wonderment.

There was a woman of about her age named Mrs. McGivern who would come over to our house where she could enjoy a cigarette while my mother chewed snuff.  The contention was that the tobacco in cigarettes and snuff would not have been permitted to grow had it been contrary to God’s wishes.  As they sat chatting on our front porch, I often heard Mrs. McGivern and my mother get into a conversation.  When Mrs. McGivern for example would tell her about something that caused some wonderment, my mother would declare, “Well, well, I declare.”

My mother died in 1961, so she has been gone a long time.  But occasionally I think about the expressions that she used.  It does not follow that “Well, well, I declare” was a monumental feat of linguist skill.  It was simply no more than a throw-away line during which my mother would continue her conversation with the likes of Mrs. McGivern.

That is perhaps not a monumental effort but I thought that from my standpoint I would like the phrase “Well, well, I declare” memorialized.  Why I think that it needs memorialization is beyond the point.  It simply is an expression used by my mother to express astonishment.  So with that, I leave you to your own devices.  For my part, I will stay with an exercise in nostalgia.  And my guess is that before long Tom Scandlyn or Howard Davis will read this essay and they will say that their mothers used something of the same sort to express astonishment.  So I leave you with my thoughts about Lillie Carr and her expression of “Well, well, I declare.”



October 23, 2013

Essay 772


Kevin’s commentary: That is a phrase that I have never heard in real life. My only exposure to it comes from old-timey cartoons where it is invariably spoken by a proper southern lady. My little brother uses “oh wow” as his default vocalization to express the same. I like to think that this represents generational improvements in word economy.


As I have told you on several occasions, my friend Sven Lernevall, a resident of Stockholm, often told me that “English is a rich language.”  Listening to the President of the United States who speaks extemporaneously, he frequently resorts to the words, “you know.”  The fact of the matter is that I don’t know.  If I knew, there would be no point in telling me what I already know.

This is simply a time killer while the speaker thinks about a new thought.  I believe that the President of the United States is an eloquent speaker and he has no reason to resort to the words “you know.”  But when he is speaking extemporaneously, if you listen closely, he will often use the words “you know.”

I do not wish to be on Mr. Obama’s case.  He is a very bright person whose wife ought to kick him in the ass every time he uses the words “you know.”  The fact is that I don’t know and I am waiting for the President to tell me what I should know.  But when he tells me, “you know,” I wish to tell him, “Sir, I don’t know.  Will you tell me what I don’t know?”


Now we turn to the second part of this monumental essay.  It has to do with the English phrase “on me.”  My wife, the venerable Miss Chicka, frequently uses this term.  You may not be aware that in my later years, I have all kinds of plumbing devices to help me survive.  One of these devices has to do with a tube that carries the fluid away from my body.  From time to time, Miss Chicka uses the phrase, “This tube is in the right place but it should not ‘turn on me.’”  Again, the “on me” is a superfluous verbiage and in some cases it may be confusing.  But this is common usage in this country and I take the phrase “on me” with as much good grace as I can.

Well, that is your English lesson for today.  The phrases “you know” and “on me” look like they are here to stay.  In particular the phrase “you know” seems to have found a place in the American lexicon.  I suppose that this really tells you that in my 92nd year, I have nothing more constructive to do than to observe the speaking habits of the President of the United States and of my wife.  As it is, my wife would be lofted to the heady heights of the President and, after all, she has this essay named after her.    What more could anyone ask?



October 21, 2013

Essay 771


Kevin’s commentary: When I first read the title of this essay I was pretty baffled. I was trying to figure out some twisted grammatical structure into which that sentence would fit. I came up with none. Pop’s elementary school teacher who he brings up so frequently would frown on such a title.

Anyway, you can find my thoughts on “You know” here: and I have very little opinion on “on me,” so this will be a proportionately short commentary. Cheers!