A 1934 Hudson Terraplane Coupe
The year was about 1953 when I was two or three years into my apprenticeship as a carpenter. The firm I worked for at the time was engaged by an Ashwick district farmer, to add a couple of rooms onto his family home.
We had completed work on the exterior and had just moved into finishing off the interior, when the painter arrived early one morning, in his old 1934 Hudson Terraplane Coupe. At some stage, he had removed the door to the large boot of this car. Fitting a wooden tray, he had transformed the vehicle into a little truck, where he could carry all his tools and other paraphernalia, needed for his trade.
Not the most organised of tradesmen; always in a hurry, yet never getting very far. Most of one thumb was missing from his left hand, an accident sometime during his past I assume. Some hard cases in the district had given him the nickname, (Tom Thumb), behind his back of course, yet, it was a name that seemed to stick.
His speciality was spray painting roofs and anything else to do with the exterior of rural buildings. The contract on this job was to paint the roof only.
In those days he carried an air-compressor, fixed to the tray of his little truck and driven by a small petrol motor. Numerous long air hoses and God knows what else seemed to be attached. It may have been a pretty antiquated piece of machinery, compared to the modern paint spraying apparatus today, but it worked a treat. Of course, it too was covered in paint, all colours of the rainbow; overspray from some other jobs, how he ever got so much paint spread around, beggar’s belief. His overalls were just the same; stiff with thick layers of old paint. After work, I could just imagine them standing upright, unsupported in the corner, until required next morning.
Anyway, the house we were working on was a typical farm style home with a pitched roof. A typical lean-to style veranda ran part way along the front side of the building. Concrete entrance steps led from a well-groomed pebble driveway, up to the veranda. Either side of those steps, a matched pair of beautifully shaped specimen Yew trees grew, rising to about one metre above the roof line.
The day turned out sunny. By midmorning, our painter had stirred his five-gallon drum of bright red paint, hauled it up the long ladder, along with his air hoses onto the veranda corrugated iron roof, which had virtually no slope to it. The whole roof, new and original, was to be painted red. For some reason, red was a popular roof colour in those days.
Hoses lay across the roof; just where he had dropped them in a jumble. Why he needed so many hoses was a mystery to me. In the midst of that clutter of hose, was the five-gallon drum of bright red paint, with its lid removed and levelled up on a block of wood. Directly in line with that drum of bright red paint, were those two Yew trees.
The compressor was thumping away down below on the little truck, maintaining an even air flow through the hose. Our painter, picking up his spray gun pulled the trigger, testing the air flow a couple of times. Although the air flow was good, there was no sign of any paint. A blockage somewhere, our master painter determined. He began checking, shaking the spray gun and banging it on the roof, in an effort to dislodge, whatever was stuck in there. Probably, it would have been a good idea to clean the thing properly, before he started.
Pressing the trigger a few more times, he still achieved a nil result. Turning the gun around, he peered at the nozzle, like a magpie looking into a beer bottle. Squinting in the bright sunlight, he unwittingly squeezed the trigger again. Oh, bugger. The blockage suddenly cleared.
Halfway across his plastic goggles, part of his face, his bushy eyebrows and his grey hair, all instantly turned bright red. With his vision severely restricted, he wiped his goggles with a bare hand, making things worse.
Wrestling with those paint covered goggles, and waving his spray gun around in an effort to maintain his balance, he stumbled blindly into that jumbled hose and tripped. Knocking over the drum of paint, he voiced a collection of words his mother never taught him.
At ground level, the lady of the house had just walked out for a look at the new colour scheme. She let out a terrified squawk, as a red tsunami headed in her direction. As luck would have it, the spouting and one of the matching Yew trees took most of the flood. The entrance steps and part of the lawn, where she had stood a second before, carried a colourful tribute to a painter’s folly.
That lady of the house, a dedicated gardener; had everything just so spic and span in her prize-winning domain. To see those prized trees she had nurtured for all those years, change colour in an instant, it must have been devastating.
Our intrepid painter slid warily towards the roof edge. Peering over and in a high pitched whine, enquired, ____ “is anyone hurt?”
White as a sheet, the lady of the house, appeared from where she had flown in an Olympic record-breaking leap.
“You stupid, bloody man”, she screeched. Gaining her second wind, she began a selection of obscenities. “Get off my property this instant,” she ranted. “I never want to see you ever again. Come on; don’t stand there like a dork, pick up your gear before I do something I will regret.” Then she continued another barrage of obscenities, the likes of which a dog would hang its head in shame.
With air hoses over his shoulder, the painter thought better than to demand the right of reply; instead he scrambled down the ladder, three rungs at a time. On the run, he threw everything, including the now empty paint drum onto the deck of his little truck. Diving into his Terraplane Coupe parked on the meticulously groomed pebble drive, bordered by raised and manicured lawn edgings.
Slamming the old car into first gear, he floored the accelerator, neatly burying the back wheels to the hubcaps. His hands still moist from wet paint, he lost control of the steering wheel as the Terraplane gained traction. In a sight reminiscent of a scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie, the car bounced off one raised lawn edging, going on to level a cluster of cherished bush roses inside their established plot, before careering onto the opposite raised edging, causing irreparable damage.
With rose branches and a small specimen flowering shrub wedged between the bumper and the radiator, the Terraplane Coupe roared in first gear, leaving the driveway resembling a cultivated paddock.
“Bloody hell!!” I whispered, as the painter eventually squeezed his Terraplane on two wheels though the road gate, in a classic broadside and cloud of dust.
I glanced at the duchess; her hands were clenched into tight little fists, while her eyes had become slits. Her biceps were pumped up, daring someone to say just one word. Before she could turn her bloodshot eyes in my direction, I hastily picked up my saw and frantically looked around for a piece of wood to cut.