My introduction to steam in 1959

In the summer of 1959 I was a 16-year-old kid living on 40 acres ten miles east of Hot Springs, Arkansas. There wasn't a lot to do on that 40 acres, by myself.

A mile east of our place, on the other side of the road, was an automotive repair shop. An 80-year-old man named Harold Bates was the sole proprietor of the shop. He was in excellent physical shape and looked about 60.

One day I walked into his shop and asked for a job.

"I can't afford anyone," he said.

You haven't heard my offer," I said.

"Which is?"

"If you will simply teach me some of what you know, I'll work for free."

"You're hired."

He did teach me quite a lot. Every lunch hour he would tell me how superior the steam car was to the gasoline automobile. Steam was more powerful, steam was simpler, steam cars were more durable.

Harold Bates had been a steam car mechanic in the year 1900.

His shop burned down one Sunday morning in August of 1959. I never saw him again.


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This page was updated on November 29, 2006