Cordova Chronicles: A fleet of memories

Danny Glasen’s boyhood vehicles show wear and tear similar to that his father Dar’s Hoovers Movers trucks displayed. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

Awhile back I wrote a feature about a 1932 Ford pickup that Bill Bernard had parked outside his place on Odiak Slough. The cheerful blue truck had quite a history, including struggling up Cordova’s steep hills hauling crude oil in a 500-gallon-tank strapped on its small bed. The little rig had been stored in the back room down at Hoover’s for years, in an ongoing restoration project that Bernard has taken over.

Well, guess what? Turns out there were several other classic vehicles stored in the hidden recesses of the former Hoover’s Movers building, now home to North Star Lumber.

A couple weeks ago I dropped by to look for a small piece of metal trim to serve as the ridge cap on the roof of the grandkids’ play set down on the beach in front of our home. The original roof was covered with a green tarp, and lasted longer than one would expect, considering the vagaries of our coastal Alaska climate. I had covered it with leftover roofing metal, and knew the boys at North Star would have something somewhere to polish off the project.

Sure enough! Brian Speer suggested we go upstairs to look in “the trim section,” because “we have all kinds of stuff up there.”

Indeed. Found exactly was needed, covered in dust, and it took the computer about 10 minutes to find it in their inventory, at a price that was a heck of a deal, considering inflation over the past 20 years.

But even more exciting were three — I repeat three — classic vehicles parked nearby. They were also covered in dust, and not quite as big as the ’32 Ford.

There sat a trio of small metal toys, one of them a tow truck of a blue that almost matched Bernard’s pickup. Turns out Danny Glasen had been going through “boxes and boxes” of his mom’s stuff that had been stored upstairs for years, and was about to throw them away.

Brian suggested I call Danny about them, which I did. “I played with them when I was a kid (which was in the late ’40s), and so did my kids,” Glasen said.

When I mentioned that my grandson Huck spends about eight hours a day out in the sandbox in front of our house when visiting from Texas, Glasen said “Take em.  They’ll be put to good use.”

So I am now polishing up a blue Tonka tow truck; a red Tonka jeep labelled “Life Guard” on the side; and a long white ambulance, with a Red Cross Star on top and a Ford emblem on its hood, but no listed manufacturer.

All would make modern toy-makers cringe. All are made of metal, likely covered with lead paint, and feature sharp edges that somehow two generations of Glasens survived.

Actually, it’s amazing the vehicles survived. I used to go down to Railroad Row to play with the Glasen boys, and they were quite a rough and tumble crew. I always remember their mom, Kay, hollering at them in a fashion that would violate every modern-day principle of parenting, but I would have to say the boys all turned out pretty darn well; hard workers who followed their dad Dar into the Hoover’s Movers trade.

As far as Kay’s verbal outbursts, well, after all, it was a standard Cordova joke to go to Western’s at the old North Star Theatre, see Dar and Kay go down to the rows midway toward the screen, watch Dar send Kay to get popcorn, and invariable have her return down dark aisles in the middle of the previews, trying to locate Dar, who helped out by hollering: “Down here, woman.”

Anyhow, the recently attained fleet reflects considerable usage, and I plan on sending them to Huck and his dad Scott down in Austin, where spare parts may be more readily available. The tow truck is in the best shape of the three. The front bumper of the jeep is dented in, undoubtedly from some severe collisions with Railroad Road rocks or trees. In fact, for many years there was no road behind the original houses, and one had to walk a lengthy boardwalk for access to the homes. It was Dar that helped blaze a gravel byway through the area.

The ambulance is in the toughest shape. A rear tire is missing, the right side red siren is gone, and it definitely needs a front-end alignment.

Needless to say, all were clearly part of the long-standing Glasen/Hoovers Movers fleet, which was famous for it’s rugged and well-worn character. For a number of years Hoovers had the garbage contract, which involved hauling open refuse in the back of dump trucks to the garbage pile across Odiak Slough at the site of today’s Camp Ground.

One of my early summer jobs out of high school was working with a strong, muscular guy named Jim Keeling driving all over town picking up garbage, which was usually tossed in open metal cans. We lifted them up over the edges of the dump bed, and poured their contents in. I say poured, because in some cases it was precisely that. Plastic bags didn’t exist in those days. Hauling garbage is not a glamorous way to make a living, but today’s trash haulers don’t realize how good they’ve got it.

On one of my solo trips to the dump, the truck stalled near the site of the Rose Lodge. The engine flooded, and when restarted, smoke and flames came out from under the hood. I jumped out, raced down the bank with a bucket, filled it with water, and went back up to douse the flames.

I had to walk back to Hoovers (no cell phones then); the guys there probably figured the smoke from the truck was just smoke from the dump, which seemed to always be sending pungent clouds over town when a westerly was blowing.

Dar was neither surprised nor upset; everyday in the Hoovers fleet was an adventure. Danny recalled he and Gary Weinrich noting flames through the floorboards while picking up garbage behind the old Club Bar. “Hey, at least the fire hall was just right across the street at that time.”

Dar never did let any of us drive his beloved red Ford pickup, which was reserved for early morning cutthroat fishing trips out the road or for moose hunts, which consisted of parking at a favorite spot and patiently waiting for one to walk out.

“It used to drive me crazy, sitting there for hours like that,” said his son Danny.

But Dar always got his moose, and always caught his trout.

And beat up trucks, of any size, always bring back a flood of memories.

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