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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Man, the Mechanic

Arthur Ruden, '37

The Magpie, January 1937, v. 21, n. 1., p. 13.

A powerful inclination for the mechanical showed itself from the very first day that I saw the light of this glorious world, for my mother swears that no sooner did she dangle a safety pin before me than I grasped this tool with both hands and would not let it go. From then on, my interest in mechanics and mechanical equipment constantly grew. Thus my mother recalls that at the age of two I had mastered the use of my toy hammer so thoroughly that it became necessary to trade in our old upright for a new baby grand piano (my father vigorously protesting), and at the age of five, my proficiency showed itself clearly and markedly on the best furniture. My progress in this direction was both constant and rapid, and on my eighth birthday I was able to under take the repairing of our grandfather's clock and the same day learned to understand the intricacies of the Victrola. This birthday will always remain fixed in my memory, for it was the first time that my father's affection showed itself in a strange and boisterous manner.

So, when my widowed aunt, knowing my ability as a mechanic, asked me if I would like to work at the garage, I did not hesitate to accept. However, I had to start at the bottom and work myself up. The bottom, in the technical language of the profession, was the cleaning up of the shop and of the grease pit. An unfortunate accident which occurred to the mechanic's assistant stepped me into his place. Now I learned to grease and change the oil in a car. This last looked very easy because all I had to do was to unscrew and remove the nut quickly, let the oil drain off, screw the nut back tightly and put the new oil in. However, my first three attempts were not altogether successful, for while I succeeded in removing the nut quickly enough, I was too slow in removing myself, and was bathed in oil.

My mistakes, like my experiences, were many. Was it my fault that the inner tube was stuck to the tire and while trying to get it out I ripped the tube? Was I to blame if the headlamp glass refused to come off and I, in the act of forcing it off, broke it? My aunt and I disagreed, and it was decided that the cost of these articles was to be deducted from the salary which I was to receive at the end of the season. Thus gradually did I perfect myself in my chosen field. Now and then an irate customer returned full of complaints, but invariably I was able to convince my good aunt that the trouble lay either in defective material or in the way the driver handled his car. However, the vast majority of customers never returned with complaints—or without them either!

Despite my huge success, business, for some unexplainable reason, dropped tremendously, until the sight of a customer was tremendously welcome.

But all in all, I returned home with much more experience than I had started out with, and incidentally, was seventy-five dollars richer.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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