©2010 Bob Stockton. Excerpted from "Listening To Ghosts," Xlibris Press. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
My father, Wilbur Chaffey Stockton, was twenty years old when I was born. At that time he was employed as a bus driver for Safeway Trailways driving the New York to D.C. route, and was the best bus driver I ever saw. He could park a big ACF bus on a gnat’s backside.
Pop hated the name Wilbur and always insisted on being called Bill. As Pop always had an eye for the ladies, he pretty much stayed in hot water with my mother and with his next wife after my mother divorced him in 1943. Compounding the problem was strong drink. Pop never met a boilermaker he didn’t like, which tended to cloud his better judgment and loosen his moral fiber. The family always said he would have been a superb actor. Pop could take the simplest happenstance and take it to an emotional level that even Barrymore would envy.
Pop always had a get rich scheme that never quite seemed to pan out. From time to time he would leave his bus driving work and embark on some new venture only to have his dream shattered by cold, hard reality. Pop always had a partner for these pursuits and they were usually broke. I recall the time that Pop and a character named Mac McLane were going to unionize the Trailways drivers into a
union titled “The Coachmen’s Association.” McLane was a real piece of work. He was a grizzled old timer who, if he had a toothache would simply take a pair of pliers, load up with enough Three Feathers whiskey that could stun an elephant and yank out the offending molar. The end result of Pop’s Coachmen venture was that Trailways fired Pop and McLane and the Association, along with several of McLane’s teeth, died a quick and unspectacular death.
I’ll say one thing about Pop: He never gave up. Pop was never without a slew of fresh business cards and a corporate title for himself to herald his current scheme. I have always suspected that Jackie Gleason’s “Honeymooners” character had to have been fashioned in part after Pop. There was the time when Pop and another of his cronies, Darrell Barr were going to make a few bucks in the “automobile glazing” business. Darrell was a bartender from West Virginia who migrated to Trenton and made enough money romancing rich women to open his own saloon. Darrell’s saloon (Pop used to call it “Mr. Barr’s Bar”) was located on East State Street just up from the Starr Transit Bus Line garage. The owners of Starr Transit were two gentlemen by the name of Sussman and Levy who had recently shown Pop the door at Starr for – you guessed it – trying to unionize the drivers. Anyway, Darrell owned a vacant garage next to the saloon and Pop talked him into a partnership in “D&B Auto Glazers.” The agreement was that Darrell would make the garage available and front the money for the buffer, pads and liquid polish and Pop would do the work. I think the cost to the customer was to be in the neighborhood of thirty dollars, which was no small consideration in 1956. It was summer and I pitched in with the old man to help out.
The first car glazed was Pop’s 1954 Chevy. “Got to show the public the quality of the process,” Pop announced somberly. Meanwhile I was to distribute business flyers on the windshields of cars parked in supermarket and strip malls far and wide. Official titles were bestowed, business cards were printed and we were ready for the stream of business bound to inundate the little garage. Pop would tell me of a time when we were sure to expand the business and just how that was to be accomplished. Plans were formulated and we waited eagerly for our first customer.
The guy’s name was Koskie, he had a terribly oxidized 1953 Buick Roadmaster and achieved the distinction of being the first - and only - customer that D&B Auto Glazers would service. After several weeks, the old man locked up the garage, withdrew to Darrell’s saloon next door and commiserated at great length with the local barflies.