Military Vehicles

Servicing Parking Brakes

I began working for a living around the age of eight. My dad owned a small scrap metal yard in Oakland, Calif., Prior to the age at which some boys join the Cub Scouts, I helped him run our business, prowling among mountains of junk, searching for tidbits of brass and copper, electric motors, and car and truck generators. At the end of the day, I was rewarded with enough pocket change to hit the corner market for sodas, chips, and candy bars. My starting pay was fifty-cents an hour — not bad if one considers that most candy bars were a nickel, Shasta sodas were twelve cents a can, and a local burger joint sold surprisingly good cheeseburgers for just a quarter. As a bonus, I also got to drive our 1946 Reo 2-ton truck around the yard and play with our 1937 Northwest crawler crane.

I knew it was time to get serious when dad took me to the Army Surplus store where he bought my first pair of steel-toed engineer boots. Before, my toes had suffered a lot in my Keds sneakers. I quickly discovered the joy of having armored feet, kicking anything that got in my way, including a nasty neighborhood dog. It was also cool not having to dodge if a greasy car battery slipped out of my hands while unloading a truck.

One of the many trucks that brought scrap to our yard was a war-surplus, closed-cab CCKW. While military fixed-sided cargo beds aren’t usually good for most civilian applications, this truck was good as scrap-hauler since we unloaded vehicles with a magnet on our crane.

One afternoon this truck pulled in with a load of railroad iron. My dad was on the crane unloading another truck, so the CCKW’s driver left his engine running and went to battle our antique Coke machine (it was like playing the slots in Las Vegas). I noticed that the idling CCKW was slowly rolling backward. I got the bright idea of stopping it by shoving one of my fearless steel toes under a rear wheel.

There was

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