THE LITTLE STUDEBAKER THAT COULDN'T...And Why We Should Have Taken the Train.
Continuing the thread about my army experiences in the late 1950s. Click here for the previous entry.
Camp Oji, Tokyo, Japan, October 1957. I was by now settled down at my assigned duty in the Personnel Processing Detachment of Headquarters, U.S. Army Security Agency Pacific. And ready to see more of Japan.
Two of my fellow peons and I decided to take a few days off and have a nice, relaxing drive to Kyoto, see the sights and perhaps have a few beers. Never mind that none of us had ever driven on the left, that it is over 300 miles, that the alleged highway wasn't even paved in some spots, and that the car we borrowed was ready for the scrap heap. That's the wretched Studebaker in the photo, with the three of us — myself, Paterson, and Beatty — about to leave Camp Oji.
Heading west from Tokyo, we left the main road at Odawara and took the Old Tokaido Road through Hakone to Lake Ashi in the foothills of Mount Fuji. So far so good. Stopping for lunch at Hakone, we explored a bit of the lake before moving on. That's Paterson on the right, taking a photo.
A word about my photos: They were taken nearly 50 years ago and stored under less-than-perfect conditions. Those made with Kodachrome survived well and were easily scanned, but the ones on Anscochrome faded badly and took an awful lot of work in Photoshop Elements to restore. You can see the difference. The only reason I used Anscochrome was that it could be processed in Tokyo, while Kodachrome had to be sent to Kodak's facility in Honolulu for developing.
Also, I apologize if I got anyone's name wrong, memory does fade after all those years.
Our plan was to rejoin the main road at Mishima. Somewhere along the line this turned into a dirt road for a few miles, and at an intersection the signs were only in Japanese characters, so we tried to match these to the ones on the map.
Approacing Nagoya, the first disaster happend. The brakes failed. Using the engine to slow down, we came to a halt and flagged down a cab. The cabbie led us, driving very, very slowly, to a repair shop that was conveniently near a hotel. The brakes would take until the next morning to fix, so we explored Nagoya, had dinner, and spent the night in the hotel.
In the morning, after a dubious "western" breakfast, we started off on what should have been the final leg before Kyoto. But then, more trouble. The generator failed, apparently some while back, and now the battery was dead and we could not move. Along came a very tiny Toyopet truck, who stopped to help us. In my best Japanese, I said something like "denki damé," which might mean "bad electricity." Anyway, he got the picture, produced a sturdy rope, and tied it to our front bumper and his rear one. Now, this "truck" was about half the size of the Studebaker, but it dragged it all the way to a truckers' stop, where he got on the phone to persons unknown. Then he handed me the phone. It turned out to be a deactivated U.S. Army base at Otsu. The caretaker there said to wait, he will rescue us. An hour later an Army "deuce-and-a-half" arrived, and hauled us and the broken car to Camp Otsu. A repair shop in town set to work fixing the Stude, while we explored lovely Otsu and Lake Biwa. That's me in the photo, left, at a temple in Otsu.
We slept that night in the virtually abandoned Camp Otsu, and visited the repair shop first thing in the morning. No luck, it would take all day to fix. So we hired a taxi to drive us to Kyoto, take us to the sights, and back to Otsu in the evening.
Mission accomplished — we actually saw everything we had set for, and had a good time in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and one of the most colorful cities in the Far East. That's the "Gold Pavilion" (photo, above) of the Rokuonji Temple, first built in the 14th century and rebuilt in 1955 after a fire.
A note here: Back in 1957 everything in Japan was incredibly cheap, so even army peons could afford just about anything they wanted. Even hiring cabs by the day and eating at expensive restaurants.
Late afternoon, back in Otsu. We picked up the reanimated Studebaker and set off for Tokyo. Safely past Nagoya, we anticipated no more problems as we decided to take the toll road that bypassed the Old Tokaido Road. Then came the village of Toyohashi, where the road crossed rough railroad tracks. Bang! One of the rear springs broke in half. Right there, just yards away, was a repair garage. (photo, right. That's Paterson and Beatty next to the evil car) We dragged the decrepit mess there, they looked at it and through sign language indicated that we needed a new spring, obtainable at the local Studebaker dealer (!) in Nagoya. The next train left at midnight. Arriving at Nagoya around 1 a.m., we slept on a bench in the station's waiting room. Sleeping across from us was a beggar (photo, right). At daybreak, we set off by cab for the alleged Studebaker dealer. There actually was one! Purchasing the spring, which was about three feet long, we took the next train back to Toyohashi. By now, the whole village had heard about our plight, and applauded us as we marched triumphantly down the main street to the garage, leaf spring in hand. The car got fixed (photo, below), and nothing else happened on the last leg back to Tokyo. We made it just in time for work the next morning.
Next time, take the train!
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
SO, just what Little Adventure am I up to now in 2013? Why, just the most challenging one of them all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.