Moses and the Model T

Moses and the Model T Ford

A true story by Vic Zannis

As many of you know, whenever you take your Model T out for a drive, you usually run across someone who has a story to tell. It seems that the sight (maybe it’s the sound or even the smell) triggers some long forgotten day in their youth and they begin to reminisce.

Of course, everyone’s father had to back up hills, and most knew someone who had a car just like ours, (except it was someone who had a car just like ours, (except it was green, and a coupe and a Chevrolet, but just like our Model T).

But every once in a while, an old timer will tell a story that is so incredible that it just has to be true. I recently met a man who had just such a story. His name was Moses.

I knew there had to be at least a bit of truth to his story when he brought out an old faded, cracked photograph- the one the accompanying drawing is taken from. That’s me… there in the truck.” I had to look close, but sure enough, there was someone in the cab of the truck. He blended in well with the shadows.

I musta been 18 or 19 then. The picture was taken in ’28 or ’29. The Ford dealer had Model As in by then, but Mr. Forbes like the old Model Ts. There was faster trucks out there, and trucks that was a whole lot better to look at, but there wasn’t one of them that could do the job that old T could.

I started working for Mr. Forbes when I was 12 years old. I used to sweep floors, carry out the trash and help in the warehouse. When I first started, they still delivered them pianos with a team of draft horses and a big freight wagon.

Then after the First World War, they got a Ford ton truck. It’s pretty hilly around Birmingham, and the first week we had the truck, one of the drivers was going up Red Mountain. When he shifted into high, the ropes broke and the piano proceeded to unload itself right there in the middle of 20th Street.

After that, Mr. Forbes had a Jumbo transmission installed. The truck already had a two speed rear end and both of them were slow. It also had solid tires on the back that would shake your teeth out. Somehow, the boss had the mechanic lock both the transmission and the rear end in their lowest gears. He also blocked out high on the Ford transmission. When you left the warehouse you pushed the low pedal down and held it ’till you got where you were going.

You didn’t have to worry about running red lights. Sometimes you couldn’t make it across an intersection before the light changed again. Really, I think the team of horses would have been faster, but that old Ford would climb a telegraph pole.

A year or two before this picture was made, they took up the paving bricks on the street in front of the piano store. The street was repaved with a new layer of fresh asphalt. I must say, it was smoother.

Anyway, the bricks were piled in a vacant lot next door. Mr. Forbes bought the bricks from the paving contractor for a nickel each and sent me and the two other boys to load them on the Model T truck and take them to his house on south side. He planned on paving his driveway with them.

Well, we stacked bricks on that truck all morning. The paving foreman and some of the workers were laughing at us cause they didn’t think the old Ford would even move. We had bricks the full length and width of the bed and almost six feet high. We got in the truck, cranked it up and started out of the lot onto the street.

There was the same foreman and pavers shouting and yelling. I thought they were cheering us on! I looked back, I found out why they was yelling . . . we were leaving six inch deep ruts in their new asphalt street.

Originally published in The Model T Times March/April, 1995
Copyright 1996-2000 The Model T Ford Club International

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