Teacher Was Her Own Car Mechanic

In cold weather, schoolteacher used alcohol for antifreeze in her car.

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I drove my old 1920 touring car until the snow banks were higher than it and the slightest wind would fill the narrow path shoveled out by manpower every day. No heater, but my father had fixed a pipe so the exhaust would run under the car under my feet and there were icing glass and leather side curtains. Alcohol in the radiator for an antifreeze boiled away often to a reduced strength as I drove those seven miles to school. On the coldest days when I arrived I would turn a little petcock under the car and drain the contents of the radiator into a pail which I would set behind the stove in the schoolhouse. There were times when it turned a thick greenish mush before night, though it had been drained boiling hot from the radiator. After school, I would dash out, start the car, race in and pour the pail of water-alcohol mixture in the radiator, then wait with the car running to keep it from freezing in the radiator. I was young and strong, but sometimes I could not turn the crank long enough to start it and the big boys would take turns doing it.

At last there came a day when I could no longer get through and I remember it took three days with a big crew of men shoveling to cover the seven miles. This was in Iowa, close to the Minnesota border.

Hazel Hoyt Markovetz
Urbandale, Iowa


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.