One of the good jobs I had was helping Shirley Wilson reupholster cars. Shirley lived one block East of us. Mom was always worried because our horse corral was in their front yard. Shirley worked for P. E. Ashton Co., a large Chevrolet dealer in Provo, during the week and then had a shop out of his garage where he did seat covers in the evening and on Saturday mornings. One day Shirley asked me if I would work evenings. It was a lot easier than delivering papers and paid more. I have no idea of the salary, but likely $1.00 per hour. Every evening I would go over to Shirley’s and take the seats out of a car while he would sew a new set of seat covers. I would then put the seats back in the car.
Old cars used to have panels on the sides of the front seat which would have to be removed before the seat could be removed. These first screws were often very hard to remove. Many times I would end up using the left hand to remove screws I then learned the difference between right and left -handed screws. Right handed are easy for right handed people to tighten, and for left-handed people to remove. The reverse is true for left-handed screws if they exist. If I found one I just could not remove then Shirley would come and make it look easy. Sometimes the screws would twist off and have to be removed with a punch. The final problem was to remove the bolts holding the seats to the floor-board of the car. We didn’t have to worry about seat belts because they had not been invented or at least not in cars yet. The back seats were usually a whiz to get out. Shirley would now attached the newly sewn covers with hog rings. The u shaped hog rings attached the seat cover to some metal portions of the seat. I have heard that the rings were put in hogs nose, which I hope never to see because they would hurt.
We would often find things of value in the car seats when we removed them from the car. If we could we returned item to the rightful owner, but if it was owned by a used car company we normally pocket small change items. I started a collection jar for my college fund and saved enough to buy a savings bond. The car that had the largest amount I ever found was Doug Palmer’s former car. I guess I should have returned his money but he had sold the car, but he was Kathryn’s boyfriend before me. I just delighted in using the savings bond generated from these findings to buy part of an engagement ring for his ex-girlfriend.
One day I found a good expensive wrist watch in the seat of a car. When the opportunity presented itself I returned the watch. The owner cried like a baby. Far to much for any normal reaction. Upon questioning I found out that he had reprimanded his toddler son for throwing it out the window. They had searched for it in the car and up and down the roadside, with no luck. It had gone down into the seat in such away that only by removing the seat could one find it. I always assumed that the response of the father had been due to remorse for some physical reprimand.
The next summer Shirley and Russ went into a partnership to refurbish cars for the dealers and public. Shirley was in charge of seat covers and Russ did detailing and polishing. The business occupied an old yellow “Stinker” gas station in Provo. Russ had the lift for washing, detailing and changing oil. We had the covered area where the gas pumps had been, the main office and a back storage room. The business were separate but complementary.
There was this neon sign that had the words seat covers on top and Shirley Wilson on the bottom. One of the neon lights burned out leaving Seat and Wilson lights on, thus Shirley and covers light burned out. Merrill Ray Carter coined the term Seat Wilson for our boss. All enjoyed the laugh and I don’t remember ever seeing the sign fixed. A new sign is present on his new building last time I checked.
We all liked working for Shirley because he worked hard, used good language, taught us about life and automobiles. Shirley graduated from Payson High School in 1942 (possibly 43) and all of the males in his graduating class were drafted for the war effort. Only half were alive for the first class reunion after the war. He came home learned a trade, built a good business, married the most beautiful (well second) girl in Goshen. He took his wife on a date every Friday night. Generally a movie but an honest date. I wish I had been better at this in my life. He served in the Church in many capacities. He acquired many old houses that he would fix up and rent. Often times I would go help on a rental property for him. He had a good family that still runs the business that he built. He taught me much about life, work, and cars. One other character was his ability to predict milage on a car by studying the interior. We would test him and find that he was hard to fool. I later used this in buying used cars. Check the arm rests, floor mats, each pedal, look in the trunk, and check the oil. I ask a salesman for a low milage car and he tried to sell me a car that had 150,000 miles on it as 50,000. Since American cars would read as 50,000 when they had 150,000, after checking I said lets look at some low milage cars now and don’t pull that again. I then purchased a white Pontiac that I drove over 100,000 additional miles.