GRANDPA, DAD, ME AND THE GREASE PIT
Back about eighty years ago, when Grandpa and Grandma bought a house, it had a big enough back yard that in it, Grandpa could build a huge, 4-car garage. The garage was a dimly lit lair which, in the present day, might be called a "man-cave." _Nothing against the ladies, mind you, but this place reeked of oil, kerosene, grease and wet-rotted wood, and there were even a few (gasp!) girly pin-ups. _Oh yes, this was most definitely the exclusive domain of the XY chromosome.
Upon a battered old desk in one corner sat an equally battered old cathedral radio. _Instead of playing dramas like "The Lone Ranger," "The Shadow" and "War of the Worlds," it very incongruously played, "At the Hop," "Earth Angel" and "The Duke of Earl." _Nevertheless, the décor was definitely "Early Depression" and the countless license plates nailed to the walls testified of the establishment's advanced age.
One of the neatest things about the garage was the grease pit in the floor. _Grandpa, Dad and I would remove our watches and rings, lift out the protective wooden planks and descend into that dank, damp pit—the holy of holies—where beer-swilling, sweat-stinking MEN farted shamelessly, said very bad words and got black grime irrevocably implanted beneath their fingernails as they worked on greasy, oil-dripping automobiles. _Suffice to say, we didn't eat quiche.
Anyway, since pre-war days and up through the sixties and seventies, that pit was used quite a lot and all kinds of car repairs got done down there, including welding. _We didn't worry about poisonous or flammable vapors and we certainly spilled a few pints of gasoline, but nothing bad ever happened. _I dunno; maybe it wasn't actually dangerous or maybe we were simply lucky enough to get away with it. _I recall discussing the subject of safety only once and only very briefly: That was the time I asked Grandpa why he had built that concrete pit instead of installing some kind of lift. _His reply was, "Did you ever hear of a car crushing a man because it fell off the ground?"
Love old working spaces like that. I think the smells and atmosphere worked better than a "no girls allowed" sign. They didn't want to be in there.
Coll work place with what sounds like great history. Tim
When it's time for an oil change in a modern ground-hugging car I wish I had a pit.
Imagine girly photos even back then Nice story thanks for sharing
Pits are/were nice, but I like my lift! Heck, I even lift the car up a bit to clean the wheels/spokes! Why bend over or crouch?
Bob: Seeing the grease pit made me think of the same thing where we lived at Lindsay, Cal. My
Dad was a jack of all trades. The shop building was open fronted(non garage type) and on the south portion was a grease pit. I was only 6 or 7 years old then, and just out side the shop was an anvil, a hand crank forge and all the tools that a blacksmith would want.
The building was there in 1939 and is /was still there in 2012 as I always stop there and pick fresh oranges off the tree. On my last trip to Missouri I had about 40 lbs of fresh California grown and picked oranges to give away. Nothing better that a RIPE CALIFORNIA ORANGE..
A friend had a new barn built and went with a pit. He got so lazy, he would drive his lawnmower over it and sharpen his blades without ever taking them off!
After a while he got a bright idea and painted the insides a glossy, light reflecting white, but then it filled up with live and dead mice who would fall in and couldnt climb back up the slick walls so he put a rope dangling down in the corner so they could escape.
Dave, I used to haunt an old junkyard that still had model "T"s in the back wooded area in the 1980's and the OLD man that ran it - everybody called him "Pappy"- had a big hand painted sign on the never-closed gate : "No women or boys under 12 allowed!"
We had a barn with a wood floor and a removable section about 2 by 3 foot.
In the olden days a wagon was parked under the hole. When it was full of digested hay and oats it was emptied a nearby field.
My dad and grandfather laughed at me when I used it as my grease pit in the 50's. I had to build a platform to stand on to reach the vehicles. Changing oil was OK but when I did the clutch in my 41 Ford coupe I lost about 50% of the bolts on the dirt floor.
Fun reading Bob, thanks
Great story Bob. It brought back some memories.
I've known of two different young men who at different times were trapped in pits under cars on fire. One was in Grand Rapids Minnesota in the 1960's and one was in Owatonna Minnesota in the 1980's.
Both guys lived through the ordeal. One was blind as a result and both were severely scarred. The fella in Grand Rapids died about a month ago.
I didn't bring this up to put a damper on your story. Most of us older guys remember the sights, smells, sounds and poor lighting of those pits and a lot of us worked in them. But I can't help think of those two episodes when I see a pit.
I built several of these service pits over the years for clients. They are
somewhat complicated to form up without cold joints. One facility had
about 120' of pit run in three parallel pits. They had rounded curbing at
the hole edge and were lighted, had power outlets AND compressed air
IN the concrete. They also had drains in the bottom so they could be rinsed
I like the idea of the old school wood plank trough to cover the hole when
not in use. If my place did not sit on a table rock (42" below grade), I'd
do a pit or two in my shop. But the lack of drain potential and use of
jackhammers or dynamite IN the shop just doesn't appeal to me. I think
a lift will be the better option.