Mr Newman and his new friends

Whenever we could, we would all gather around the dinner table together to hear my father’s stories of how he used to fix garage doors as part of his residential garage door service, of the people he met and the adventures he would sometimes find himself on. This evening was no exception as he recounted a story of hidden treasure and a mysterious customer.

On this occasion my father was called to an old house within the city, one of a few that had a garage, although the property itself was a little run down and dilapidated. When he arrived he was met by a slightly unusual looking man with a beard who was wearing sunglasses, even though it wasn’t a particularly bright day.

The man showed my father to the garage and explained the problem, which was that the door would no longer open but the man wasn’t sure of the reason. This particular door was not electrically operated but relied on the torsion spring arrangement to balance the door and allow the door to be opened manually and easily due to the springs taking most of the weight of the door. The door could be locked shut manually by a conventional key lock on the lever handle.

Treasure chest

The man disappeared back into the house. My father noticed the man seemed a little nervous and edgy but thought nothing more of it and got on with the task of investigating the problem of the malfunctioning garage door. After twenty minutes or so, my father had pinpointed the problem to an obstruction which was caused by something against the wall having moved too close to the door slider mechanism. He started to move several objects in order to gain access and to clear the obstruction.

The obstruction of the sliding tracks

My father had almost finished when he moved a large sturdy box which had a front opening door which fell open as it moved. Inside my father saw some jewels and a couple of small oil paintings. They looked very expensive and it seemed odd to him that they would be stored in a garage. Not wanting to pry further into his client’s personal effects he quickly closed the box and finished his repair.

He explained to the man and showed him the finished work. The man saw that the box had been moved and suddenly appeared even more nervous than before. He quickly thanked my father, paid him and showed him out.

Later that evening while watching the local news, my father saw a report about a robbery at a local gallery the previous night. Having not seen the contents of the box clearly, my father didn’t immediately think about the garage, but after a few hours something was bothering him, and after discussing it with my mother, he decided to call the police. After all he didn’t want to cause unnecessary trouble for the man if he was completely innocent.

Anyway, it turned out that the goods my father saw were stolen as the report on the TV had shown, and the gallery was so grateful to recover the stolen goods that they thanked my father with a generous reward. My father thought about how unusual it was to come across a customer like this as his customers were always so polite and kind, but came to the conclusion that there was always going to be a ‘few bad apples’. He donated the reward to his favorite charity because that’s the sort of person my father was…

Mr. Newman and the Inventor

One evening while we were all sitting at the dinner table with my mother and father, my father, as he usually did, told us a story of one of his days at work as a garage door repair man. My father, Jack Newman, was a clever man and had always been interested in making things and fixing things. When he was growing up he would spend time in his own father’s garage, which was actually more of a workshop, and would make toys and fix old clocks and generally tinker with whatever he could get his hands on.

He told us the story of how he was once called to look at a garage door which had stopped working properly. The owner of the property was away and he had been called by the housekeeper who needed to get something out of the garage but couldn’t operate the door properly.

My father was shown to the garage by the housekeeper. As soon as my father entered the garage he knew this was the home of an engineer, an inventor, somebody like himself who loved to dabble with all things mechanical. It reminded him very much of his father’s old garage when he was growing up.

Product innovation and new inventions?

As my father looked at the garage door itself he immediately saw that this was no ordinary garage door. In fact it was unlike any he had ever seen before in all his years as a garage door repair man. The door had the usual mechanism of torsion springs to balance the weight of the garage door, wheels running in tracks to guide the door as it lifted up and overhead, and the opening and closing action of the door was operated by an electric motor. A remote control handset activated the electric motor.

What was different about this door were the obvious experimental functions which looked as though they were still under development. There were different panels, some insulated, some with grills for ventilation. There were some modifications to some of the mechanical linkages and tracks, and the electric motor actuation system was like nothing he had seen before.
My father, despite the unusual modifications to the door, soon solved the problem which turned out to be some wear in one of the brackets holding the torsion spring which was causing the spring to rub and to stick during opening and closing. With this fixed, he explained to the housekeeper what he had done and she thanked him and apologized that the homeowner was not at home and would be back later. My father left and started to drive the long drive home.

Electronic wires and gadgets like the ones my father saw at the inventor's house.

That evening my father received a phone call from the client, who, by the sound of his voice must have been around 70 years old. The man was very grateful to my father for fixing the door and after a long conversation about garage doors and many technical matters, the man arranged to send a check to my father in the post. A few days later when the check arrived, my father found it was accompanied by a letter thanking my father once again.

Not only that, but the letter also contained a sketch of one of the inventions that my father had been admiring in the garage, and an offer to help my father make it and use it in the future, a sort of business proposition for the two of them. Of course my father was very excited to work together with the inventor and immediately wrote back and accepted the offer.
Not only did they become business partners and develop the new mechanism together, but also became good friends and shared their own garage door stories, which I imagine must have kept them talking for many hours.

Mr. Newman and his lucky escape

My father, always one to share a tale of his experiences as a garage door repair man, sat around the dinner table one evening told us about the time he almost got bitten by some fearsome guard dogs at a client’s house.

My father, Jack Newman, was well known for his residential garage door service in our neighborhood, and was often called to repair doors at short notice or in an emergency situation where people were stuck with their cars locked inside.

On this occasion the problem was apparently a stuck garage door which wouldn’t open. The house was large with a double garage set on some remote land outside the city and the owners were apparently quite wealthy.

On arrival, my father met with the owners and immediately got to work. He could hear a couple of large dogs in the backyard and saw some signs warning possible intruders of the dangers of trespassing. The signs featured pictures of two ferocious looking Dobermans, all pointed ears and large teeth, looking menacing and ready to tear apart any unwelcome guests.

The faulty electric door opener and the remote control

As my father worked on the door problem, which turned out to be a faulty electric motor on the overhead door opener mechanism, which he quickly identified, estimated the cost of replacement and once approved went ahead with the repair, he continued to hear the large dogs barking in the distance and considered what a large backyard this house must have.

On finishing the repair and making sure the remote control opener still matched with the receiver to operate the door when pressed, my father went to find the owners to let them know that the repair had been finished. Forgetting about the dogs for a second, my father went through the door which linked the garage to the backyard, and suddenly found himself confronted by two dogs running straight towards him at top speed.

My father froze, unable to move, and then found himself almost bent double as the two dogs reached him, teeth showing, and tongues out as they jumped towards him. My father was in hysterics as he looked at the two miniature poodles complete with ribbons in their hair, intent on licking him and being stroked. He could still hear the large Dobermans barking in the neighbor’s backyard some distance away.

As the owners appeared and saw my father laughing and being licked to death by their prize poodles, they explained that the signs were just a deterrent and they relied on the barking of their neighbors’ dogs to justify the warning signs, whilst their prize pooches provided the early warning system by alerting the large dogs next door.

Prized poodles

My father said his goodbyes and on his way home considered the guard dogs and how the neighbors and the dogs sub-consciously worked as a team, one providing the big barks and frightening teeth and the other providing the small ears and barks as the early warning, alerting the large dogs to potential danger. The thought of this reminded him how much easier life can be when people work together and help each other.

Mr. Newman meets the Windsors

My father once recounted a story, as he often did around the dinner table, about the time he was called to repair a garage door for a well-known English family called the Windsors. OK, it wasn’t ‘the’ Windsors as in the British Royal Family, but he did happen to know they had a large house and a rather large collection of vintage cars, many of which were British classics.

So, although my father was probably more excited about seeing the vintage cars than repairing the garage door, he was always keen to meet new people and to exchange stories and share his experience. He set off to find the house of the English Windsor family who had settled in the US some years previously. However, he had also heard that the house had a ghost!

As it turned out, once my father had found the huge house hidden away on the outskirts of the city near a large forest and driven up the long gravel driveway, he was confronted with not one, but three garage doors, all of a type very well known to him; the Crawford Marvel-Lift from the 1960s, the very make of door which got him into this business in the first place.

Mr. Windsor was a larger than life affable character that my father took an instant liking to, and the two of them immediately started chatting about garage doors, cars and life in general, but of course not before my father had established that the problem was linked to the famous “safety torsion spring”, part of the patented and allegedly fool-proof mechanism that made the Marvel-Lift door famous. To be fair, this mechanism didn’t fail that often and was a fairly straightforward case of changing the torsion spring which had the garage door operating in no time at all.

The ghost of the Windsors

As my father had repaired Mr. Windsor’s garage door so quickly, Mr. Windsor offered him a cup of tea, as you would expect from a British gentleman, and soon the conversation turned to the story of the ghost that my father had heard about. On hearing this, Mr. Windsor offered to show my father around the garages which contained 5 vintage cars, some dating back to 1900. As they walked through the garages, Mr. Windsor explained the history of each car, when it was made, where, what type of engine it had, and finally they arrived at Mr. Windsor’s pride and joy, a 1908 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

As soon as my father saw the beautiful car with its silver wings and polished wood, he realised that the story of the ghost related to a classic car and not a spirit, and soon after that, Mr. Windsor fired up the vintage Rolls Royce and took my father for a spin around the block while they both laughed about the ghost story and agreed that often you can’t believe what you hear and it’s wise to verify rumours.

 

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Boat-Tail Skiff

A Creative and Heartwarming Solution

I remember one day back in the summer several years ago when my garage door stuck halfway open (or halfway closed depending on your outlook on life), and I was unable to get my car out. I immediately called my Father, because, as luck would have it, he used to be a garage door repairman.

My Father, although now ‘getting on’ in age, has always been an extremely active, fit and popular member of the local community; the sort of person that would do anything to help anyone and would never moan or complain.

My Father arrived, gave me a big hug and got straight down to work. Most of his life had been spent working on steel doors, the sort manufactured by Crawford Marvel-Lift, mainly steel panels with complicated springs, levers and catches, which is exactly what got him involved in this business in the first place.

My garage door, however, was made of wood, although it did still rely on a series of levers, springs and counter weights to ensure its smooth up and over operation. The problem here though, which my Father quickly identified, was a broken wooden panel which was jamming the door and preventing it from moving any further. The only answer apparently was to replace the panel with a new one which my Father would have to craft from whatever material he could find lying around.

At this point, I had to leave him to it as I had some other things to take care of. I made off to the house and suggested that he call me if he needed anything, knowing that him calling me for help would be the absolute last resort and he would rather spend the extra time solving the problem himself.

Some time later I wandered back towards the garage to find my Father clearing up after himself and putting away his tools. He proudly showed me his successful repair job and explained where he found the material to make the new panel.

It was at this point that I realised he had somehow found an old childhood desk of mine which had long been lost in the back of the garage. In fact it was a desk that my Father had originally made me when I was only 6 years old. So, there we stood, my garage door fixed with a piece of wood which had now been lovingly crafted by my Father for me twice over the space of around 40 years – how’s that for enduring love?

WP - A Creative and Heartwarming Solution