Taking ownership at the dawn of the consumer age

Second in the series of forgotten blog posts I originally wrote for iFixit, here is the story of mrs, a-go-go's ancestor, a fine example of iFixit's manifesto.

Mary Anne Anderson (Busavage) 1913-2008. Tinkers Daughter
In 1920 Ignas Bucevicius (alternately Ignatz, Ignatius, Busavage, or Butsavich depending on one's distance from Lithuania) jumped head first into the consumer age and bought a Ford Model T with two months pay. Though the anecdote is fogged by three generations playing telephone one detail comes through loud and clear; Ignas was not about to welcome the new age without making that mass produced machine his own, right down to the last bolt. According to the iFixit Self-Repair Manifesto, "If you can't fix it, you don't own it." Ignas knew this instinctively and was driven to parse his new gadget in an old-school teardown.

The story as witnessed by a seven year old Mary Anne Bucevicius (my spouse's grandmother) took place in Rockford, Illinois during a sticky hot summer. Ignas, her father, had left home that morning to buy the long aspired to freedom machine, a Ford Model T. By 1920 due to increasing efficiency in production the Tin Lizzie was selling for $290, about $3,200 in today's bucks, and Ignas was eager to bring a bit of status to his growing family. Mary Anne and her two younger sisters had accompanied their mother, Mariona on errands while Ignas was away. They were eager to return home knowing Ignas would be there waiting with the new Ford. Little did they suspect that the inner workings of the Model T would be laid bare in such detail when they arrived. Ignas, a natural born tinker and engineer employed by the swelling auto industry, had taken it upon himself and his tool kit to know that Model T. In a matter of hours he had disassembled and distributed all the parts of that car in a real-life exploded view. Mariona nearly dropped on the spot. Ignas, realizing the spectacle he presented, quickly got to work reassembling, as much to have the car running again as to keep domestic peace. His nuts and bolts skills came through and the Ts chuff, chuff, chuff, was heard again before sundown.

The Ford Model T, manufactured for nearly twenty years, provided the first internal combustion engine power in rural areas all over North America, and many ingenious folks modified the Model T to suit their own purposes. They served as farm tractors, they powered diverse machines from buck saws to threshers, and their engines spun the propellers of home-built aircraft and motorboats. These Model T chimeras would make contemporary tinkers proud and the people who built them had certainly taken ownership of their Flivvers.

With Mariona recovered from her fever, everyone climbed in the reassembled Model T for a ride. As they bounced down the lumpy roads of Rockford, Ignas knew the source of every groan and rattle in that car. In the following years after miles of bumps, when this or that wore out, he could feel what part needed attention without even looking. He had done more than buy that Model T, after a complete teardown and rebuild, he owned it.

1 comment:

plumJess said...

Read this piece again. Terrificly told.