Shared Stories: The End of My Time at the Sawmill

Belle Fluhart supported her husband’s entrepreneurial endeavors as long as she could, but she was a little skeptical about one of his business partners. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Belle Fluhart

After World War II, George had been working with his father and Uncle Burt in Los Angeles County building a sawmill to be trucked up to northern California later. I was still living in Kern County near his parents.  

George called and said he was buying a car from Uncle Burt and to send him $300.00. That isn’t much money now, but at that time it was what I could save penny by penny out of my $80.00 allotment each month from the Army.

But we did need a car, so I sent the money. George’s mother came by and told me George was in Bakersfield with the car. We were to come and bring all of the tires and wheels we could find.

She didn’t have any wheels or tires. I didn’t either, so we drove the hour and a half down the narrow winding mountain road through the Kern River Canyon.

We met George in Bakersfield and saw the car. It was a 1933 Ford. It had two 19-inch wheels on the rear, a 17-inch wheel on the left front, and a 16-inch wheel on the right front. This made the car ride at a slant. These wheels and tires were borrowed and had to be returned to Uncle Burt.  

George said, “I’ve gone through everything mechanical. It runs like a new car. Get in and start it.” I did, and it really did sound like a new car.

I turned off the engine and looked around at the interior. George had done a good job cleaning it. Then I looked up.  

It hadn’t had a top on it, so George had built a ceiling of chicken wire and then covered it with an old quilt. This is what I would always see inside the car. On the outside, you only saw the black waterproof cover.

Uncle Burt had sold me a car for $300.00 without wheels or a top.

A few weeks later is when I moved up to the sawmill. I was going to Ukiah and I asked Uncle Burt if he wanted to come along.  He said, ”Yes, I’m going to drive.”

I said, “I’m going to drive.”

He said, “Then I’m not going.”

I said, “Suit yourself,” and turned on the key.  He came and got in the passenger seat.

We managed to get through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. But I had used up all of my savings and all of my canned goods from under the bed. Uncle Burt still wasn’t giving George’s father any of the proceeds from selling lumber in town.

I told George, “I’m going back to southern California and go to work.”

He said, “If we get going good will you come back?”

I said, “Your father and Uncle Burt have been partners all your life.  Has he ever given your father any of the proceeds?”

George said, “No,” and asked again, “if we get going good, will you come back?”

I replied, “If you let me go alone, I’m not coming back.”

He said, “Then you’re not going alone.”

We went south and George went back to U.S. Motors. I got a job in the Sears mail order department.  We bought our first home in Lynwood.

I have no idea what would have happened if George had said anything else that day.  We were married 61 years and 2 months when George passed away in 2004.