Our next door neighbour was a retired blacksmith and just down the hill from his house were the crumbling remains of the old shop. Charlie was our mentor and us young boys were always welcome at the old shop to observe the operation. We learned a great deal about working the red hot metal on the anvil. We got to turn the handle of the blower to add the air to the charcoal forge. Observe the various tools and their use. The hammer as it was skillfully used on the hot metal to shape it. Something I never did figure out is why the second blow always hit on the surface of the anvil sometimes more than once. Maybe this was a way of determining the next crucial hit. Or maybe it was a way of adjusting the strength of the next hit. Then there was the wall-mounted drill with the big flywheel that took a lot of muscle from our young arms to turn it. One day a farmer brought in a team of heavy horses to have new shoes fitted. The horseshoe was heated red hot in the forge and shaped on the round tapered end of the anvil to the correct size for the horse. The red hot shoe was then placed on the horse’s hoof that was securely held up between Charlie’s legs. It burned into the hoof briefly and then was removed and dunked in the water barrel. After some more shaping of the hoof with a big file the new shoe was securely nailed in place and the horse was ready for clip-clopping on its way to work. Of course all four hooves were fitted with the shoes. Today we place new brake shoes ( pads?) on our cars and I wonder if the term originated from those old days in the blacksmith shop.
Many old blacksmith shops were turned into auto repair shops, but Charlie's shop never reached that stage. Charlie departed this world in 1945 and the old shop was falling down with big holes in the roof and rotting timbers. Charlie’s family wanted the old building torn down, as it was a hazard to any venturesome children around the neighborhood. Along came a couple of energetic guys with a Model A few years later that offered to take care of the problem building. After careful study a sturdy rope was attached to some support timbers connected to the rear bumper of the A parked thoughtfully on the other side of the street. The powerful four-cylinder engine was in fine tune and ready for the job at hand. The job supervisor was posted at a discrete distance in order to call the move. On his signal the A roared into action with gravel flying in all directions from the spinning nineteen inch rear wheels. The support was yanked out from under the roof and the building came crashing down in a cloud of dust. Another job by the A completed. The machinery had all been removed from inside previously.
Looking back on this event it gives me pause for reflection when I look at a sparkling model A at a cruse night drive in. Is this fun I ask myself? Depends on when you were born I think. The location of Charlie’s old shop is now home to a new auto shop that does restorations according to the sign over the door. Can’t help but wonder about that.