Some of my fondest memories as a young boy in the 1960’s were the Saturday afternoons I spent with my father at Babe’s Body Shop in the Bronx. Babe and my father were old army buddies who served together in World War II. They grew up in the same neighborhood and remained friends their entire lives. I never knew his real name or his last name, everyone just called him Babe. As my father and Babe would talked about the old days and the War, I would wander off and watch the men in the shop perform their magic. I can still remember as if it were yesterday. I watched in amazement as these men took a wrecked car and pounded it back into shape. In those days, you didn’t just replace a fender or quarter panel, you fixed it. These guys had the strength of Hercules and the skill of a Michelangelo.
I remember on one particular day, my father noticed how fascinated I was watching the guys in the shop. He knelt down beside me, pointed to the guys and said, “I call these guys, Men of Steel. These are tough guys that work hard each and every day. They can take a crumpled-up fender and with hammer in hand, work it back into shape just the way it looked when it rolled off the assembly line; and all by eye”.
Before we left to go home, my father and I walked around the side of the body shop and pulled two sodas out of the Coke Cooler. Then we would sat down on a bench seat taken from of an old Desoto and finished our Cokes. Could an eight year old ask for a better summer Saturday afternoon?
For many of us, childhood memories have served to create pathways to our careers. The auto repair industry is filled with shop owners and mechanics that draw upon past memories to shape their lives. The auto repair industry may have changed a bit, but we still perform magic every day. We are a dedicated breed and should be proud of what we, as a group, have accomplished.
My passion for this business was born watching those “men of steel” back in the 60’s. I knew from a young age what I wanted to do in my life. I feel lucky that way. I often wonder how many people go to work every day hating their jobs.
I am a mechanic and a shop owner. It’s the life I chose and it’s the life you chose. We all have a special bond. It’s the reason AutoShopOwner.com was created. Through the use of words, comments and stories we express who we are. We share, learn and become better at what we do. The glue that has bonded us together is our past. That same glue will help secure our future.
My father encouraged me to open my own shop and we shared some great times before his passing in 1986. You see, he was also one of those “Men of Steel”. I’m not one to live in the past, but I would give just about anything to have one more summer Saturday afternoon, sitting on that bench seat behind Babe’s Body Shop sharing a coke with my Dad.