Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

This time of year always brings back memories of Halloweens past. I can still remember as a second or third-grader marching in our costumes the around the block in front of Ballard School.

Back in the early 1960s there were just a few houses scattered through the open field between the school and the Presbyterian Church.

I think the parade was held in the early afternoon, giving parents and friends time to get away from home and work to watch us make the short walk around the block. It seemed long for those of us with short legs.

It was almost always a warm afternoon, making it hot inside the costumes we were wearing, especially as most of them had a little mask that went along with them.

Having the parade in the afternoon also gave the moms in the Ballard School Mother’s Club time to set up games and activities for the kids after the parade. We still bobbed for apples back then, and I remember the cold water feeling pretty good as we dunked our heads trying to get an apple. I don’t think schools bob for apples anymore. We only had 30 kids or so going to school in Ballard back then, and I’m not sure all of them tried to get an apple by sticking their heads in the water.

Last week it would have felt good to dunk your head into a cold container of water, as temperatures exceeded the 100-degree mark in many locations. Those are the days when I appreciate the A/C in my pickup. We did not always have that luxury.

I spotted an older pickup driving down the road the other day hauling quite a few pumpkins in the back. I think it was a 1965 Chevy step-side truck, and I remember thinking how much pickups have changed over the years.

Our first pickup was a 1957 half-ton Ford, with a 272 V8 motor and a three-speed transmission with overdrive, and the shifter located on the steering column. Like the ’65 Chevy it was built for work. You did not have to worry about denting the bed if you threw something heavy into it. It had a bumper that was made for protecting the truck if you happened to back into something.

Most pickups of the era had a diamond-plate steel bumper on the back. You had to really try to bend that steel. I remember using the bumper on the ’57 Ford as a light anvil. You could place a bent piece of equipment on the bumper and pound it back into shape most of the time. It might get scratched, but it would not bend.

Today, the rear bumpers on pickups are all for show. I know. I’ve backed into quite a few vineyard end posts, and every time I end up Monte’s Auto Body to repair the dent or replace the whole bumper, not to mention the tailgate that probably needs a little repair to go along with it.

All in all, I was glad to be driving my newer pickup last week when it was so hot. As tough as the ’57 Ford was, it did not have an air-conditioner.

Sounds like it’s going to cool down this month. They’re even calling for some light rain this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member for of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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