Kansas Collection books



    Esmerelda was a blue 1929 two-door Chevy.  We became attached to one another the day I rescued her from the "junk car" lineup on a used car lot in North Kanss City.  She became my friend and financial support for several years.  But let's start at the beginning.

    Fresh out of high school in 1934, I had hopes of going to college.  The financial crash of 1929 was still being felt and the money that was to fund my college education was all but wiped out.  Late in the summer I was offered a chance to attend Park College, where I could work for my room and board.  I struggled through two years at Park but couldn't continue a third year.

    That summer, I landed a job with the Union Pacific Railroad delivering messages and papers around Kansas City for $75.00 per month.  With the help of some friends, I found a better job, operating a ditching machine for 85 cents per hour.  That was real good pay in those days.  We worked 12 hour days, six days a week, so I was soon rolling in dough.  But the job required a means of transportation.  So I bought Esmerelda.

    By the end of the summer in 1937, I had saved a little over $500.  I figured that was enough to see me through at least two years of college.  I knew that if I didn't get back in college that fall, I probably would never finish and get a degree.  The urge to spend some of that hard-earned money was pretty strong.  I quit the ditching job and took a week of vacation.

    College classes started the second week in September at Kansas State College.  So Esmerelda and I journeyed to Manhattan to enroll.  I actually enrolled twice that September day.  Once for myself and again under the name of a former roommate named Lew.  He wanted to work until the end of the week --- every dollar counted in those days.

    I began to look for a job to extend my income.  I found that jobs were few and far between, especially when you were not well acquainted around town.  I finally found that there was a need for hand laundry service to the fraternities and sororities.  I found a lady across town who would carefully launder the students' clothing, if I would pick it up and deliver it.  Soon Esmerelda and I were in business.  The income wasn't all that great, but it was a job, and it bought gas for her and was pocket money for me.

    I struggled through the first year at KSC and was still alive finanically.  I had been living in varous boarding houses around the campus and wasn't all that impressed with the lifestyle.  So at the first of the second year, I teamed up with four other fellows and we rented a basement apartment.  It wasn't very fancy and we took turns cooking and cleaning.  It was an experience I will never forget, but it was cheaper and better than rooming houses.

    Esmerelda and I broadened our base that second year.  We developed a rather exclusive clientele of students who had nice clothing and wanted to keep it that way, with careful hand-laundering.  Some of our best customers were the fellows at the Acacia fraternity.  One of them was a former classmate at Park and through him I was invited to become a member.  I did some pencil pushing and concluded that, with the second job that was open, washing dishes and waiting table at the House, I could handle it.  That move gave me an additional contact in other fraternities and sororities.

    Once again Esmerelda came into play.  Not all the fellows at the House had cars.  Quite often, I was invited to double date with my fraternity brothers.  They would furnish the girls and I furnished the car.  On occasion I would make Esmerelda available to one of my brothers that had a real heavy date, for a fee.

    Things were working out pretty well when Esmerelda came down sick.  She had a history of breaking drive-shafts.  Because this was the third such break-down, I was becoming experienced in fixing up her rear end.  With a quick trip to the salvage yard and help from my friend Lew, we soon had her on the operating table --- which was the driveway across the street, at Lew's fraternity house.  As I was underneath struggling with greasy parts, Lew called from top-side for me to meet these two neighboring sorority sisters who happened by.  I stuck my head out from under and said "hi" and went back to fixing the ailing Esmerelda, thinking that I would like to have a date with one of those girls.

    We got Esmerelda all patched up and running again.  The subject of a date for Saturday night came up.  At K-State in those days, the boys outnumbered the girls about two to one, so if you wanted a date, you had to plan ahead.  I called up Betty, one of the girls I'd just met that afternoon.  She didn't recognize me until I reminded her of our meeting, with me under Esmerelda.  Her remark was, "Oh, yes, you are the greasy one."  Even though her first impression of me was not favorable, she did consent to a date.  She said, "Come on down and we will talk about it."  Well, things have worked out pretty well.  Next June we will have been married 52 years.

    But back to Esmerelda.  She now had traveled a little over 85,000 miles and was getting somewhat tired and worn out.  She still functioned as a source of income and wheels for dates, but at a slower pace.

    The parties we attended at the sororities were all formal affairs that required a tuxedo and black tie for the fellows.  Lew and I were the same size so we purchased a tux, with all the accessories, on a joint partnership basis.  That meant we couldn't double date, but we shared the tux on alternate weekends.

    As things progressed during that year, several decisions had to be made.  Lew was due to graduate at mid-term and he had a job offer that required transportation.  The lady who did the hand laundry became ill and went out of business so I didn't need Esmerelda any more.  Lew and I struck a deal.  I agreed to sell him Esmerelda for $20 and his share of the tux.  He traded Esmerelda in on a newer car and took off for his new job.  Esmerelda and I parted company somewhat sorrowfully.  She had been a good and faithful servant, despite her weak drive-shafts.  That $65 I paid for her several years before was a good investment.

George and Daddy Bill

George Schiller's love affair with cars started at a tender age.
Here he is at the wheel of a Model T touring car with his father, Daddy Bill.

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