Owning an antique vehicle is not without its challenges. Many of these challenges are often presented with much hilarity, especially in retrospect.
My 1957 M606 Willys military Jeep is no exception to this. I am often smack in the middle of some hilarious adventure mostly due to its age, simple construction, and quirkiness. Everything you would come to expect in a 60 something year old piece of history.
I was working at the YMCA, and had brought the Jeep to work several times. It was always well loved by the children, as well as the staff members. Quite often during lunch breaks, I would drive staff members around in the woods, and amuse my campers.
One Friday evening, the staff had organised a drive-in movie at one of the only drive-in theatres in the Niagara Region.
The staff decided to invite me to accompany them at the drive-in for a movie called Cowboys & Aliens. I reluctantly accepted and agreed to pick a few of them up and join them.
Camp staff are not like regular staff. Camp staff are loud, fun loving, and slightly crazy. This is a job requirement, as working with children all day long requires immense amounts of energy, and a positive attitude that can hardly be described in words.
I arrived with a Jeep load of staff and several other staff vehicles in a convoy at the Drive-In theatre. I paid the exorbitant entry fee and was advised to turn my radio to a specific radio channel to hear the movie.
“Don’t drive-ins have speakers that clip to my windscreen?” I asked. The lady who took my money giggled and said “not for the last 25 years, sorry.” My Jeep was not equipped with any form of radio. It was a tool of the military. Such luxuries were not part of it’s make up.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to listen to the movie. I had hoped maybe I could park near one of my staff members and they could roll the window down.
As always, people took notice of the vehicle and watched it creep through the rows of vehicles. We rolled slowly through the parking lot, which was barely illuminated by the dim, 6 volt headlamps. I parked between several of the staff vehicles, and we had a good laugh about our predicament.
Commercials started to play, and I said to some of my staff “This windscreen is cramping my style” and had them help me put the windscreen down on the bonnet. It was a very freeing feeling. No doors, windows, roof, or windscreen. It was just like sitting on a platform with wheels.
Thinking about being unable to hear the movie I asked one of the staff to move so I could search the glove box. The glove box in my Jeep was located under the passenger seat. The passenger seat must be flipped up to access it. Inside I found a survival radio.
A hand-cranked, AM/FM Survival Radio made by ETON. The ETON Microlink 160 Survival radio had an LED torch, solar panel, crank handle and included AM/FM as well as weather band receiver.
I turned it on and tuned it to the station the movie was being broadcast on. We could now all hear the movie through the small radio.
During the movie, the open Jeep allowed any of the surroundings to easily waft through. Anything.
At one point I could smell a very distinct, earthy smell waft in our direction. Alex, one of the most animated, and amazing staff members started to sniff repeatedly.
“I smell pot!” he said in a loud voice. Everyone in the Jeep started giggling and shushing him.
Alex stood up and yelled at the top of his voice “Hey, who’s smoking the gange! I can smell it over here!”
We could not contain our laughter, nor could any of the other staff members in nearby cars. Our laughter was replaced by more shushing.
About ½ way through the movie the sound started to crackle. The radio battery was dying. I grabbed the radio and started to spin the crank handle and the sound got louder. Unfortunately the radio used up as much power as I could crank out, and it would not charge the battery. For the next while, I spun the crank handle so my 3 staff members could hear the movie.
Alex volunteered to spin the crank handle for a while, and I passed it off to him. Somehow, when he grabbed the radio from me, he pushed the button from FM to Weather band.
During a quiet scene in the movie, the entire area started blaring “weather conditions for the Regional Municipality of Niagara”. I snapped my head over to Alex as his wide eyes were fixed on the radio, trembling and twitching to try and see which button he pushed. I quickly pushed the button back to FM, and we all laughed.
Unfortunately the movie was quite boring. Perhaps it was our mind-set, or because we could not hear it properly with the hand-cranked radio, or perhaps our tomfoolery was more amusing than the movie itself.
Alex’s mind started wandering and he glanced over at one of the other screens and yelled out “They’re playing Captain America, and there’s a Jeep like this one!” which was followed by giggling and significant shushing by myself and several people.
The movie ended, and we were free of the burden of the hand-cranked radio, and I had one more hurdle for the evening.
Although the Jeep is a tool of war, it is an ancient tool of war. As such, I am never 100% sure it will be willing to start when asked. I explained this to my staff, and everyone said they would be happy to push it if necessary. With baited breath, I turned the key. Thankfully it started after just a few cranks.
I popped the Jeep into gear and decided I was going to show off a little to my staff. I drove the jeep across all the large dirt berms which separated the different movie screens. They all loved it.
Leaving the drive-in, I dropped off my staff members and headed home for the night. Another hilarious adventure in the Willys Jeep.