May 20, 2011

THE 1949 MERCURY/ The Safety Lanes

I always felt sorry for the guy who owned a 49 merc and drove through our neighborhood. because that car carried a trophy of our manhood.
It was the lock cover on the 49 Merc . It was something that caught our attention immediately.

It was about 2'1/2 inches in diameter it was round and had a 1/2 " chrome edge around the outside. and In the center was a chrome Mercury head, set in a deep red field that looked like a ruby.
We had never seen anything like this before, then, A local kid had one attached to his belt.
We all had to have one. now this lock cover pivoted from left or right in order to cover the trunk keyhole.

It was only secured in place by an 1/8'" piece of soft metal,

Any Merc parked was fair game and within a two week period there wasn't a lock cover in the area.

We even got so brazen that when a Merc stopped at a stop light we would walk up behind it and grab the cover and swing it up then with a sharp pull downward the cover came off in our hand. most of the time the driver never knew what happened.

This Merc head became our Medal of Valor .
we fashioned them into belt buckles and fit them to the straps of our Engineer boots.
I am hoping that the statue of limitations has long expired.


At the lake front on the northside of Wilson Ave, and west of Simmons Drive was a huge parking lot
this lot, parked buses and all kinds of week end traffic, but during the week it was the Safety Lanes

Now every car in the city of Chicago had to have a city sticker, this law was strictly enforced
Before you could get a City sticker you had to have a safety sticker, What a political gold mine this was.
every day hundreds of cars would come through the Lanes, cars would be herded like cattle twisting up one side and down the other and then finally through the Safety check point itself, the on duty attendants would check out your brakes, steering, windshields and head light alignment. You wouldn't pass. if your car was brand new, you wouldn't pass.
UNLESS you left a dollar on the front seat, then you would pass, unless your car was in real bad shape, then you might have to leave up to five dollars, once you got your safety sticker you could get your city sticker,

It was one of the most prestigious patronage jobs the city had to offer,

Oh Wait, Chicago never had patronage workers. wink, wink

Bill Matteson

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