I found that it took two summers and two winters to build up a steady group of customers. Some customers only bought gas, others came in for repairs, but they all came back. It also took a couple of years to find out which ones to give credit to, which ones you could trust. There were people who would steal the pennies off a dead man's eyes. A couple of times in the beginning of our business, we got stung.
One fellow filled his tank every weekend and paid for the gas he got last week, so he was always driving with the gas we paid for. This went on for about a year. Then one weekend he did not show up. After some investigation, we found that he had moved to Quebec. At the post office, they refused to reveal his new address, so I asked, "Is this the way you abet a criminal?" Sorry, post office procedure.
Another fellow who had run up a bill, went fishing in Lake Erie, fell overboard, and promptly drowned.
One German immigrant started a donut shop in Port Robinson. He worked real hard: got up in the morning at 4 a.m., cooked the donuts, ate a couple himself, then went on delivery. I found him asleep in his van in front of the bridge. He had come to the canal when a boat came through. When I woke him up, the boat was long gone. Other vehicles just went around him and left his tired body slumped over the steering wheel. All his hard work did not save him from going under. His troubles were his customers did not pay. The last time we met, I got a solid promise he would pay me every cent he owed because I had been so good to him. Well, I am still waiting.
But life went on and we kept plugging away with what we got. Besides mechanical work, I also took on body work, and hired Albert the Frenchman to do most of it. Many different people worked for us. They came and went. I always agreed that if you could better yourself somewhere else, by all means, go.
We got even busier in 1960 when our third boy, the fourth child was born. At about 11 p.m. we went to bed one day in October. One hour later, Mama woke me up to tell me it was time. I jumped out of bed, grabbed the nicest used car in the lot, a 1956 Ford, and raced to the new hospital, ignoring red traffic lights and speed limits. Too late, I was just not fast enough.
At the emergency entrance, I told them of my predicament. Immediately a couple of nurses with a wheel chair took charge and wheeled mother and baby into the lobby. I took off. Before I got home, they had called already that I was the father of a son. I never actually learned till later when I called the hospital to find out what was cooking. They informed me that they had called but nobody had answered the phone. No wonder, I was not home yet.
The three children whom we left all by themselves did not hear the phone, they were fast asleep. In those days, fathers were not permitted to be present at the delivery.
A few days later, when Mom and the new baby came home, everyone was so thrilled, not only Ma and I, but especially Elly. She could not keep away from the little tyke. Now he had to have a name: Bill was named after my Dad, and John after Mom's Dad. Elly suggested we call him Henry. I didn't know why. I didn't think she ever heard of the famous Henry's of our time: Henry Ford or Henry J Kaiser, the big business magnate. She just figured it was a nice name. The rest of the family agreed, so from then on, the little darling would be known as Henry Peter Kaas.
Just a minute, where did the name Peter come from? Well, a couple of places: first, all of the others had a second name, and we loved him as much as the others; second, H.P. stood for horse power, we hope he would grow up to be as strong as a horse; and third, the first Pope on earth was called Peter, so we were very proud to have a little namesake in the family among us.