By Norris Chambers

            It became obvious that we would be involved in the big war that was raging in Europe and the preparedness program began in the early forties. All branches of the armed services were expanded and factories were being built and converted for the production of battle needs.

            Ella and I married in 1939 and I was ready to get involved in the program that was providing jobs in just about every line of work. After submitting an application by mail I received a job offer from a government facility that was repairing and modifying military aircraft. Ella and I moved to the city and I began to receive my first aircraft experience. My closest contact with an airplane had been to see it fly high overhead!  But my electronic background and constant government schooling soon made me a qualified aircraft electrician.

            The field where I was working was expanding from a few hundred employees to several thousand and no provision had been made for parking. The tiny parking lot that had been adequate for the few hundred cars was now full long before shift change.

            The temporary fix for this parking problem was to direct the cars to a large open field over a quarter of a mile from the repair shop. The field had no lighting and for those who worked the night shift locating an automobile was like hunting a rabbit in a briar patch. Adjacent lanes in the lot were divided by large wooden poles placed flat on the surface to serve as curbs. There was no gravel or paved surface to protect the users from mud when the weather of the day was rain! 

            It was my fate to be working on the swing shift, as they called the evening work period  that extended past midnight. When my old Chevrolet was mixed with several acres of other old vehicles and it was midnight with no lighting it wasn’t easy trying to locate the proper car. Not only was it hard to see a car, there were hundreds of other workers eager to find their transportation and get away. When the whistle blew the race to the parking area was like a large herd of cattle staging a stampede in the darkness!

            After a few nights of involvement in this confusion I decided to work out some means of automobile identification. The obvious answer was a signal of some sort that would lead me to the proper target. A timer and a visible light would be the perfect answer. With a little country ingenuity I mounted a dial light socket on the top of the radio antenna that I had installed on the left, front fender and routed a small two-wire cable to the area beneath the dashboard. Since no commercial timer was readily available I decided to adapt an old wind-up alarm clock to do the job.

            On the old alarm clocks there were two winding keys on the back, one for the time and one for the alarm. The key handles were connected directly to the springs and when the alarm began to sound the winding key rotated as the spring unwound and powered the bell. All I had to do was solder a shingle nail to the key and let the end flip a switch when the key turned. I could set the alarm for the desired time and when the bell started to ring the key would turn and actuate the switch. This operation turned on the small light at the top of the antenna and it was visible from a great distance. No more hunting the car, just head for the light!

            The timer and light solved the lost car problem but there was something else that presented a serious annoyance. When the hundreds of anxious workers started running for the parking lot the congestion became intolerable as everyone began to arrive in the area about the same time. This made maneuvering an auto out of the lot a little difficult.

            I spent a few days working on this problem. I thought the answer might be to park near the end of a line on the side where the exit was. This was a good plan, but it seemed others had the same idea and a desired parking place was usually occupied before my arrival. Again my country training triumphed and I found the perfect solution! I put a bicycle in the back seat and rode it from the lot to the work area and at night I made a quick get-away and arrived in the parking area a few minutes before the crowd got there! I had plenty of time to turn off my guiding light, load my bicycle and drive easily and safely out of the lot! Country ingenuity had triumphed again!

            But like so many plans of mice and men, my plans soon went astray! They decided to put me on the day shift and I had no need for my ingenious system. Was the parking situation and solution a fun thing?  Of course – the fun was obvious when I sold the flivver finder to a co-worker for enough money to buy Ella a new pair of shoes and an electric alarm clock for me!