Jack Remembers: Ace mechanic didn’t always finish what he started

By Jack Hackley

Forest Smith was one of those guys who could do anything, and do it well. I ran a three-bay Sinclair station with a restaurant that served 3.2-percent beer in Bates City. When Forest was home, he was my best customer.
Forest got a job driving an ambulance. Back then, ambulances were a streamlined car with a red light on top, with room for one stretcher. I-70 was one lane and with very little traffic.
One hot afternoon I was standing in front of the other filling station in Bates City, owned by Roy Warren, when we heard a siren coming down the highway from Kansas City. When it got to the Bates City exit, it made a turn and was actually skidding sideways before he straightened it up and parked next door at Kapple’s Saloon.
The saloon was run by John Kapple, who had had heart problems in the past.
Everybody at the filling station went running next door to the saloon knowing poor old John had obviously had a heart attack. When we got through the door, there was Forest sitting at the bar having a beer.
His job as an ambulance driver ended when the owner, a mortician in Kansas City, sent him to St. Louis to pick up a corpse. When Forest didn’t show up back in Kansas City, three days later they found the ambulance and the corpse in Lexington, but no Forest.
Forest needed a job and said he would like to be my mechanic. He would repair any cars that came in, and we would split the profit. A guy brought in a car that was using a lot of oil. Forest said it needed rings and the valves ground. He tore the car apart and put all the parts on a bench in front of the car.
The motor was completely disassembled when Forest got lonesome for a woman who was an employee at the Colorado State Prison. Forest headed to Colorado, wrote a couple of bad checks, and got his wish to return to the prison.
In the meantime, however, there was this farmer who owned the car with the engine completely disassembled and was calling every day to see if it was ready.

Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075, or Visit

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