Friday, January 28, 2011

Cars With Bonnets and Boots

Tonight my friend Jack Darnell posted a blog showing a picture of an old Morris Oxford, a car with a bonnet and a boot.

Now I'm sure that if you are reading this and you are from Great Britain or one of her Colonies - or former colonies - you are going to have quite a different "read" of this post than most of my American friends will have. You see, for us here in the USA, when we say "bonnet" we think of an elderly grandmother with her old-fashioned head-gear which was worn regularly by our pioneer women to protect their hair from the weather. When we say "boot" we are thinking of something we put on our feet.

The year was 1966. We were on our first overseas assignment for the Church of God as missionaries to British Guiana. Shortly (within our first six months) they gained their Independence and became known as Guyana, South America. Still the British influences saturated everything. There was "Fogarty's" a big chain store where you could buy food and clothes and books and maybe even some furniture for your home. Booker's, Ltd, was the place to buy cars. Our missions board provided the funds (I can't be sure but it seems I remember $3000 being the price) for us to purchase a new one. The traffic all rode on the opposite side of the street we were used to driving on back in Tennessee. It was nerve-wracking but I actually did manage to get under the wheel and negotiate traffic in that town of 500,000 people driving "on the wrong side of the road"! I had spent the previous 5 years in Tellico Plains, TN, a town of less than 1,000 people at that time. What a challenge.

The car was a wonderful car. It was Automatic shift and we were getting 30 mpg on fuel use. After about six months or so of driving in this strange new environment, on the opposite side of the road, learning that I had to have the "bottom washed" before the mechanic would change the oil and lubricate it, I remember driving into the dirt road leading to our home. I pointed the bonnet towards our gate (which everyone knows you had to keep shut and locked) jumped out, switched off the engine and unloaded groceries. When I got back into the car to put it into the garage and lock it up, the engine would not turn over. My neighbor, Pragdat, who ran buses up and down the coast was quite the mechanic. He saw me with bonnet and boot both standing open and the worried look on my face. Walking over, he asked, "Would you like me to help?" Of course I said, "Yes!"

Try the engine once more. Nothing but "click" each time I tried. Then he looked at me and said so seriously that I just knew for sure he was joking - "Why don't you crank it?" Me: "Uh. Yeah. Well... I thought we just tried that?" "NO!" He said, "Crank it with your crank!" "But this is an automatic", I protested. "But you should have a crank in the boot or under the bonnet."

Sure enough, to my chagrin, He located the crank (like we used to use for old Model A Fords) and gave just one small twist before the engine started! I could not believe how easy it started. What a quality car. Pragdat then proceeded to take my starter off the Morris and clean it of the road dirt that had caked up on it, took it apart, greased it, and put it back. The starter never failed again.

Wish I had a picture of that car. The license plate was PT602! There, the initial number given on a car's license plate always stayed on it until the car was no longer usable. It could be that even now PT602 is still being used to drive around the little country of Guyana.


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Fred, I love this post and must admit that I have never heard of a bonnet and a boot --when talking about a car... How funny.... And the fact that you had to 'crank' your car made me laugh outloud... What a great post...

I'd have trouble driving on the 'wrong' side of the road also....

Have a nice weekend.

Ginny said...

What a story!! Hey, it wouldn't be a bad thing to have that crank in the boots of all our cars!! We have had plenty of starter trouble in the past, that would be such a big help!! Have you ever heard of Morgan cars? I have an upcoming post on them, amazing.

jack69 said...

WOW. Amazing when I posted the picture of the Morris I said probably no one will know this car except maybe Ally over in England.

That is amazing. I have hoped to go to London and out into the country but am a little leery of driving on the left. It is bad enough to get used to crossing the street and looking the wrong way(for me) for on-coming traffic.

This is an eye opener, I didn't know about the crank. You always amaze me with something. Thanks this is a great post.

Give Frances our Love. BTW Sherry loved the entry too, she just don't comment.

Jean said...

What a great story Fred, I have never heard of a bonnet and boot.
I would like to take a cruse in one if its like the picture on Jacks post. Enjoyed.

George said...

This is a wonderful story. I don't think I would have thought about a hand crank for a car that had automatic shift either.
I didn't do any driving when I was in Ireland on business, but sitting where the steering wheel should be (to my mind) while the 'passenger' drove on the 'wrong' side of the road was an un-nerving experience!

Melanie said...

That is such a funny story! I've never heard of a bonnet and a boot (about a car) either!
I'm sure you and your wife have a lot of memories of riding around in that car!
Have a great week! :)

~mel said...

If you saw how I drive on the 'right' side of the road ~ believe me ... you would run, hide, hollaring and shouting to all within range to get their children,chickens, goats, horses, and all that is dear to them off the streets if you put me behind the wheel on the 'wrong' side of the road!!

Deborah said...

That was a cool story! I never heard of a boot or a bonnet in those terms. I did think a boot...and a bonnet! LOL

Anyways, the good news is you won the cards (I picked three people for the cards)!!! My daughter picked out your name. SO please email me your address at and I will get them out this week!

Deborah said...

That was a cool story! I never heard of a boot or a bonnet in those terms. I did think a boot...and a bonnet! LOL

Anyways, the good news is you won the cards (I picked three people for the cards)!!! My daughter picked out your name. SO please email me your address at and I will get them out this week!

Cher' Shots said...

What a great story! My husband tells me different things about the countries he's lived in during his Air Force days. I think so many people still take for granted that everything runs like it does at their birthplace. In this day and age that just baffles me!
Thanks for the great post. Love reading them.
'hugs from afar'

Dar said...

Fred, What a fabulous entry. I learn something new each time I visit. You are so well traveled and I have only been a 'through' a few states in my lifetime...maybe it's time to take up traveling, if I can get Bill to come along. I would love driving on the wrong side of the road, since I'm a lefty...only seems fitting. As for Mel's comment, she is serious...she drags Christmas trees home behind her car without even knowing it and wonders why the car is pulling so hard to the left.
I posted a "raisin" response on my entry for you. Yes, I use the store bought grapes all the time.

~mel said...

Fred ~ Just wanted to pop in and let you know that unfortunately our travel plans are changing and we won't be in Tennessee this trip. I was so hoping to be able to meet up with you and your lovely bride ~ maybe next year. I'll be off my blog for a few more days but hope to catch up with everyone soon.

Kampta Pragdat said...

Fred, My wife found this post while she was looking for ancestry information on my family. My father, Buddy Pragdat, is the man who helped you with your car back in 1966. He passed away last week on the 14th. We were so surprised to find your blog and read about my dad helping you with your car. It is amazing that you remembered his name after all these years, and that we found this blog on the week of his death.

Our family relocated to the United States in 1971, and we all became US citizens. Yes, He was quite the mechanic, he worked as one in this country and supported our family with that job.

Fred Alton said...

@ Kampta - First let me express my condolences over the loss of your Dad. It is hard to lose one's Dad, that's for sure. I lost my own father in 1999.

WoW! This is amazing. Can it really be you? Where do you live now? Were you called Kampta during those days???

And what of your mother? I remember that our girls called her "Auntie". Please send me an e-mail and tell me a little more about yourself. My e-mail is

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton