|This is the saga of Little Joe - Who's that out in the driveway honking??|
by Ed Barthelemy This is a Christmas story about Little Joe, actually his name was Joel, the story is true in all details.Our story took place when I was about 8 or 10 and we lived in the last house on Washington St in Eugene so the year or years would have been about 1928 or 32.Little Joe lived up 19th & Lawrence St & had a sister who lived up near us on the hill but further East. He was an extreme victim of Polio, legs and arms and torso deformed to the point where he was only about 30 inches tall....some thought he was a dwarf but that was not the case, also at that time he was probably 30 years old, I don't think anyone knew exactly.Joe could not walk in the true sense, he just sort of waddled along, but when he needed to cover some real distance he hopped on his cart. This is best described as a 4 wheel device he sat on and pumped. Not very efficient but it did the job...it was like a modern day exerciser.Our main contact with him was when he came up the hill to visit his sister and his physical strength and the basic design of his go-cart got him up to our place but he just couldn't hack the rest of the distance without help, and this came in the form of 3 or four young boys of which I was one and we loved doing the job of pushing him.Time went by and somehow the routine of Joe's getting around town worked itself out until one day, hard as this is to imagine, someone stole his cart. We were all devastated and at a complete loss as to what to do...these were tough times and no one had any money and of course, it created a very real problem for Joe.Well we kids and the adults didn't know what to do but a bunch of teen-agers at Eugene High DID know what to do. They raised money, I don't know how, and bought him a brand new TWO SPEED...this gave him back his transportation and the lower gear made it possible for him to pump himself all the way up to his sisters house.Now the story could stop there on that happy ending but it actually got better. Some local Civic Club heard about Joe & figured out that they could rig up a real car with controls he could handle. Rods and extensions and various devices were attached until a whole system came together that worked.The sounds simple if it applied to a car of today, but remember, there was no power assist on brakes, clutch or steering and gear shifting even getting Joe up into the seat was a challenge, but it worked and Joe drove around town for years, proud and self sufficient. and it was on Christmas day he drove up to our house, honked his horn so we'd all come out and see his Christmas gift.