“When the guy who invented the drawing board messed up, what did he go back to?” (Bob Monkhouse)


I have several friends that I don’t remember meeting for the first time because we were so young, infants probably. We all met in church and played together in the nursery. They just seem like a permanent part of my life and it’s hard to imagine it without them. My lifelong friend John is one of these relics and his impact on my childhood, adolescence and even still today is truly remarkable. Everyone should be so lucky as to have this good a friend.

John came from a broken home but you would never know it from the way he turned out. Of course his mom is a bit of a rock herself and she never complained about her situation, she just kept after him to be something and never give up. It must have worked because John is one of the most industrious people I know. He has an incredible knack for creating things from scratch and always seems to be on the verge on some new invention. They don’t always come to fruition but that never stops him from trying again.

As soon as he got his driver’s license he got a job, in fact he got 2 of them. On the weekends he would drive out to a stable south of town and clean out the stalls. From there he would go to work as a bus boy at Steak & Ale. (Those of us who knew about his dual careers never ate there.) John worked so he could support his hobbies like cars and inventing stuff.

His first car was a Triumph TR4. If you know anything about cars, this was about the most unreliable auto on the planet. When it ran it was awesome but mostly it sat and needed work. British cars are notorious for their shoddy electrical work and his was no exception. I remember one time the washer fluid pump stopped working so we went to the parts store to buy a new one. By the time we got back to his house it was working again. He wanted to take the part back but then he  had a better idea, so we mounted it in the trunk and attached it to a gallon plastic jug with a long plastic tube that we snaked into the cockpit and used it for mixed drinks. Kind of a James Bond improvement. When it didn’t have booze we used it as a high-powered squirt gun.

Having this car probably got John started in his career as an inventor/tinker. He taught himself useful stuff like bodywork by taking a rubber mallet and pounding out dents late at night so we could cover our mistakes before we went home. I can’t count how many times we needed that skill set.

I also remember John’s amazing sense of curiosity. He always had an experiment going and me as his guinea pig. I will never forget the time he tried to brew his own beer. I helped him appropriate a large glass bottle from the chemistry department at school and even endured a police stop right in front of the high school. John, Clark and I had all piled into his two-seater and were immediately pulled over for suspicion of trespassing. As I stood there in my cowboy boots and hat with cut-off jean shorts and work gloves and nothing else I got the once over from the cops and the inevitable question “Why are you dressed like that?” Since this was 1972, I couldn’t use the Village People as an excuse so I responded with “Cuz that’s what I wear, pardner.” They let us off because we weren’t soaking wet. They were apparently looking for 3 guys who had been swimming in someone’s backyard pool. John finally did mix up a batch of homebrew and 6 weeks later we were all set to try it out. We each picked up a bottle from the box on the basement floor and watched as the bottoms fell off the bottles. Needless to say we took that as a sign that homebrew wasn’t such a great idea.

John ended up moving to Ft. Collins, Colorado for college but we saw each other often as I loved taking road trips to the mountains. I missed his goldfish eating championship at the local bar but we had many other crazy nights together. Even after college we remained as close as brothers.

When his father died, John inherited a cabin in Minnesota that was only 50 miles from our place. We made plans together each summer so we could see each other’s families at the lake. One year, in the late 90’s, we went to his place for the day and when we got there he was nowhere to be found. My daughter and I walked down to the lake and out on the dock to see if he was out fishing. We could see him and his kids in a boat coming our way, as we walked on the wooden dock. John was frantically waving at me but was too far out to hear when Lauren and I reached the last section and immediately realized we were going swimming. It seems that John had only just laid that section in place without securing it. One end of the dock was going straight up and we were going straight down. Luckily it wasn’t that deep but it did take a while for my wallet to dry out. John pulled in just as we were wading back to the beach and he was obviously enjoying this scene immensely. He couldn’t stop laughing as he tried to explain, ” I was just gonna fix that, honest.”

Now, John is part owner of a very high-tech company that installs and maintains air quality monitoring equipment all over North America. Very technical engineering stuff and quality control is extremely important. I’m sure his clients think the world of him just like I do. I guess what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 Responses to “When the guy who invented the drawing board messed up, what did he go back to?” (Bob Monkhouse)

  1. Nick says:

    The TR$ didn’t have an electric windshield washer pump.
    I had a 63 with positive ground in 1971. It was rock solid and the electrics worked fine. Of course no one tried running wires to the trunk.

    • grhgraph says:

      Your memory is better than mine but then I was never mechanically inclined. Most of the British cars I was around were fun to drive but not very reliable. Maybe you got lucky. Thanks for the comment just the same.

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