American Jet Cars
Stories & Comments
David Russell

Chuck Morris from 1966 to 1969

I was seventeen years old, a high school drop-out two years earlier, now graduated and working in the parts department at Foreign Imports in Arlington Virginia when I first met Chuck. I was earning $60 a week for 54 hour week. After taxes that's about 85 cents an hour. I drove the truck twice a day, and pushed a broom between customers, mechanics, and stock orders. I was the "assistant parts manager" but that was the hierarchy: the boss and the driver.

Mechanics were our priority customer and they knew it... and mechanics always made jokes about parts people. Chuck was different. I remember once that we spent an hour looking up the part number for the screw that held the interior door handle onto a 1964 MGB, and then we were aware that we had "a stock on them". Not that anybody would normally ever need one of these, Chuck would come up and wait his turn and go into this elaborate description of what he wanted priming me for "oh, you need an adh-834", turn around grab it, and give it to him to everyone's amazement, I'm not sure how many times he set up this joke, but he did it several times.

I remember the first CV Joint job he was given on an MG1100. He wasn't like the other mechanics He wasn't "building a house". If you got a part on your repair order when Chuck was working on the car, you could rest assured that you got the part. For several other mechanics, you could pretty well be assured you got half the parts you paid for . . . and the other half were off somewhere "building a house".

I remember spending time in the parts book, picking out gears, retainers, shims, and looking at everything. . . learning. . . about the transmission and how it worked. The other mechanics didn't do this. . . they replaced it all, or just select pieces, without considering the small details so much. I mean, "Shims?" Really !

And there were other times when a favorite parts customers needed mechanical expertise, at least somebody to talk it through with. My friend, Johnny Jones, who flew for Piedmont Airlines and raced an Austin-Healy Sprint in SCCA races (Marlboro Raceway, MD), talked with Chuck on more than one occasion.
I don't think Chuck ever went to those races though - not enough horse power or big enough wings in SCCA.

When eighteen, in 1967, the mechanics came in and painted my balls red with "High-Tack"Ē cement the day before my marriage to Tiger. I'm quite sure that Chuck was at our wedding. I know that the people who told me three years later of his death were at the wedding. It was one of those days, getting married, that I donít remember too many things about.

And it was as couples like Chuck and Kitten, Tiger and I that got together as friends. I remember being at their apartment once, seated at a low table sitting on the floor, food, drink, and good times with friends. We both knew that we were lucky guys, I mean, come on now. . . a Kitten and a Tiger? If you knew either woman you know what I'ím talking about.

My marriage didn't last long, six months, and Tiger was gone. Nothing special about me to justify how this next thing happened. I can't even say I'm just a "normal" guy, but within two weeks of my wife leaving me, there was a beautiful blonde that just sort of camped out on my doorstep. She was there on a Saturday when we opened half day. . . and she sat on a stool in the shop and waited for me. . . until noon. Chuck was in the back working on a car - probably his car on a Saturday, and he started teasing me about what I had going for me, and asking how I'd done it. I mean, really !

If you knew Chuck then you know what he actually said about this woman, but I'm never going to tell you that :) There was something very special about having Chuck for a friend. You knew that you had a friend and you never had to question it.

Now, my divorce was painful, and the papers were actually filed three times and violated twice. After the second set of paperwork I accepted a job out of New York as a sales rep west of the Mississippi. Chuck came from Texas and I left to Texas. I moved to El Paso Texas to be at the center of my empire !

The divorce was final while I was gone and I was told to report for induction the last year that the draft lottery had all ages in it. My number was something like 330 and I was still called. . . only to be rejected due to my feet. I moved back to Virginia where I had been born. I remember that I quit smoking August 15, 1971, and that I was back in Virginia. I don’t think I really know when Chuck died.

Jorge Orantez and Dick Garza ran the service department at Foreign Imports. Both of these men go back to the 50's with imported cars in Northern Virginia. I knew them when I was 14 and they were at Fowler Motors. I used to get parts for my Hillman Minx convertible from them.

Jorge and Dick told me about what had happened to Chuck. I immediately got in touch with Kitten and went over to see her. We talked and decided that we would go out somewhere, that it would be good for her, all that. The day of our "date", I quote that because I don't think it was ever a "date", she told me that this was the first time she'd been out since Chuck's death, and that, oh, by the way, "the neighbors are watching. . . " they were glad to see her making this move.

I cannot for the life of me remember where we went on our "date", and I can't remember us speaking afterwards, either. I always hope that it is my memory, and not my rudeness, that keeps me from knowing those details today.

I remember being told "the neighbors are watching", and I remember, not sure if it was affection, or something macho, but I remember kissing her on the porch when we returned. And feeling the whole time, this is Chuck,'s wife, damn it. I can't kiss Chuck's wife. And then I don't remember anything else.

We so often hear, or say, "Everything happens for a reason". Well, I'm not sure about that, a lot of things happen and then we try to find reasons. I would like to think that our date had a reason. . . perhaps the only reason was closure for me. I don't know. But perhaps it was something for her, too. Chuck and Kitten were friends of mine and Tiger's. . . and I still had Tiger around, off and on, for the next four years.

I had one of the pictures that is on your site, signed, and framed. It was on the wall in my basement for twenty years, but divorce struck again and I lost it. Periodically I would search for things from the past. . . and I'd never "found" Chuck or the details of what happen. I knew that the chute didn't open, but I never knew that it blew off.

It is nice to have emailed and found out about you, Chuck, the day of the accident, and all. It was also nice to look through your site with new knowledge of your Dad, and see the links to all the people who were part of those days.

After Martin Luther King was assassinated there was a song "Only the Good Dye Young". I don't think it's my memory playing tricks, but I believe that Chuck used to tell me that. I know that I felt that way about his untimely death.

He was a friend to remember always. Forever. I want to always know him. Sometimes it's very far away though.

Thank you for your site.
David Russell
San Diego CA

 < Back > 

Copyright © 2001-2020 | D.Tatroe | All Rights Reserved