Sarah and the Mileage Log

Sarah Steinhoff w mileage log book 06-27-2014I’ve written before about how Dad was the consummate record keeper who would produce handmade pocket journals where he would jot down notes of the day’s happenings and document every penny he spent.

I got an email from Son Matt asking if I had a blank mileage log book because Wife Sarah had filled her’s up. I usually keep a couple in the bottom of my sock drawer for such an emergency. When she came by to pick it up, I expressed some degree of surprise because right after they got married, Matt tried to get her to keep car records, but she resisted.

Finally, she admitted, they bought her a new car and she gave up. “Steinhoff me,” she told Matt. She wasn’t sure if this her third or fourth book in 14 years.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

Dad rubbed off on me

Gastonia Gazette story on KLS auto expenses 01-09-1972I’m not sure at what age I started keeping a mileage and expense log in my car, but I know I was doing it by the time I moved to Athens, Ohio. I definitely was doing it by the time we moved to Gastonia, N.C.

Gastonia Gazette reporter Joel Groves must have been sucking air for a story in the doldrums right after the holidays because he interviewed me for a piece on driving expenses. I notice in the photo that I not only kept records like Dad, but I was beginning to emulate his hairstyle. That’s a serious comb-over starting to happen. I didn’t realize until just now that my part had slipped to just above my ear.

Sure would like those prices today

Gastonia Gazette story on KLS auto expenses 01-09-1972The story pointed out that I used my car for business, so I had to keep careful records for tax time. When the story was published on Jan. 9, 1972, I was driving about 30,000 miles a year, most of it chasing photos. Here are some of my expenses:

  • New wiper blades and a headlight – $9.10.
  • Quart of oil – 85 cents per quart (40 cents if bought by the case)
  • Generator – $39.61
  • Typical maintenance – oil filter, $2.95; four spark plugs, $5.40; points, $2.90; air filter, $2.85; new belt, $3.10; labor, $18.
  • Four radial tires – $150
  • Two snow tires and two tire rims for them (for ease in swapping tires) – $95.83 plus $32.40.
  • Fuel – $998.90 (24 mpg with AC, 28 without AC)
  • All told, including car payment, insurance, tag and expenses, I spent about $249.24 a month on my car.


Vice Raids and a Skeptical Editor

I guess it’s safe to tell this story now. On my way back home, I passed through Gastonia, N.C., where I worked in the early 70s. One of my favorite SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) officers, sadly, is no longer with us, I found. To keep him from haunting me, I’ll just refer to him as “Vance.”

Bill, the Gazette cop reporter, and I supplemented our meager newspaper incomes by freelancing stories and photos to crime magazines. Gaston County folks had unique and imaginative ways of eliminating each other. I had lots of tasteless pictures and Bill had a knack for lurid prose, so we could sell something every couple of months to turn fifty or seventy-five bucks each.

“You’re making this stuff up”

One of the editors we dealt with in Chicago called and said, “I think you guys are making this stuff up. I have to pass through there and I want to meet you.”

He happened to pick a day when there was a major bootlegging and gambling raid going on, so we took him with us. My SBI buddy, Vance, said, “We know there is gambling going on in that bar, but they know all of us. We need a stranger to go in and observe the gambling so we can get a warrant. Hey, you, Chicago. Go knock on the door and tell ’em ‘Charlie sent me.’ Look around and come back out.”

He was a frail little thing who was obviously more comfortable editing crime than seeing it, but he went in, saw skullduggery and reported back. They got the warrant and busted the place for gambling and bootlegging. The cops were standing around the card table counting the cash they had seized when one of them asked, “Anybody here got a rubber band to wrap this up?” One of the gamblers reached into his pocket, pulled out a roll of cash bigger than what was on the table, slid a rubber band off it and handed it to the cop.

Later that evening, we were over at Bill’s house rehashing the day’s events when the phone rang. It was Vance looking for me.

“I need a favor”

“I’ve got a favor to ask. It’s totally off the record. Can you help me out?”

“Let’s talk.”

“An old woman who had been confined to a state mental hospital died and her body was shipped down here to a funeral home. The family, who hadn’t seen her in years is insisting that the woman in the casket isn’t ‘Aunt Nellie.’ We KNOW it’s Aunt Nellie because the institution’s records say that Aunt Nellie has a club foot. They want someone to go to the funeral home to take a photo of Aunt Nellie and her foot so they can confirm her identity.”

I went with him to the funeral home, shot the photos and handed him a roll of film. “This never happened,” I told him. (Not that the newspaper would have cared anyway.)

“Can I pay you for your time?”

“Nah, I’d rather have you owe me.”

“Well, we took down all those joints today. I have a trunk full of booze. Want some?


“How ’bout some pot?”

“That’s OK.” I was afraid to see what else he would offer me.

I just “happened” to have a screwdriver

During the raid, I spotted this cool slot machine being carried out. It had a brass Indian head on it that had been polished shiny by hundreds of hands rubbing it for luck. When the courts were through with the case, all of the gambling equipment was consigned to the local landfill where it was to be destroyed by pulverizing it with a bulldozer.

I saw my slot machine sitting waiting for its turn and just “happened” to have a screwdriver with me. I took the Indian off and sidled up to my buddy Vance. “I’d really like for this to follow me home.”

“Sorry, Ken, I have to swear to the judge that I saw the pieces scattered all over the landfill,” he said, tossing it about 10 feet and turning his back.

The Indian head is in a place of honor on my bookshelf. R.I.P Vance.

Oh, and, by the way, the Chicago editor never questioned any of our stories after that.

P.S. Mother has a slot machine story of her own. (It’s at the bottom of the post.)