Features

Hearse the way to go

While Ed Hewson sits in the driver's seat, his sidekick Wayne Shira tries the hearse out for size. Just fits.

A 1900-era method of delivering mail in the New York area.
Photos by Oscar Roloff.

Oscar Roloff by Oscar Roloff
    Two years ago I saw a spinning windmill north of Bothell and pulled into the owner's driveway to see about taking a photo of it.
    Upon stopping at the huge gate, I saw the following warning: "Vehicles illegally parked here will be cheerfully dismantled and sold for parts."
    Quickly I backed up and sped away.
    Last year I drove up cautiously, saw the same sign and left.
    A few months ago I mentioned the odd sign to Dave Harder of Duvall, who said, "Shucks! I know the fellow. I'll arrange for you to meet him."
    He did and that's how I met Ed Hewson, who collects and restores old wheeled carriages.
    There that day was his sidekick Wayne Shira, who did landscaping and crafted beautiful waterfalls for a living. Photos of them have appeared in Sunset Magazine.
    As for Ed, he'd been in WW II and served as an Armed Guard on merchant ships. Now retired, he'd spent 32 years as a cement finisher.
    When Ed hears of an old carriage for sale, he'll check it out, even driving it thousands of miles, buy it, and head for home.
    There, he and his sidekick will completely restore the rig. Ed has seven of them here and there in his sheds. One on display belongs to John and Heather Erskine.
    I can just visualize these two carriage characters like a couple of kids putting together a set of tinkertoys and enjoying every minute of it.
    What does Ed's wife Claire think of his hobby, I asked. "Not much," he grinned.
    In one shelter is a mail delivery carriage used in New York around 1900. Another is the type of carriage doctors used to use decades ago while on trips to the sick of the countryside.
    A real collector's item is the old hearse that Ed restored, to use when it's needed.
    "When the first one of us kicks the bucket, the other will have to hitch up the team and haul the deceased to the cemetery," they said.
    Ed mentioned that that kind of hearse has become popular. A man in Oregon had bought such an oldie, and the first month he used it 30 times in hauling deceased to the local cemetery.
    I wonder if Ed had mentioned their bargain to Claire? Probably not. Most wives wouldn't go for it.
    As I took a photo of Wayne trying the hearse out for size, he quipped, "Yup, that's the way to go home."
    I enjoy meeting and writing about characters like this. Of course, it helps if the writer is a character, too.
    After leaving those two "hearsemen," I realized that I'd forgotten to take a photo of the darned windmill. Oh well, it's probably better that I don't return, 'cause Ed's wife may have heard about the hearse bit and canceled the plan.