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A piece of history found again

August 18, 2011
By J.T. Whitehouse
Joe and Patty Polak of Boardman are avid Town Crier readers. When they picked up the Aug. 4 edition of the Boardman Town Crier, they took special interest in page 2 that featured a miniature hot rod that young Jay Green, 9, also of Boardman, was driving at the Cars in the Park car show. Joe was the one who built the car almost 40 years ago.

“I saw it and thought the rest of the story should be told,” Joe said.

Joe was a railroader who loved to build fun things for his sons and later grandsons. He started in the early 1960s by building a miniature hot rod for his son, Joey. It looked like a Model A hot rod and had a small gas engine in it. Patty said her son really enjoyed it.

“He would drive it to the corner and back while we watched him,” Patty said.

She said Joe had made the comment that when he scraped together $10, he would build young Joey a mini bike. On one particular day, Joey was driving his gas-powered hot rod up and down the street when he was approached by a man who wanted to buy it. According to Patty, the man asked the little guy how much he would sell it for. Joey, remembering what his father needed to build the mini bike, replied $10. The man gave Joey the money and the little guy walked home waving it in the air.

“I asked him where his little car was and he said he sold it,” Patty said. “He said now dad can build me a mini bike.”

Patty, Joey and Joe immediately hopped in the family car and cruised the neighborhood looking for the man and the car.

“We never saw it again, or the man who bought it,” Joe said.

Eventually the mini bike was built and it wasn’t until 1970 that Joe put together another miniature hot rod. This time he built a solid frame and made the main axle out of a bumper jack. He originally used an 8 hp engine, but found his grandson Robby, couldn’t start it. He switched it out for a smaller engine the kids could start.

“Once Robby found he could start it, it never stopped,” he said. “They went through a lot of gas.”

The little car also rose to fame during political campaigns. In the later 1970s, the car was decorated for George Vukovich, who was running for mayor of Youngstown at the time. Later it was used to cruise neighborhoods between Southern Boulevard and Market Street as it was zigzagged to the Southern Park Mall to collect money for the Jerry Lewis MD Telethon.

“When we got to the mall, they let him (Robby) drive it in,” Joe said.

Robby got good use out of the car, but as he grew older, so did his desire for a full-size car. Eventually, Joe sold the little hot rod to a fellow in Struthers for $100. That was the last he saw of it until this year’s car show when he saw the little hot rod in the Town Crier.

“I recognized it as the car I had made,” Joe said.

The car is presently owned by the Green family of Boardman and it had received a total makeover and was now the pride and joy of nine-year-old Jay Green.

Joe said he built the car to last. It has a strong metal frame under it, but the sides were made from wood that was recycled when the confessional booth at St. Matthias Church was torn down. Unfortunately, that wood had rotted while in storage and had to be replaced.

For Joe and Patty, seeing the car in the hands of another child makes them feel good.

“He (Jay Green) loves it and takes care of it,” Joe said, “God bless him. I hope he has it a long time.”

While he may never know what happened to his first kid’s car, just knowing the car he built 40 years ago is still bringing joy to a child.

“After all, my whole life was spent having fun with the kids,” Joe said.

Article Photos

Photo special to the Town Crier
Joe Polak of Boardman built this classic-looking motorized kid’s car in the early 1960s for his son Joey. The car was sold unexpectedly and never seen again.



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