Friday, August 30, 2013

The tale about Jim Kierstead, b.1923 d.1947

Jim leaning against his 1939 Mercury

Most of you have probably never heard about Jim Kierstead. I would neither have known if I never went ahead and researched my ancestry. History is a very important subject to me. Many don't care about their ancestors, that's not the case with me! Your forefathers are very important, because you would not exist if it was not for them! It is also fun to find out more stuff about them, finding similarities between you and them, and what qualities you have inherited from them!

However, a lot of Norwegians emigrated to the US through the centuries, as did my family. Last year I decided to trace them down, and soon I discovered my long lost relatives overseas. Jim was one of them, and an interesting thing about Jim, was that a 1939 Mecury popped up on google when I searched online. It was not an ordinary 39' Merc, but a custom!

The car was mentioned on Jim's nephew blog, and it said that it was built by Sam Barris. I tried to get in contact with the nephew several times without luck, so I wrote down the info and saved the pictures on Kustomrama, in hope that somebody would see it and mail me for more information and pictures about the car. Good thing I did, because I could not find the blog now.
Jim's Merc at an early stage, outside his parents house in Inglewood.

By, I was able to find out when he was born, where he and his family lived, and when he died. He was born on may 30th, 1923, the eldest son of James and Ruth Kierstead. They moved from Utah to 909w 85th street in Inglewood, California in the 1920's. Jim also had three brothers, which one died in 1935 at the age of 5. He was playing in the backyard while his mom did laundry, and he accidentally fell into the big tub of water and got boiled to death. This must have been extremely hard for the family, and poor Jim was only 12 years old when the accident occurred.

When World War Two broke out, Jim got enlisted and joined the Navy, the submarines to be more specific. He was well built, and was the boxing champion of the submarine corps. It was during this time that he got known with Sam Barris, and the two of them became friends. And when the war was over, Jim bought himself a dark green 1939 Mercury 2-door coupe. Harold Johnson, the brother of Jim's wife remembered he went with them to pick the car up, and they paid it with 1000 dollar bills. Jim was making a good life working as a lather at the time, and earned good money.

Harold would spend all the time he could, helping Jim and Sam out on the car. According to him, Sam would to the lead and torch part, while they did the other stuff, like filing and sanding. This was most likely the first 39-40 Merc that Sam chopped, and it looked killer when it was done. They did not raise the windshield, so it appeared somewhat the same as Johnny Zaro and Al Andril's 1940 Mercs. The removed the running boards, flipped them over vertically and welded them to be like rocker panels. Jim wanted the car to be as smooth as possible, so they removed all the chrome on it. Looking at the pictures, it looks like he used front bumpers from a 1941 Chevrolet, both up front and rear. The fender skirts appeared to be the long units from a 1941 Ford. The Barris' brothers would always do the car in grey primer while under construction, apply white when all the body modifications were done. The owner would usually drive around with it for a while to clear out all the bugs before final paint.

Jim and Helen in 1947.
In 1946, Jim got married to Helen Johnson, also of Inglewood. Helen was Swedish, and hailed from Kansas, but they moved to California in the 1930's. They were a nice couple, and would often go out dancing jitterbug. They were so good at it, that Hollywood film scouts discovered them, and wanted them on the screen. However, Helen did not like the Hollywood business at the time, and they refused the offer. A year later, they got a baby boy, Tim was his name. This was in the autumn of 1947, and the world was really smiling at them, he had a beautiful wife, a new born son, good job, their house was almost completed, and his Mercury only needed paint.

In December 1947, the car was painted in black Lacquer. Polished and prepped, Jim and Harold were supposed to drive to Reno on the weekend of December 6, debuting the car for its first long run as a completed custom car. Harold was in Redando Beach with Dick Owens, a though guy that was in the Guadal Canal during WWII, he also had a chopped 1940 Merc with a Carson top. However, it was raining hard and Jim was heading south on Sepulveda. Between El Segundo Blvd and Rosecrans Ave, he could see a Duesenberg heading towards him. One of the cars crossed the double striped line, and the Duesenberg hit Jim on the left front fender. Jim's car was totaled, and Jim was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. He left behind his two months old son, newly wedded wife, his two brothers, parents, and his nearly completed house. The church was over crowded when his funeral was held, a lot of people knew him, and he was known to be a handsome nice man.

Well, 70 years has passed by, and I have a hard time finding people that knew him at the time. I feel I have a lot I common with Jim, with the experiences he had, and his interests.  He was born on May 30th, 1923, I'm born on the same date as his father, June 21st 1993, he lost his brother when he was 12 in 1935, I lost my brother when I was twelve in 2005, they were four brothers, we were four brothers, his girlfriend was born on december 5th, my girlfriend was born in december 5th, he had a 1939 Mercury, I have a 1939 Mercury, he built his with Sam Barris, I'm building mine with Brad Masterson who looks up to Sam Barris, he built it at the old Barris shop, I'm building mine in the old Barris shop.

As you can see, a lot has happened in 70 years..

Jim's Merc V.S. Brad's first 39-40 Merc chop
I especially like Jim's 39 Merc, so I am going to clone his car. My brother Sondre made a new logo for the shop, with the 39 on. So I'm doing everything I can do to spread Jim's story so his legacy will not be forgotten. He was a pioneer, along with Harold and Dick, and they truly deserves to be remembered. I've spent countless hours on the web and on the phone trying to find more out about him. I've visited his son Tim twice. He is a really nice guy, and he actually had a 1940 Ford that was according to him restyled by Barris at some point. It was chopped and channeled, but the KuKluxKlan stole the car from him in the 1970's. He has also been into cars all his life, and has owned a lot of old cars during the years.

Jim's old house at 909W 85th Street
Visiting Jim's footsteps in LA
Yesterday, I spent the whole day researching in the field. I ate a big breakfast at the china restaurant across the shop,(Where Dean Jeffries ate when he discovered the Barris Shop fire on December 7th 1957) and went to Inglewood to check out the place where Jim lived. I knocked on the door, and three Mexican families lived there now. They did not know shit about their house's history, and were surprised when I told them it. 

Where Helen and lived with her family, 1133W 87th street.

Helen Johnson's old Residence

I then drove to the house were his wife, Helen lived. From there I called Harold Johnson. We spoke a while about the old days, how things have changed and about Jim. 

Visiting Jim's grave, Inglewood Park Cemetery
Then I went to the flower shop to buy some nice flowers for Jim's grave. The staff at Inglewood park cemetery showed me on a map where his slot was, but I could not find it. The grass covered it, so i had to do some digging. It turned out nice with flowers, and I'm sure Jim is happy with how it looks now.
It had been a while since it was groomed, but now it's the best looking grave around there.

Inglewood High, and the mild customized 40 Merc I found in the 1940 yearbook. 
Inglewood High School
Then I stopped by Inglewood High School, to check out if I could find him in any of the yearbooks. Inglewood High School is were the safety education film, "The Cool Hot Rod" was shot in 1953. (Click here to watch The Cool Hot Rod). I examined the yearbooks, but I could not find him. It was not wasted time, because I found a picture of a 1940 Mercury with dual spotlights from the 1940 yearbook, so that was quite cool. I then went to Morningside High School, but they did neither have any records from him there. 

The Crash Site
Next stop on my list was to see where he died, at Sepulveda and El Segundo blvd. When I was there, a 1939 Ford coupe drove by, that was a funny feeling to see such a car there right where the accident occurred. An ambulance drove right by after the 39 passed, that made goosebumps all over me, and a cold chill went down my spine. I stayed there a while, just looking at the cars passing by, and suddenly I got an idea to check out the public library to look for some old newspapers that the crash might be described in. I was right, I found a small clipping, from December 11th 1947 about the crash. Next I went to the police department to check if they had any files. I had emailed with them earlier this winter, and they'd remembered the case right away! They had found all the old records from 1940's to 1970, but they were not labeled, and they did not allow me to go through them, so hopefully they can give me more information later on. I stopped by the fire department as well, they did not have any records from the crash, but I saw a lot of other crash scenes from the 1940's, and they were bad..

That was all I had time for yesterday, so this morning I went by the Inglewood public library to see if there were any written in the Inglewood local paper. Unfortunately the December 6-9th editions were not in the microfilm collection. So I called UCLA, the California State Library and some other libraries, so hopefully they will find it for me. I also stopped by the St. Michaels school and Manchester school in Inglewood to check for old records, but they did not have any. I will keep looking, and I got some other clues that I will follow up soon! So stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Day At College!
Well, I finally started school. Last week after taking some tests and orientation, they enrolled me into classes like math, chemistry, and english.. Turned out, all international students have to go through that shit to get an A.A. degree. I could not do anything else than accept this offer. Anyhow, it's worth it to be able to stay in this country and document all the history that might be gone in a couple of years.

My Luck Turns Around
I woke up Monday morning about 6am. Ready as an egg, I left the shop at 7 in Brad's yellow T-Bucket! I parked in front of the Automotive Department and headed towards the International Student Center to get my final class schedule. My first class was scheduled 12:30, Math 60 it said. Returning back to the T-Bucket, a man ran out from the Auto Department. He asked if I drove the T-Bucket to school, and I said yes. He had never seen a students driving a Hot Rod to school in his past 30 year career of working at the school, and was quite impressed by the whole thing. He got even more fired up when he found out that I was a 19 year old kid that had travelled half the world to attend Auto & Body in California. He wondered what classes I had, I showed him my schedule with all the dull stuff. I saw he got kind of confused when he saw what they'd put me up to. He could not believe they'd put me in all those bullshit classes when my main focus was automotive courses. "We must see the Dean, this does not make sense at all!" He explained to the Dean that it was ridiculous to enroll me into those classes I had received. "He has travelled all the way from the North Pole, give the boy a chance!"

A Deal Was Made
And I got to enter the automotive courses I wanted to! I thank the Kustom Gods for that! Just unbelievable! After that, I drove back to the shop and continued working for Brad. Tomorrow, I don't have classes until 5:30pm, such strange times they have classes in this country!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Arbeit Macht Frei!

This week at Masterson Kustoms have been a great week with many cool adventures! On monday, Brad wrote a list of things to do on the different cars. I went away and brazing holes, filing lead, adjusting door gaps, and making shelves and brackets for an old 1958 International bread truck, that is going to house two Triumph bikes and race gear.

Collecting parts for my 1939 Merc!
On the way home from Kansas, I stopped by all the junkyards I could find, trying to collect parts for my Mercury. There was only one guy that had 1939 Merc parts. 20 years ago, he had a 39 sedan that he sold, but for some reason, he kept the dash.  Exactly what I was looking for, since it's missing in mine.  A deal was made, and I was the happy new owner of a rusted and old 1939 Merc dash! However, this is how it looked after sandblasting and powder coating! It's not going to be white, Brad said it was easy to wire all the gauges and stuff if it was white on the back.

Brazing is something new I have learned here. In the 1940's, brass was used in areas where the metal would warp easily. Like molding fenders, welding seams after a chop job, filling drip rails and such was common to use brass on. The material is very nice to work with, and it is also strong. It's nice to practice on this 1940 Merc, it will be almost like mine, chopped with molded fenders, etc. And it kind of reminds me of an old Barris custom that once belonged to a relative of mine in 1947. Just look at the pictures.

The one on the left is Jim Kierstead's 1939 Merc, a relative of mine. He was my grandfather's cousin many times removed. I will make an own post for that car and history later. 

Alex SoRello
On tuesday, Alex, the guy who has been working with Brad the last year tried out welding for the first time. Alex is Brad's childhood friend from Sacramento. They were like peas and rice back then, skating the streets of Sacto and messing around with go karts, having fun with no cares in the world. When Alex was 18, he was put in Folsom Prison for robbing a pizza place. Here he stayed for the next 8 years, loosing some of a man's best year behind the walls of Folsom.. When he got out, he found a girlfriend, got married and settled down in Sacramento. As time went by, he got two kids, that he loves spending time with. Around a year a go, he got divorced, and started working for Brad. He's in the learning phase, picking up tricks by watching. At present, he is working as a "shop quality preserver" as I call it. He really likes cars, and is willing to learn the art of building them. He has a 1923 Ford up in Sacramento with a Ford OHV V8 that he is working on in his spare time.

Dr. Dre looked like needed a real doctor on tuesday. I think he was kind of hangover after partying with some russian girls on Monday, he never told what happened. His real name is Andreas "Fisk" Johansson, but here they just call him Dre. He usually visit the shop for two or three weeks at the time, twice a year. He works hard in Sweden, and travel to California when he can afford it. He's currently looking after an American lady to marry, so he can get a greencard and move over. Back home in Sweden, he has a 1950 Olds 98 4-door that he is restoring. He's missing the trim piece around the windshield for it, so please comment if you have the parts he need.

When everybody has gone home from the shop, I usually crank up Glenn Miller on the stereo and keep scanning old documents and pictures from Masterson's Barris archive. About 4-5 AM, it's bedtime.

The Barris Compton Shop
On wednesday, we went and bought some square tubing for the Bread Truck. We were in the Compton area, and I requested to visit the old Barris Custom shop at 7674 Compton Ave. Look at it, a lot has changed since the 1940's unfortunately..

Rex Liquor Store
We also had to stop by the famous Rex Liquor store, that's right across the street to buy some Dr. Pepper!

That's Dick Fowler's neat looking 1938 Ford in front of the store.

George and Sam rented one of the stalls for their custom work. The other belonged to a brake garage. The front half of the old Barris shop has now been refurbished into an insurance office, and in the rear, they rebuild carburetors. Alex, who owns the place along with his brother Eric, told that when they refurbished the office, they found an aluminum sign which it said "Custom, Body & Fender Works" on. They did not know what it was at they time, and threw it away..

The owners recently discovered these words in the pavement outside the shop. It says Kustom. But I doubt this is from the 1940's. They did not spell Kustom with K until the Lynwood Shop, and the pavement looked to new as well.

Here it says Sam Barris, and a date beneath it.

Then back in the shop, we could continue making all the brackets and shelves for the bikes and gear. We also bought steel to make for pogo sticks, which is used when chopping a top.

Big Boy Bob
On Wednesday after work, Brad, Roby Ballard and I went to Big Boy Bob for a hamburger. There were a lot of cars there, and very good food! It's nice to see equally minded people hang out on wednesdays on Bob's.

T-shirt designs!
Sondre Kvipt, my older brother was working on designs for The Kustomrama Lynwood Division t-shirts and work shirts this week. Since I am building a clone of my relative's 1939 Merc, it would be cool to use that car as a design. I think it came out pretty neat, looking sharp and period correct!

Swap Meet
On friday, me and Brad went to a Swap Meet up in Pasadena! I bought some old tools up there. Found an old Milwaukee grinder from the 1950's, and an electric Dyno-Mite drill. Also found this old cool work lamp, a Rab lamp attached to a music stand. Brad's grandfather gave Brad the same stand which he had in school in the 1930's. So I like to think a young student saw this music stand in the 1930's-1940's, and thought it could be a great lamp stand in his garage :) The Coolest thing was that I found out that all the stuff worked when I tried them!

Work Shirts
Brad and I also went and bought work clothes. We bought the old time stuff, so now we can work with style. The shirts are going to have this prints on the back.

Saturday, Disneyland!
After the week was done, and saturday was comming up, we decided to go to Disneyland! Sonja's friends, Renee and Sarah met us there, and we all had a blast!! This was my first time there, and man, that place was so good engineered! The whole place is a true piece of art, just go there and study all the small details! I also recommend the rollercoasters and log-run! We stayed there until midnight, and went to Viva Mexico to cool down.

The Party Swede attacks!
Same sign should be in front of the shop!

Hitler Jugends!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Still Miss Someone

Staring at this historcal wall really put you mind at ease while trying to sleep..

Could not sleep last night, there's just someone on my mind all the time.. I'm not talking about a girl, but my third brother, who is no longer among us. It is his birthday today, and he would have turned 25 years old. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to congratulate him, but I know his spirit is still with me. Sometimes, late at night, I can often smell his perfume, and then I just know he is there!

Me, Sondre, and Are

His name was Are Kvipt, a real happy and satisfied boy who was as much into old cars as me and rest of my brothers. He was born August 8th, 1988, and was closest to my age of the brothers. We grew up together far away on a farm, miles away from civilization and friends. This brought us even closer, and we had each other to play with. We shared the same interests, and used our mind and fantasy to create cool vehicles, homemade bombs, stealing mom & dads car for a small trip, go fishing on the lake, go hunting, snowboarding you name it! That is what country boys do!

Are at the age of 16
It was the summer of 2005
He had completed his first year of high school, and worked at a water amusement park. All of us brothers moved out of the house when they turned 16, to go to high school in the nearest town, 80 miles away. This was his first summer away from home, and it would also be the last. On August 1st, he and a friend got each tattoo. They took their motorcycles to the tattoo artist in the neighbor town, he actually got tattooed the flying eye-ball by Von Dutch. And on the way, the tattoo artist's brother offered them a ride back in his car. The fact that the driver was under influence, and to much speed, they head-on collided with a car, killing my brother, his friend and the driver.

My Torch Is Lit For Are Kvipt
That was the hardest time of my life, and I almost remember nothing from the 2-3 years after the accident. It was just a enormous shock, and I kept telling my self that it was not true.. But I can't feel sorry for my self, loosing a brother and bestfriend is one thing, but loosing your son is 100 times worse. Poor mom and dad, it was hard for them, but they'd managed to keep it going. 8 years has gone by, and it tears my heart apart when I'm thinking about it. However, I know he is well wherever he's at, and I really miss him a lot. He's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last I think about when I go to sleep. I went looking for a candle to light on his birthday, but I could not find any in the ol' Barris Shop. So I figured I could lit my torch, I know he would have liked that better anyways! I can feel he is with me, maybe in another dimension, but he still takes care of me, I know it!

May Peace Be With You Bro..

Kustomrama Lynwood Division - Established

My name is Olav Kvipt b. June 21st 1993, the youngest of the Kvipt brothers from Fyresdal, Telemark, Norway. I moved here to the old Barris Shop premise at 11054 Atlantic Ave. Lynwood on July 15th. Here I'm gonna stay the next three years. My main purpose is to study Auto & Body at Cerritos College, plus Machine Engineer within oil & gas.

My Goals In Los Angeles
I liked my life in Norway a lot, but my main goal has always been to travel to California and build custom cars. Brad Masterson of Masterson Kustom Automobiles took me under his wing, and I have the feeling that we will have a good time here. I have known him for quite a while, and he figured he could use my skills here in Lynwood. So far, we've only made a wooden top for his Skate Truck, preparing it for The Kustom Kemps of America show, up in Salina Kansas. This is my first real work week here, and I must say I like it very much. However, as you might know, I'm one of the two Kustomrama journalists, and I'm here to get hold of as much information and stories from the people who were here in the 1940's and 1950's, which drove, built, or knew people who had custom cars and hot rods.

Sondre Kvipt
Kjetil Kvipt
Gratefull Of My Older Brothers
I'm so happy that my oldest brother Kjetil teached me how to do bodywork, upholstery, paint, welding, and much more. He is a real great customizer, with eyes for proportions, and hands for fabricating! And I'm also very happy that my brother Sondre introduced me to the Kustomrama when I was 13. They are the greatest persons I know about on this planet, along with my parents of course! They are not only my brothers, but I consider them as my best friends as well! We all share the same hobbies, always have, and I got a strong feeling that it will continue that way. My goal is to represent them as good as I can, and show the world what we Kustom Norwegians are good for.

The Brad Masterson Collection
After my work is done in the shop, I use the evenings and nights to scan and document Brad's incredible collection of old Barris memorabilia and pictures mainly from the late 1940's to mid 1960's. When he worked for George up in North Hollywood, George had a real clean up, and threw away a lot of his old stuff that he considered garbage. Well, as the saying says, another man's garbage is another man's gold. Brad rescued all these papers and photos by diving into the container and fetch the stuff. I'm real happy that he did, because I've found some neat old pictures from the 1940's of really nice unknown customs that I have never seen before! I will share them all to you folks, I've scanned about 700 photos, and my computer memory is now full..

Please Stop By!
If you wan't to share your history about how you got into customs, or have old pictures from the time youngsters in customs roamed the streets, please stop by at Masterson Kustoms in Lynwood!

Be sure to follow my blog, I won't disappoint you, at least not if you'll like old customs and hot rod!