History Hive: Mrs. McCartney

#HCHistoryHive, you did it! We asked you to help us find the identity of a well known female mechanic who may have run a Gulf gas station in Brattle Square. This mechanical whiz was able to fix a car by hammering and/or kicking the motor. When asked if her fee was too much for simply roughing up the motor, she said it wasn’t just for kicking, but for knowing where to kick.⠀

Heli M: Mrs. McCartney, the owner of the gas station in the heart of Harvard Sq. was a formidable woman. Tiny, with fluffy white hair, she was always dressed like a doctor in a white coat and holding a clipboard. Although small and female in a man’s world, she spoke commandingly. She would telephone my mother and say ”Mrs. Spiegel, I’m sending a man to pick up your car – it’s time for your oil change.” or some procedure she’d kept track of. The car would duly be whisked away and returned a few hours later. In return, my mother got her gas at the station. She’d drive in and say, getting out of the car, “Fill her up while I run across the street to pick up a lipstick at Woolworths.” And they would. Parking spaces in the Square were as difficult to find in the 1950s and 60s as they are now.

Frank K: I think her name was Mrs. McCartney and I believe she took over when her husband died. When the Coolidge Bank bought the property she had to move down Mass. Ave to the west corner of Bay St. She was one  tough lady.

Liz J: I remember seeing her lying on her back under our car when my dad took it down for service sometime in the 40’s. This fascinated and surprised me to see a woman working as a mechanic!

Michael M: I didn’t know she was a mechanic, but it was obvious that  she spent alot [sic] of time in, under, and around cars because her trademark white coat was always dirty  with grease. She obviously knew everything there was to know about cars. And she seemed to  enjoy what she was doing. You could always get a laugh out of her, when she wasn’t coughing. I don’t know if she smoked, but I think the chemicals in the gas station did a number on her lungs. That is what got her, in April of 1980. My father used to get mad when he saw her bills, (“Your damn bills'” and she just laughed at him). She was a fixture in Harvard Square, and a character. It was never quite the same when she moved the garage to the corner of Bay St. and Mass. Ave.

Sheffield VB: The rumor was that Mrs. McCartney’s father was a race car driver. She seemed to know everything there was to know about cars. People also garaged their cars with her. The building had one of those elevators that bought cars up and down. When I was a kid in the early 50s, we had an unusually large black lab, Binker, who could sense when my family was getting ready to go on a trip. He would take off down Mt. Auburn Street and run up the stairs at the garage to where our car was parked and wait for us. I remember Mrs. McCartney calling my mother and saying, “Are you going away? Your dog is in the car again…”

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