Tales of the stick, part 2.


Carl Levitian
July 17, 2008, 06:51 PM
There wasn't many places to get a French made Simca serviced, even in 1959.

Growing up in the 1950's, there was a great deal of neat and sometimes strange little European cars around. The VW bug had not yet driven off all the competition, and there was Renaults and Simca's from France, Voxhauls and Hillman's and Morris minors from England, Fiats and Alfa's frome Italy. Being a high school senior from a working class family, I needed a cheap car to get around. What I ended up with was a little red Simca.

It was a couple years old, in clean shape, and the guy I bought it from gave me all the service papers from a local place called "Varhidy's Simca and foriegn car service". It was there I met a strange man named Emory Varhidy.

Mr. Varhidy was the owner, and 50% of the workforce in the garage, along with his hired man, Robert. Emory Varhidy was a medium size guy, maybe in his late 40's to 50ish, strait dark hair tinged with silver, brushed back from a high forhead. He had a passing resemblance to the actor Bella Lagossi of the Count Dracula movies of the 30's. This resemblence was more marked from his Romanian accented English. He kept my little Simca serviced and running like a top, and we slowly got to know one another. Once in a while I would drop off the car in the morning on the way to school, and pick it up in the evening. Sometimes I got there when it was just being finished up, and durring the winter this would be dusk.

Varhidy's garage was not in the best part of Kensington, down an alley of mechanics shops, welding shops, pluming supplies. Crime was not an unknown thing in that local, and people were a bit carefull. It was with a feeling of alarm when I saw Mr. Varhidy take the days payments from cutomers and put it in his jacket pocket and tell Robert he was going to the bank down the street before it closed. At the time, Robert was finishing up my car and simply gave an okay. I watched Mr. Varhidy pick up a cane from a corner of the office and walk out the door. This was passing strange, as Mr. Varhidy was not impared in any way I'd ever seen. In fact he was very physically fit.

As he vanished out the door, I asked Robert about the cane, and he laughed, and replied in his rolling carribean accent ( I only learned later he was from Trinidad) "Ohhh, He be okay, he got his stick with him. I feel sorry for da mon who mess wi da boss."

I thought about that while Robert closed the engine hatch and told me it was good to go. He was making out the final bill when a siren went by. Then another.

Going to the sliding door and looking out, there seemed to be some sort of rukus down by the corner just shy of the bank. Under the street light we could see Mr. Varhidy talking to the police, so we went down to see what the problem was. There was indeed a problem. Or more like a couple of them.

On the pavement were two young punk types, who would need transport via ambulance to the local hospital. Mr. Varhidy was a little exited, and one of the cops had his cane. From what they gathered from Varhidy as well as a couple of witnesses from the hardware store right there, three punks tried to rob Mr. Varhidy on his way to the bank. The one that ran off was the lucky one. His two partners in crime had some broken bones, and were much worse for wear than the intended victim. Later investigation found they had watched Mr. Varhidy walk to the bank every night with the days reciepts, and deceided to rob him. The cops gave Mr. varhidy his cane back and we walked back to the shop. As we walked, Mr. Varhidy swung his cane along, not really using it to walk with. I asked him about how he knew to use it like he did. He just gave an enigmatic shrug. Robert, in a good mood that his boss had triumphed, said that Mr. Emory, as he called him, gave them some of that gypsy mojo.

"Gypsy?" I asked.

Mr. Varhidy gave Robert a stern look, then shrugged and told me that he was of the Romani people. We were sitting in the cluttered office now, and Mr. Varhidy spoke of his boyhood in Romania, of traveling around, being chased out of places, attacked, being always on the move and in a state of fearfull watchfullness. Gypsy men would teach thier sons how to defend oneself with a stick, as most places gypsys were forbiden to have weapons. Since one always had a walking stick or staff in hand traveling the road, it was a chosen weapon, along with small knives. Then the war came, and the Nazi's sent them all to the camps. Emory Varhidy said he never saw most of his family again. On the liberation of camps, he emigrated to America.

It was full dark now, and he opened a drawer of the desk he was seated at. Taking out a brown bottle, he looked at me and asked, "How old are you now?"

"18 sir."

He splashed a light brown liquir into three glasses, and he, Robert and myself had a drink. A nice warmpth hit my insides from some sort of brandy. And I listened with rapt attention to what was to become one of my many mentors in life. Over the next year he would coach me on many things. On his advise I went into the woods and cut myself a hickory staff, no higher than the lower most rib on my side, and let it age for a few months, and not peel the bark but to leave it rustic looking. Only a cotton jute cord wrap grip area up top and a rubber cane tip on the bottom. He showed me how a shorter stick or cane was handier in close quarters than a longer staff. How to go for the smaller bones in the hand and wrist to disable an attacker. To go for the knee to cripple so you can run away. How a small slim screwdriver could be carried in comfort, but pierce like a stilleto if shoved in the right place. And be ditched down a sewer with no great loss.

A year out of high school, I enlisted in the army, and I only saw Mr. Varhidy once in a while when home on leave. Once I had driven home in the mid 60's in my 3 cylinder Saab that was in need of a clutch job. Mr. Varhidy took it in as a rush job, and in one morning had my little Saab ready to roll back up to Ft. Devons, Massachusetts. When I went to pay the bill, he would not take my money. He said it was his gift for keeping America free.

I lost touch with Emory Varhidy when I did a long tour over in Germany. When I came back, the garage had been sold and the new owner told me Mr. Varhidy had retired and moved south with his wife. I think of him now and then, and have a drink to his memory. He was a good mentor for a young guy, and I think his teachings saved me from harm a time or two.

He was a darn good Simca mechanic as well.

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July 17, 2008, 07:19 PM
everbody needs a Emory Varidy in their life. Now its our turn carl to be a Mr Varidy to some kid

July 17, 2008, 07:33 PM
That was a great story, and very well written. It really flowed smoothly...you must write a lot.

Do me a favor if possible...go get a ruler...look at it, and tell me how long a screwdriver you prefer for the use mentioned. I want to carry one, but I want second opinions. Thanks...

July 17, 2008, 07:42 PM
I truly enjoy your stories, Carl.

Thank you.


Carl Levitian
July 17, 2008, 08:01 PM
Okay conwict, here ya go.

Screwdriver number 1- this is one that gets alot of carry in the side pocket of my wrangler jeans. Handle is yellow translucent fluted plastic, 3 inches long, 3/4 inches thick at widest flute, shaft is 3 inches long, a tad less than 1/4 inch flat screw driving edge, steel shaft about 3/16 inch. Overall lenght is 6 inches. Shaft is housed in a plastic tube sheath made from material cut from 1 gallon milk jug, and wrapped with duct tape.

Screwdriver number 2- this is a small job that gets clipped in the shirt pocket like a pen. Black pastic handle 2 1/41/8 thick and inches long and 7/16ths thick, shaft is 3 1/4 inch long. Overall its about as long as a Bic stick pen, and fits nicely in a shirt pocket.

Both would be used as small spike dagger, thrusting up into stomach area from low position or up under chin into throat. End goal is to create opening to run like hell. Leave. Get outa Dodge.

July 17, 2008, 08:16 PM
Carl, that was very helpful. I think I'll just carry one though. The whole thing was a good read...really goes along with what I am trying to do now in college (PC self-defense tools).

Ever sharpen the flat head? If you did it right no one would even notice, and it would be easy to argue it came that way. Could make it pretty sharp too if tweren't stainless...


Carl Levitian
July 17, 2008, 09:15 PM
I should edit my post to point out I don't carry two screw drivers at one time. Different tools for different rypes of dress. More dressed up, smaller tools.

July 17, 2008, 10:41 PM

Well written, sir. Nice flow to the story, and good info well presented.

Start writing magazine articles. I would surely buy same for your work.

July 17, 2008, 11:15 PM
Great read...

This comes from another fellow Simca/Saab owner.

Must be something about the Simca mechanics. The one that worked on mine was also a mentor. Thanks for spurring the thought of a past time.

Dirty Bob
July 18, 2008, 12:49 AM
Great story, Carl,

My folks had a Renault Dauphine when I was born in 1962. My father loved that if the battery went dead, you could hand crank it to start, with a crank that fitted into the front of the engine somewhere. Interesting little car. I wish they'd kept it and given it to me! :-(

Edited to add:
Perhaps I spoke too soon on the Renault. I just found out that it and the LeCar both made Car Talk's 10 Worst Cars of the Millenium. I love the quote about the Dauphine: "Truly unencumbered by the engineering process."

Great stick story. The cane is far more powerful a tool than many people suspect. Used two-handed to thrust, it can deliver a decisive blow. I was on the receiving end of a two-handed "aggressive" block, once, in a training situation. The other student held the stick two-handed and horizontal, to block my knife thrust, and drove the middle part of the stick into my face! Stopped me cold! You can put a lot of your body weight into these blows, and even a smaller or older person can generate a lot of force.

You can see a blow similar to the one that stopped me in John Styers' excellent book Cold Steel. It has a section on the stick, much of which could be adapted to the cane fairly easily. I don't completely agree with his knife section, but the stick section has a lot of merit.

Thanks again for a great read,
Dirty Bob

July 18, 2008, 01:21 AM
Good stuff, and thanks.


Brian Dale
July 18, 2008, 11:19 PM
Thanks, Carl. Solid stuff. Thank you, Mr. Varhidy.

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