Sterno for Heat … in the Front Seat

In 1968 my National Guard Company, the 115th Military Police Pawtucket, RI, was called up for an additional 2 years of active duty. I was a Staff Sergeant. The company was deployed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Many of us got orders for Viet Nam, but I was not called, spending the entire time at West Point. Subsequently, we decided that my wife and 8-month-old son would move to an apartment in New Windsor, NY, about 10 miles north of West Point.

THE Beetle

Our car was a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle, and I would use it to go back and forth to work. The Beetle did not have a working starter, so to get it started I would push it down the road, jump in and pop the clutch. I’ll bet there aren’t too many kids today who would even know what that means.
I had to travel over a scary part of NY’s Route 218, referred to as the Storm King Highway – a good part of it was built on the side of a mountain with a deep drop. On my day shifts I would leave for work about 5:30 am, facing the challenge that my Beetle had no heat. Well it had some heat from the rear mounted engine, but no blower. So, if you traveled about 60 MPH for 30 minutes you “may” begin to feel some warmth. The winter was cold.

My solution to this dilemma was to light a Sterno can, put it on the front passenger side floor and control the flame by managing the placement of the lid over the can. Of course, I would then crack the two windows about an inch. It worked, I got warm and didn’t get asphyxiated.

Serving in the military required great ingenuity. That was the extent of mine.