From Stanley Steamer to Electra
Greenwood dean of auto mechanics at 78
By WILLIAM D. GODSOE Globe Staff
If there is such a thing as an auto mechanic’s mechanic, Levi Greenwood, 78, of Norwood, is a candidate for the honor.
Levi (pronounced Levee) didn’t come by the honor because of his age or the fact he is a good guy — he offers 60 years’ experience working around cars, plus a mechanical engineering degree from M.I.T.
You could say that Greenwood was born into the automobile industry and comes by his ability naturally. He started his career as a mechanic in his father’s garage during his teens.
He remembers working on Stanley Steamers and has run the gamut on all makes and kinds.
Even after all these years he thinks that a career as a mechanic is a challenging one and never hesitates to recommend it to young men as a life work.
“It’s a lot better career today than when I started. In the early years a mechanic was considered a low class laborer. Not so these days. It takes something to keep up with anywhere from 10,000 to 13,000 separate parts of today’s cars,” said Greenwood.
Sure they have all kinds of machines and tools to help, but a good mechanic need not worry about loafing.
“It’s one of the few good paying careers that a young person can make good in with a minimum of formal education.
Twenty years ago the Walpole-born mechanic was ordered to retire by his doctor. The retirement bit lasted about four months, Greenwood recalls.
At 58 he returned to his first love, mechanics, and that started a career with the Norwood Buick where he now holds sway as a top trouble shooter.
The boys at Norwood Buick got a lot of their know-how from this veteran auto worker. Said Joe Enselmo, service manager: “I had trouble with the front end of my car for some time. I finally turned Levi loose on it and with his usual calm and practiced eye he came up with the solution.
At 78 Greenwood doesn’t do any of the heavy work these days but he’s always on hand to lend his experience to the younger mechanics.
His main interest these days, apart from the shop, is his grandchildren and he says he would rather keep working. “Not interested in retiring.
Greenwood’s 60 years experience as a mechanic makes him fair game for the antique auto owners when they come up with troubles. He has come to the rescue of many in recent years.
Most of the younger mechanics have never seen some of the models that Greenwood works on.
He told the Globe that each year the cars come up with something new that keeps one on the alert and there is always something more to learn.
Greenwood, who is probably the oldest working mechanic in the state, recalls driving a Stanley Steamer for the famous Sarah Palfrey’s father, and “getting out to get under” more than once.
“Most people today think that the souped up car young people buy is a new gimmick; but we did it with model T’s back in 1915, he said.
Can you imagine making a fast corner with a souped up model? We did. It was fun for us then, but I am not so sure I would like to take today’s jazzed up car around some of the corners we took,” he confessed.
Greenwood returned from World War I and a stretch in the Army to enter the automobile business with a partner in Milford selling Hudson-Essex.
He took sick and was ordered to retire, but four months of loafing, was enough. He decided to return to work under less pressure as a plain auto mechanic.
Greenwood attended Phillips Exeter Academy for two years and obtained a degree in mechanical engineering at M.I.T., which he admits has stood him in good stead.
His introduction into the auto mechanic field, working on Stanley Steamers also has provided him with some know-how for building model steam engines, his hobby.