Ever Glad You Didn’t?

By Jerry D. Haight

Sixteen; driver’s license; wheels; power; dates; judgment? Of the preceding seven words, is there one that just seems a little out of place? I think so, but then maybe not. The maroon ’48 Ford glistened in the back of my father’s auto repair shop. Whenever possible sitting in the driver’s seat, playing with the leather lined steering wheel, pressing the clutch, moving the shifting leaver through the gears and fantasizing about a real trip would be at least a good thing to happen in an afternoon. That chrome Ford emblem on the hood always called out for a breath and a rub with a cloth to keep it glistening.  But starting that car every now and then (just to keep it in shape, of course) and reveling over the deep throaty rumble sound of the magnificent flat head V-8 engine would even be the best. The “For Sale” sign had a six hundred dollar asking price.

With only one hundred fifty dollars in the bank, a calculated four hundred fifty dollar deficit, owning the car would remain just a fantasy. “Oh well”.  This routine went on for most of the summer of employment with Dad. Thankfully, he was not good at marketing otherwise “the prize” would have surely been sold and all the dreaming and fantasizing would be for naught. Dad definitely was not ready for another car and driver in the family and wanting to put off the inevitable as long as possible made it clear that any loan for a car was out of the question.

Ah, but fate was about to intervene with a series of unlikely events that would bring all the foregoing fantasizing into reality. Dad asked me to go with him to a Delco Remy battery sales rally held at Mammoth Gardens where, unbeknown to him a door prize of a 17” floor model black and white TV would be awarded to his son as the lucky ticket holder. And, as it turned out, brother’s best friend, Bro and his new wife, Peggy, were temporarily staying at the house while looking for an apartment. Having a need for a TV, Bro bought it for enough to buy the Car and pay for insurance. Owning the car was no longer a fantasy. To this day, I can see Dad shaking his head in dismay and muttering to himself as the reality set in that indeed, there was another car and driver in the family.

The 48 Ford brought with it more dates. It was never too clear whether the attraction was boy, car or boy with car. One was Mary. She attended parochial school and worked a couple of hours per day behind the soda counter and during the summer worked a little more than half of each day.  Among her specialties were lemon and cherry cokes. That was a time when fountain clerks made drinks from scratch rather than pouring from bottles or cans. There was another name for fountain clerks, but one would use that term in front of Mary only once. She was very Italian with a Roman nose and a definite Italian temperament.

Mary was very smart, very pretty, witty, and quite boisterous. There was some kind of link connecting Mary’s vocal cords with her hands because if you really wanted her attention, the secret was to hold her hands, which of course was delightful, but without them, she simply could not talk.  Dating Mary was never dull but it provided some consternation as well.  Charlie, the drug store owner, and Dad were good. As such, they visited often so it wasn’t very long before Dad knew Mary was working for Charlie and found out from Charlie that Mary was the daughter of a well known mafia king pin. When he became aware that his son was dating Mary, the daughter of a mafia king pin, there was no words adequate to describe his consternation so he must have invented the term “going ballistic” and went for it.

In many ways, at least on the surface, Mary’s parents were like any other parents, they lived in a normal house, maybe a little more upscale but they were very interested in the boy dating their daughter. They both were very warm and cordial. From Mary’s perspective, her father was a professional person with a complete separation between his professional life and personal life of father and husband. On dates, there never were discussions about his professional life.  Fortunately for Dad, the relationship only lasted a few months and it broke off amicably. It seemed that our religion and culture were just not compatible.

More than likely Mary’s parents had a similar discussion with Mary. Mary was in many ways a learning experience. For instance, apparently there is the same link connecting Italian vocal chords with car horns. It would figure since the horn is an extension of the hand. According to Mary you honk when people in front are not moving and honk in every situation you want them to know you are there. If angry, by all means honk. If happy, well, why not?  It is this teaching that impacted what happened next.                

On an overcast winter day when snow covered Louisiana Street on the west side of Denver, a group of fifteen or so kids ranging from about 4 or 5 to 10 to 12 were using the hill on the street for sledding.  They were invisible to east bound traffic on Louisiana until cresting the hill. When the group came into view, they were having a great time. Some were sliding down the hill on sleds, some in inner tubes and some on pieces of cardboard. Most were giggling and laughing. Some were building a snowman beside the road and some were having a snowball fight.  This sixteen year old, of course, had the drivers’ license, the wheels, the power, and he also had a horn which he used as he approached, a trait learned from an Italian.

Was it to warn the kids of his approach or let them know he had the power? To this day, this is still a mystery. But at any rate, most of the kids were not impressed. In fact, they viewed the 48 Ford and that driver with much distain. “How dare you interrupt our play time on this wintry day” I am sure they thought. “Just who do you think you are anyway?”  Then; “Let’s show this guy in the Ford he doesn’t frighten us”. “I’ll stick my tongue out at him” thought one. And he did. “I will bend over and wiggle my fanny at him” thought another. And he did also. “Well I won’t be outdone by you” said still another, I will make a face at him”. Yep. He did also. “Let’s just stand here and block his way” is what someone must have said as that is what they did. So the car started creeping past them.

Then one of the kids presented his middle finger and about then snowballs began hitting the 48 Ford. “That does it” thought the sixteen year old. “Now they are damaging my pride and joy”. As the 48 Ford gained a little speed, the driver saw a cardboard box about two feet square and about three feet high in the gutter along the right side of the street. “Ah Ha”, thought the teenager, “Now is my chance to get even”. As he began turning the leather lined steering wheel to the right, he thought “Nah, I am too old to let a bunch of kids get to me” and he straightened the car out and pointed that Ford’s emblem straight down the hill.

As he looked back at the box now passing in his rear view mirror, he saw a little child with black pants, blue winter coat, a red stocking cap and white scarf open the lid of the box and climb out.  Boy was I ever glad I didn’t. To the question didn’t what, I would probably simply answer “pick one, two or possibly even more”.  Sixteen; driver’s license; wheels; power; dates; judgment? Of the preceding seven words, is there one that just seems a little out of place? Sometimes, but then maybe not.