Uncle Kent came back from Oak Ridge and started selling insurance. He got another car, of course, but optimist that he was, he thought there might be some life left in the old ‘34 Ford.
We had a cousin, another James, over in Mississippi, who ran a garage. Uncle Kent thought that if anyone could maybe give the old car a transfusion or magic pill or something it would be that James.
So he sent fists cousin/best friend James and me on a mission to get the car to the other James’ garage.
We set out. We knew the way to the state line, where we would make a right turn. From there on, to us, it was unchartered territory. We’d just have to ask people. Note: by then, the clutch was slipping so badly that if we ever completely stopped, it was hard to get rolling again.
So, when we’d come to an intersection, I’d crawl out the window and run to the nearest house and ask, breathlessly, “Which way to Hamilton?” And the person would tell me, and I’d go running back and catch up with James, who’ still be chugging along. Mustn’t stop.
I’d tell him to keep going this way, or find a place where we could make a sweeping turn and go that way.
Finally we saw a sign pointing toward Hamilton. We were getting close. But we were in flat prairie land now. The clutch was letting us barely creep. C’mon, old car. C’mon. Oh, for a slight grade.
There it was. We had made it. We were at cousin James’ garage. He must have thought, after all these years, this was his biggest challenge.
We spent the day drinking RCs and eating peanuts and candy, waiting for the bus that hauled people, mostly women from our town to the “Shell Factory.” It was an ammunition plant during the war and slightly afterwards, where the ladies worked at higher wages than they’d ever dreamed of.
The other James did what he could, and we cousins had lots of fun in the poor old thing. One reason I love the movie “State Fair” so much is the memory of seven or eight of us going to see the movie at the Lamar Theater and singing its songs on the way home. Willa could never get the middle part of “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” right.
Just before James graduated from high school, a year ahead of me, he and the car introduced me some of the bumper crop of beautiful girls in our neighboring/rival town to the north.
James and a couple of his other buddies had stumbled across the treasure and had gotten to know three of them and had dated them a few times. This time, the girls wanted the boys to get a blind date for a friend of theirs. James drafted me.
I reluctantly went along. Four couples. we parked in a beautiful pine grove just off but out of sight of the highway. Thick carpet of fresh pine straw. My date was the kind of girl about which it is said, “…but she has a great personality.” And she did! and we had much fun, although I heard later that she came down with a bad poison ivy rash.
But most importantly, I was made aware of those many, many next-town beauties. But that’s another story.
I don’t know what finally happened to the old car. James was gone. It just quietly disappeared, leaving behind some great memories.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.