The Good Ol’ Days: Memory Interference
So, if you and I are going to drive down memory lane, I may need you to ride shotgun, if you don’t mind. I love to write and now am given the honor (and challenge) of staring at a blank page and coming up with a memory. Someone says that if you need to jog your memory, such as “Why did I walk into the living room?” then you should place your left hand on your backside. Don’t knock it, it works. But not all the time, so if you have a memory from the 50’s or 60’s that you want me to write about (keeping your hands to yourself), then please contact the Tribune and they will forward it to me.
Psychologists have identified something called “memory interference” that prevents us from recalling the specifics of those things that we do regularly. For instance, how many times have you driven to Minot and back? How many times did you take a load of grain to the elevator? That sort of thing. My dad, Al Gronvold, used to take me along with him to Minot on business trips. When I was old enough, he let me drive. He even took brief naps while I was at the wheel. He would sometimes drop me off at the Chateau Lanes in south Minot for a few hours, where I bowled line after line at 15 cents per. On a few occasions, I would participate in what we called “drive-outs” where several of Dad’s employees, Hans Dahl and I would drive up to Fisher Motors in Minot to pick up some recently-delivered factory-fresh Cadillacs. In the 50’s and 60’s, Cadillac delivered its cars by train on the Surrey Cutoff (Fargo-Harvey-Minot) and we would have to go pick them up from Fisher’s.
On one drive-out Rugby-to-Minot leg, Dad noticed that there was some roadwork being done on the then-two lane U.S. 2 bypass near Granville. Fresh oil with a topping of fresh gravel. We picked up three or four Caddies and then made a stop at the Motors Insurance Co. office in Minot to take out special insurance in case a windshield was cracked on our return to Rugby. After leaving Minot’s eastern ‘burbs, I carefully observed the speed limit and kept the big black 4-door sedan between the lines. But, when I reached the graveled Granville stretch, I saw a huge semi-trailer truck heading toward me, barreling along at 70 mph or more (speed limit was 65). I pulled over, way over, onto a shoulder and slowed to almost a standstill. The driver saw me, noticed the gravel and with an evil glint in his eye he gunned that diesel even more. As the big rig raced past my Cadillac, trailing a whirlwind of pebbles, it was like being sprayed by a machine gun. “Tat! Tatter! Tat! Tat!” A spider web of cracks appeared on the brand new windscreen. I drove guiltily home and when I faced my dad he was, as always, very patient (and relieved that he had taken out the extra insurance) and the matter was never spoken of again. When I was young, my dad left quite a few of similar matters unspoken of again.
On another Cadillac cruise back to Rugby, and coincidentally again near Granville, I was sailing along, minding my own business on a sunny day with no gravel hazards to deal with. I was probably listening to CKY-AM in Winnipeg (which, along with fellow Top-40 programmed CKRC-AM, has been off the air for years). Another big rig approached from the east and the driver saw this kid in a Caddy and showed his respect by expectorating a huge hawker about thirty yards in front of me as our vehicles converged. He must have had training or practice, because if you want to hit a moving object you have to lead it, allow for wind velocity, oncoming speed, inertia, etc. For all I knew the guy was a former high school physics teacher who had found a better-paying job. Anyway, the missile of mucous hung in space like a hovering hummingbird, and then came down with a huge splat! right onto my Fleetwood’s frontal view. In fairness, it was a direct hit and I’m sure that it made the driver’s day. By the time I get to Phoenix, there’s no saliva…
I discovered a loophole in NoDak laws pertaining to the legal driving age back in 1961 when I had just turned 13. If you were driving “to or from school, to or from work, or on business of your parent, guardian or employer” then you could be licensed at 13. I passed the written test and then went for the obligatory test drive with a Highway Patrol officer. Dad had loaned me a car from his “OK Used Cars” lot nearby and as I eased away from the Court House the officer asked, “Your father supported that bill to raise the Highway Patrolmen’s salary, didn’t he?” Gulp! (I didn’t know, so I just kept the car going at about 18 mph, palms dripping). After we had gone around the block, the officer said, “Okay, you’ve passed.” And that was that.
When my pink-colored official license (on heavy paper with no photo) arrived in the mail a week later, I celebrated by taking my first official solo drive in a 1953 blue Chevy pickup with a 3-foot long “straight stick” floor-mounted manual transmission that my dad had driven home for lunch. I turned onto the avenue by our house and drove north to Second Street, which were both gravel at the time. When I downshifted to make the turn onto Second Street, the rear wheels spun out, causing the pickup to do a 180-degree “U-ie” and it came to rest in a cloud of dust, just inches from a neighbor’s freshly-planted street-side tree. Fortunately there were no witnesses, as everyone was indoors, presumably lunching and watching As the World Turns on Channel 13 and not watching As Billy Gronvold Spins Out on Second Street.
It is the Pierce County Tribune’s privilege to introduce Bill Gronvold who has agreed to be a new columnist for our paper. Bill grew up in Rugby, graduating from RHS in 1966. After college and military service in Korea he worked in radio and television in South Florida. He accepted employment with the Federal Aviation Administration as an air traffic controller in 1979, retiring in 2006 and resides in Orlando, Florida. He is a freelance Varsity sports reporter for the Orlando Sentinel. He has won no major awards, does not dance but has always loved Rugby and its history.
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