The Good Ol’ Days: Guess who I ran into?
Somewhere in the U.S. a person is hit by a car every 20 minutes. I don’t know where it may occur, but that person should try to remain indoors as much as possible.
Okay, it’s an old joke. But it got me to thinking about when I was five or six years old, I was hit by a car.
It was on a sunny summer Saturday in about 1954. The Rugby merchants used to sponsor a Saturday matinee to entice farmers to come to town, dump their kids at the Lyric Theater and then shop ’til the shelves were empty.
The atmosphere in the Lyric that day was a sort of contagious restlessness. No one was watching the film, probably a Western starring Randolph Scott, and after failing to subdue us disorderly youths, the usherettes had barricaded themselves in the “crying room” upstairs. Note: The “crying room” was where families with babies could watch the proceedings from behind a soundproofed glass.
The memory came back to me recently, in vivid Technicolor and VistaVision. I was running up and down the aisles and in and out of the theater onto the sidewalk. I don’t know why. I ran across the street (over to the C&G side) and then decided to run back to the theater. I darted out from between the parallel-parked cars (or “vee-hick-els” as we say it in the South) and ran smack into the front passenger door of a light green Plymouth or Dodge 4-door.
I suppose the collision made a loud thump (try it yourself, if you don’t believe me) and the big car screeched to a halt. The driver and his passenger, both 20-something young men, looked horrified and got out and asked me if I was okay. I suppose I was more embarrassed than hurt and I shrugged off medical attention, thanked them, and dashed back inside the Lyric to catch the feature’s final minutes. After Randolph Scott had kissed his girl and ridden off into the sunset, I accompanied the neighborhood kids on our five-block march back home.
My mother wanted to know about my bumps and abrasions (I learned a new word that day) and when I told her…
Winston Churchill was hit by a car while on a visit to New York City in 1931. Being from England, where they drive on the left side of the road, he looked to his right instead of to his left and walked straight into an oncoming car. I have nearly had the same experience myself, across the Pond. My mother was right. One should always look both ways. Of course, now that I’m a senior citizen, I usually have someone offer to help me when the light turns green.
On his first visit to Canada in about 1933, my Dad crossed over into the left lane as they proceeded north to Boissevain. A concerned passenger asked Dad what he was doing, driving in the wrong lane. Dad had assumed that U.K. traffic rules also applied to our friendly neighbours to the north.
You’re probably waiting for my Randolph Scott story. Well, about five years after my run-in with that car outside the Lyric, my Dad and I flew between Seattle and Los Angeles on a Western Airlines 4-propeller Lockheed Constellation. About an hour before an intermediate stop in San Francisco, the pilot advised that one of the engines had developed some sort of issue and that he was shutting down (or “feathering”) the engine. He added that we needn’t worry, as the plane was designed to run perfectly well with three. Dad captured the motionless propeller on his Kodak 8mm home movie camera, as well as the fire trucks and rescue equipment that greeted us at SFO International. We landed “without incident”, as they say.
Western put us on another plane and we arrived some hours later at LAX. As we walked along the concourse past the gates toward the main terminal, a familiar-looking man walked by. He was perfectly tanned, had silver hair and a matching silk suit and was carrying a briefcase. His graceful gait identified him as my favorite cowboy: 61-year-old (George) Randolph Scott.
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