Sherry Hopkins Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

Station wagon sighting prompts memory of
fun-filled night lived in a simpler time

On the way to work this morning I saw an old station wagon. It was easily 40 years old or more and looked pretty darn good for such a relic. It took me back to my teen years when I first began to drive. Once I got my license I took my Mamma everywhere, relieving my Daddy of the position he had held for many years. I loved to drive around the city; I loved the power it gave me.

Our family car was a 1960 blue Ford station wagon. It must have been thirty feet long.

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It was manual transmission with a column shift. A year or so before I got my license when I was about thirteen or fourteen my Daddy bought a pickup truck and drove it back and forth to work leaving the Ford at home. Many times during the summer of 1966 I piled the neighborhood kids into the car and drove all around Memphis, unbeknownst to my parents.

I barely knew how to drive and could only put the car into second gear. There’s no telling what kind of damage I did to the transmission driving in that gear only. The kids all thought I was cool because I could drive. I shudder to think what could have happened on such a foolish adventure. Cool or not.

When I took my driver’s license test I had to parallel park that monster. I was understandably nervous but passed the test on my first try.

Not long after that Daddy sold that car and bought a sleek new Ford XLT. It was sporty and fun to drive and I was even cooler than before.

One weekend my sister and I spent the night with our best friends who lived at the end of our street. We had concocted a plan and couldn’t wait for the adults to go to bed so we could spring into action.

Somewhere around midnight when we were sure the coast was clear we snuck down the stairwell from the girls’ upstairs bedroom loft. We were as quiet as church mice. We made our way outside to the backyard climbing over the fence while trying to hush Sylvester, the family’s big old mutt.  As we made way to the family car we giggled that we had just about pulled off our little scheme.

Lolly, the oldest girl and my friend, jumped into the driver’s seat of their station wagon putting the gear into neutral. Their car was a new top of the line two-toned Chrysler with lots of chrome and big fins jetting out of the back. Lolly’s younger sister, Marilyn, my younger sister and I started pushing that massive wagon down the drive. Once it started downhill the momentum allowed it to move on its own.

As Lolly turned the wheel to head it down the dark quiet street, the three of us jumped in. Lolly started her up and away we went. We drove all over the city for hours. I don’t remember where all we went. We had the windows down the radio loud, it was the middle of the night and we were free. Every hour or so we would swing back by Lolly and Marilyn’s house to make sure the lights were still off and no one knew we had left.

At one point we were low on gas. Between the three of us we mustered up enough money for  a gallon and a half of gas, about sixty five or seventy cents. We pulled into one of the few allnight service stations in Memphis and asked for a gallon of regular. The attendant was young and cute and we flirted with him causing him to put more than the requested one gallon in the car. We apologized as we flashed big smiles and away we went laughing gloriously at our luck.

Early in the wee hours just before daylight I needed to relieve my bladder. There was no where open at that hour for a young girl to go.

Finally we pulled over close to the shadow of an overhead viaduct and I jumped out, at this point ready to burst. I squatted down in front of the car to relieve myself. At the very point where I became committed to the task at hand Lolly turned on the headlights and every passing car could see me in all my glory. Everyone in the car was crying with laughter. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Either one would keep me in that position for longer than I wanted to be. I was mortified.

As the light of dawn began to break, we made our way back to Lolly’s house. We put the car right back where we got it from and cautiously made our way back upstairs. We crashed into the beds and slept all morning and most of the afternoon, no one ever being the wiser. It was a simpler time back then and no harm came to any of us. I don’t advocate any such experience this day and age. I just love station wagons.

You get the picture?