Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Caprice and Dog Patch USA

In the early 70s Gloria and I decided we'd take the family on an Arkansas vacation.  We had just gotten rid of our 1962 Plymouth Belvedere and got a deal on a 1969 Chevrolet Caprice Station Wagon.  At that time our 4 kids ranged in age from 7 to 12.

Our destination was Dog Patch USA. On the day of our departure I saw what appeared to be a nail in our right rear tire.  The nail's head was quite large and I would discover later that the nail itself was about 4 inches long. This discovery explained why I was having to air up that tire every 3 or 4 days.  I wanted it fixed before departing for our trip, but Gloria said "We've gone this long with it, so let's not waste anymore time.  If we need to, we'll get it fixed along the way."  

So we began our departure despite the troubled rear tire.  With every stop we made along the way, I would air up that tire.  Back then service stations offered air at no charge.  This airing ritual would be a regular routine for the entire trip.

Because Dog Patch was near the Arkansas state line into Missouri, we decided to spend our first night on top of Mount Nebo near Hot Springs.  We were given a tour of a delightful stone cottage there.  I and the children loved it.  But when Gloria saw that it was near a steep cliff overhang, her acrophobia kicked in and she vehemently protested saying "No, we can't stay here.  I could never rest worrying about the kids." So we instead drove back to the bottom of the mountain and stayed in a simple, but servicable motel.  

The station wagon had a rear door with an electric window.  All the luggage had been placed in the rear on the rear-facing rear seat.  When I attempted to open the window, it just wouldn't budge.  Because the rear door would not open with the window closed, this made access to our luggage very difficult.  I told Gloria that in the morning we will find a Chevrolet dealership and get this fixed.  Of course I worried that this little repair might eat up our vacation funds, but I truly wanted this fixed.  Gloria said "Well, we can also get that damn tire fixed."  Great!  The next day we took it into a dealership and a salesman greeted us.  I told him our problem and he simply banged on the door with the heals of his hands and it came open.  He said "This happens a lot with this model.  Usually it's no trouble, but when it is, just do this (meaning bang on it) and it should open fine."  There was no charge and I was thrilled.  We were once again on our way. After about 10-15 miles Gloria said "Did the tire get fixed?"  CRAP! Forgot!  But we at least could open the rear door. 

The next day en route to Dog Patch we were suddenly thrust into a relentless downpour.  The storm was so violent that cars (us included) had to pull to the side of the road.  While waiting for a let-up Gloria and I became aware that the top of our windshield leaked severely. This was not at all acceptable.  Ahead of us I saw a general store and decided to carefully make our way there.  Gloria said "What are you doing?"  I said I had an idea.  She said "I doubt if that store has anything that can seal this windshield."  I said "I think they do." She said "WHAT, for God's sake?" As we pulled into a parking slot at the little store, I said "I'll be right back." Running through the driving rain, I went in and bought about 20 packages of Fleers Double Bubble Gum. When I got back to the car, I gave each of the 4 kids 5 packs of gum and said "I want you to save the wrappings and chew until there is no more sweet juice, then wad it into a gum ball and give it to me." The kids were more than willing to provide this "technical assistance."  Gloria said "You've got to be kidding." I said "This will work."  And it did.  I took their gum wads and sealed the windshield.  We were again on our way.

The weather cleared and we managed to limp our way into Dog Patch.  Had a great time.  We heard that there was a "gas war" in Missouri just over the state line. So instead of heading south toward home, we went into Missouri and filled up our tank at a ridiculous 19 cents per gallon .. about 1/2 of what the going rate was at the time.  

We then headed for home.  As we got into Louisiana several miles south of Shreveport Gloria said she was sick, that we needed to find a place to stay for the night.  As we entered Alexandria we pulled into  a motel.  Gloria was truly sick in her stomach .. food poisoning or something.  Because it was late (near midnight) we all cleaned up and got ready for bed .. that is everyone except Gloria.  The room had 2 double beds and she had already gone to bed.  I told the kids that we were going to let Mommy have that bed all to herself and we would all share this bed.  They were OK with that. 

Our oldest child, Jerry III, asked "Daddy, what's that?" referring to a coin operated device on the night stand that separated the 2 beds. There were 2 such devices on that night stand.  They were coin operated mattress vibrators. The kids said "Can we? Can we?"  So I put a quarter in the one nearest our bed and poor Gloria awoke yelling "What's happening? What's happening?"  With her nausea, her stomachache and headache she jumped out of bed in a panic.  The devices had been switched.  Knowing how badly she felt, I truly regretted that little faux pas and of course she severely chastised me for launching the vibrator that served her bed.

The following morning we all awoke to a gorgeous day.  Gloria was feeling much better and we checked out of the motel.  We found a grocery store, bought some breakfast fix-ins, stopped at a Hwy 71 roadside park (no longer there) and enjoyed a picnic breakfast.  

The next day I got the tire fixed. The nail was indeed 4 inches long.


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