As with yesterday's excerpt from my Gumpy's collection of short stories "That's Life...and then some", this recollection of Fourth of July 1938 was written down in 2000. The story appears as Chapter 18 in the book.
Fourth of July Blowout, by Keith D. Jones
Sad but true, it wasn't funny at the time, but now over sixty years later, I can smile.
Recently, when I was hobnobbing with the ladies in the North building, Susie Fields asked me to write something for the Ken-Mar paper that would pertain to the Fourth of July. When Susie asks for something she's hard to turn down, after all that she has done to hold this place together. I gave her request some thought, realizing that over the years I had celebrated the Fourth of July in many places and many ways. I have seen some great displays of fireworks and since the Fourth comes at vacation time we have been in small towns in the Midwest where they had great parades with marching bands, floats with their pretty queens, color guards that were always followed up with the clown band and of course the Volunteer Fire Department with their new fire truck. After saying this I think I have just about covered most of my memories about the Fourth of July. We all know it's a patriotic celebration of our country's birthday. So what more can I say?
Well, after thinking about the subject for a while, I realized I could not stop here and there had to be more. My memories took me back sixty years or more and with your patience I will share with you a personal Fourth of July experience in 1938.
It was only a month ago. I had just graduated from High School. I got a job at Allison making 60 cents an hour, bringing home almost $24.00 a week. I had made a deal on a good used car. What more could a guy want?
With all that my thoughts turned to romance. I needed a date for the Fourth of July celebration. I could not get Louis Davis off my mind. I talked to her often at school, but, I never had the nerve to ask her for a date. I guess I was afraid of being rejected. Things were different now. With a good job and a car, I had confidence. After awhile, I located her new phone number and gave her a call. Her Mother answered the phone and was reluctant to let me talk to her daughter, since she did not know me. After many questions, I finally got the chance to speak with Louis Davis. She said they had moved to a little farm near Avon. After a long and friendly talk, she agreed to be my date for the evening of the Fourth of July. I got there early. When I pulled in their driveway, Louis and her mother were swinging away on the porch swing. I got out of the car, walked toward them and before I could speak, her mother said, "Why don't you fix that loud muffler?" I started to answer but she said, "What kind of car is that anyway?"
I said "It's a 1932 Model A Ford, and it will do sixty on the straight away."
She said, "I don't care how fast it will go, I just want you to drive safely with my daughter. It's better to be late than never."
I thought the questions would never end!
Then she said, "Where you taking my daughter tonight?"
I said, "I think we will go to a dance."
Sharply she said, "What! Where!"
I said, "A dance at Sky Harbor. The Squeaking Deacon and his band has come all the way from Cincinnati for the Fourth of July dance and show."
"Well!" she said, "I don't know about that, they say there is a lot of drinking going on out there."
I wondered if I could take much more of her questions when she asked me where my coat was. Before I could tell her I did not wear one, she said "At least you got a neck tie on. What time you coming home?" Then she said, "No later than twelve-thirty."
When I thought I had been asked everything, she said "Do you dance close?"
For the first time Louis spoke up and said, "Oh Mother!"
Her mother said "Watch your mouth!"
It finally ended. We got in the car and drove very slow out of her driveway and down the road till we were out of sight of the house.
Louis slid over close to me and said "I can't believe my mother."
I said, "That's OK." Just having her close to me was a good feeling that I had not experienced before. It was a perfect evening and we could see the fireworks display at the West Lake Drive-In as we drove down High School Road on the way to Sky Harbor.
Sky Harbor was one of those places where they could slide the roof back and dance under the stars. It was a clear summer evening with a full moon. The sound of music was perfect for romance; the saxophones blending with the sounds and the rhythm from the trombones. The dark blue and red lights reflecting off the dancers and my date was dancing as close as she could get. I gave her mother a quick thought, but, it ended when she laid her head on my shoulder. I could feel the softness of her hair and the smell of her perfume. I wanted this moment to last forever. When the intermission came, we shared a coke together. It's more fun that way with two straws. It gave us a feeling of closeness with our heads together and when the coke was gone we blew bubbles in the ice with our straws. We both giggled and laughed. I guess you could call this young love.
It was getting close to midnight and we thought it would be fun to drive over to the airport which was next to the dance pavilion. Back in those days the airport was small and not crowded like it is now. I pulled my car up close to the airport and watched the last TWA plane come in, taxied to the fence and turned where we could feel the wind from the propellers and smell the hot exhaust from the big engines. This was a new experience for both of us. As we watched the passengers get off the plane, Louis said she would like to take a trip to St. Louis sometime.
I said "I would like to fly to Chicago."
We were having fun with our imagination, when I looked at my new watch that I had got for graduation. Where did the evening go! It was already one o'clock in the morning!
We were going out Road #36 headed for Avon. I had the pedal to the floor when louder than any Fourth of July fireworks that you have ever heard, there was a loud "BANG!" and then a thump! thump! thump! The right front tire had blown out! I got off the road in the dark and had to put on the spare only to find out there was no air in it. In those days filling stations were far and few between and not open late at night. I was lucky to have a tire pump. Off came my neck tie and a cool summer evening was soon a hot miserable one as I pumped and pumped and smacked at the mosquitos. Louis wiped the sweat off my forehead with her new handkerchief.
Not much was said as we started down the road again, the time was now three in the morning. Louis had moved away from me and I could no longer feel her leg next to mine. I am sure I must have smelled of sweat.
Louis said, "Don't worry about mother, she will be in bed asleep."
As I pulled in the driveway about three-thirty, my headlights spotted her mother still on the porch, swinging away as if in a frenzy. As I came to a stop, my Ford let out a big loud backfire. The dog came out from under the porch barking. The chickens in the hen house started to cackle, suddenly, there was more racket than any Fourth of July celebration! Then I noticed a tear in Louis' eye as she jumped out of the car and ran straight into the house without saying a word to me or her mother.
I got out of the car and started to tell her mother what happened. She met me half way off the porch, shaking her arm and pointing her finger at me when she said, "Young man, you have had my daughter out all night!" I was speechless. I turned around and as I got into the car I heard her say once again, "You have had my daughter out all night!"
I took off in a cloud of dust and managed to throw some gravel and rocks her way while the Ford backfired once again, dog barking and the chickens a cackling. This is one Fourth of July I will never forget.
I never heard from my date again. Where ever you are Louis Davis good night and a happy Fourth of July.