Archived Story

Signs and sounds of wheels

Published 1:53pm Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nothing stirs the imagination of a teenage boy more than a hot set of motorized wheels.

As a resident of Bethel Road, I am reminded of that premise every school day as hundreds of Hartselle High School students drive by our house on their way to classes. Any doubt I may have vanishes when I visit the campus on business and observe row after row of late model motorcars and pickup trucks in the school’s parking lot.

One of those vehicles stands out above all the rest because of the loud sounds it makes. Like clockwork, the roar of a big engine and the whine of big wheels mixed with the thunder of dual exhaust pipes and amplified radio music stops me in my tracks at 7:40 a.m. While I have never seen the vehicle, I can guess what it looks like and what is on the driver’s mind.

My guess it’s an extended cab pickup with a top of the line V-8 engine. Its tires are three sizes larger than the originals and are covered with mud from a mud bog race the night before. The driver is thinking about the next race and what he needs to do to win.

Students rode buses or walked to school for the most part when I was a teenager. Some were given permission to drive the family car or truck to school on special occasions and a few had their own vehicles, mostly jalopies.

My cousin and I joined the latter category as rising seniors. Both of us joined the Alabama Army National Guard after turning 17 in the summer of 1952, and used our first paychecks to purchase a 1931 Model A Ford coupe.

The car of our dreams came with a rumble seat, an extra spare tire, a tire repair kit and a tankful of gasoline.

On any day we could get it cranked, we’d drive it to school, trailing the bus that transported high school students from our junior high feeder school. We’d park on a hill across from school, scotch it with our own rock and count the minutes until we got our lunch break and could take it for a spin.

We’d pop the hood to show off the four-cylinder engine and make a couple of runs around the campus with friends in the rumble seat. Before classes resumed, we’d disconnect a spark plug wire and hold it for a few seconds with the engine running, and then re-plug the wire and dare onlookers to give it a shot.

Friends, neighbors, even strangers would point at us and laugh as they saw us approaching in our pink coupe with photos of Archie and Jug Head painted on the doors. “We’d acknowledge their presence with a backfire and a wave as we passed by.

For two fun-loving, adventure-seeking teens, nothing could’ve been better than having a unique set of wheels to play with during their senior year in High School.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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