Friday, July 28, 2006
Riding Running Boards
When I was in high school very few of my classmates had their own cars. The war had started and you needed a ration card to get gasoline. Besides that, most of us were too poor to be able to buy a car. My job ushering at the playhouse paid 67 cents a night and even in those days, that wouldn’t finance a car. My folks had a 1933 Ford, but only an “A” card entitling the family to three gallons of gas a week. I couldn’t do a lot of joy riding on that. Under those conditions in summer, we thought our friend, Ted, was a looney when he said that he had gotten a job delivering the yellow page phone books door to door. Then we realized that he had managed to upgrade his mother’s gas card on the basis of the delivery job. He drove his mother to her job in the morning then had her car to use all day until time to pick her up.
His territory for the delivery was in a section called Short Hills. The name should be your clue that most houses were up or down steps from the road. It was also a well-to-do area and the houses were big, far apart and a long way from the road. But Ted had that all figured out (in true Tom Sawyer fashion). Every day he enticed several of his friends to help with the lure of riding on the running board, a feature of all cars in those days. You stood on the running board and hooked an arm around the pillar between the front and rear doors. It was more fun that riding in a rumble seat. Anyway, the upshot of all this was that Ted got to sit behind the wheel getting paid to play supervisor while we knocked ourselves running up and down hills carrying phone books that got awfully heavy before the end of the day. By then our main motivation was to empty the car of phone books so there would be room to ride sitting inside on the way home.