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Sometimes memories are prompted by little things when you least expect them.
An advertisement for a car dealership the other day reminded me of the ’31 Dodge my first stepfather, William S. Allen, drove. My sister, Jeanne, and I rode in the rumble seat when the weather was hot and when it was cold. When it was cold, we learned to put an end of a blanket into the rear window and have those inside roll up the window. This way we could see out and be covered at the same time.
Here’s the truth about that old Dodge: It ran like a spirited race horse as Jeanne and I bounced around in that rumble seat. We learned to enjoy those rides by waving to the people we passed (like on the way to the beach — pronounced “shore” up north). It seemed like everyone was happy to accept our waves because they all returned them.
When I reached the age of 17 while in high school at Glassboro, New Jersey, my older stepbrother, Bill, gave me my first practice driving. Several times a week, we’d visit a small dairy farm about a mile from our home on Delsea Drive Extension for two metal kettles of fresh milk. Bill had been a sailor in the Navy, and was often up for an adventure. Often he’d let me drive that old Dodge to the dairy for our milk trips.
Unfortunately, one time as I was backing up on the long drive from the milk-house at the dairy, I backed up a little too far and into a sand pile probably kept for spreading in icy weather. I knew instantly that this would be trouble.
My stepfather loved arguments (he really did). When he saw the damage to the ’31 Dodge, he asked Bill about it. His son told him he wasn’t driving, and then I really got the works from the man who loved an argument when he found out about me driving.
Jeanne and I learned to stay as clear of him as possible. Often things would come up at the supper table. He always ate very quickly, and somehow it seemed that every evening after he finished eating, at least one of us would be in for the brunt of another problem.
Speaking of that supper table, at one point there was a special box of candy kept on one corner of the table, right beside his place. It had been given to him by one of his office friends at the Philadelphia Railroad where he worked in accounting for 40 years.
My mother, Evelyn, loved candy. This little box was more than she could resist. Beside getting a few for herself, she also gave Jeanne and me some of that special candy, too.
Before we realized what had happened that day, we had devoured about half of the box of special candy. Mother knew we would be in for trouble that night after supper if my stepfather saw that many of his chocolates were missing, so she gave me a couple of dollars to go get more chocolates at the Five and Ten Cents store in Pitman. I scooted off on my bike to procure two dollars’ worth of candy, feeling like my mission was critical.
Mother carefully filled the empty spaces in the fancy chocolate box with the cheaper chocolates bought locally.
Jeanne and I were nervous during supper that evening. I knew I couldn’t look at Jeanne without breaking out laughing, so we didn’t. As usual, Will finished his meal quickly, and I knew this moment was the real test. We three were really quiet as Will opened his new box of chocolates. In fact you could probably have heard a pin drop on the carpeted floor while we waited for his response.
Uh, oh, here it comes. Jeanne and I were careful to keep from looking at each other again as he said through a chew, “Hrumph! I don’t see why these are so special.”
Whew! We were in the clear. We had a big laugh later that night, along with our big sighs of relief.
Oh yes, this part of my story may interest you: My father was William S. Allen, and my stepfather was also named William S. Allen — only the middle names were different. My father’s middle name was Sirret, and my stepfather’s was Scott.
Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, invites comments at 984-235-7294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.