Wigging Out An Accident and Recovery 1963

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Wigging Out An Accident and Recovery 1963

Post by David »

In September 1963 I was on my way to Rockingham to the movies with Betty Moore and Jeanne Hurley. It was just after dusk and vision was bad. I was driving my parents 1961 Corvair Lakewood station wagon, later to be named by Ralph Nader as a death trap. We could have easily been statistics for all of his legal doings in the mid 60s. I also could have been rich. It was just after dusk and Betty Moore, Jeanne Hurley and I were on our way to the movie in Rockingham. I was on Hwy 74 in front of Glenda Terry's home, just past what is now RCC, when I had passed a car. When I pulled back into the right lane I ran up on the back of an older model car, with the little bluish reflectors within the taillight, that had no lights on. I was fortunate to have a minister who would tell the Hwy patrolman that I was not speeding because, unfortunately at that time in my life, I drove like a bat out of hell..............and had the reputation. Anyway, when I ran up on this car I had to jerk the steering wheel sharply to avoid hitting them. When I did this, I went into the left lane and my front left wheel sank down in fresh dirt where they had worked on the shoulder that day. I broke the A Frame on my car and had absolutely NO CONTROL of the steering wheel. I am sure it was at this point I hit the brakes and that precious little unbalanced Corvair went into 3 end over end somersaults between the Terry home and the old Pine Flats (whatever that was). I had no knowledge of what was going on because apparently, I hit my head on the mirror the first thing and don't really remember the nightmare that was unfolding. The car ended up on it's drivers side. I imagine I would have been hurt worse had I not been thrown clear. I don't remember going through the windshield but I had grass stains on the shoulder of my shirt and an injury in the same place. I did hear screeching metal sound from the car sliding on the asphalt for a long time after that. I was thrown through the windshield and Betty and Jeanne ended up in a little pile in the backseat. The backseat ended up back on the highway somewhere. I honestly thought that I had killed them and it was a horrible few seconds. I wasn't aware of my head injuries and I was taking control of the situation. When Glenda's mom got there, she realized I was bleeding from my ear (indicating internal injury) and took care of me from that point on. Betty lost a day of her life (which she never regained any memory of) and Jeanne had on big hoop earrings and one caught on something and tore at her earlobe but that was the extent of their injuries. Betty spent a night in the hospital for shock and Jeanne went to work the next day and heard all the gossip about that speed demon Jean getting in an accident. Glenda called my mom and said, "Mrs. Raby Jean has turned over in front of my house".........not just a little had a little accident. I had the car and I think Mom got our next door neighbor, Jimmy McEwen, to take her to the site of the accident. Daddy was at the Yard Office at work. Before they got to the scene of the accident they saw the ambulance heading to the hospital and by the time they got to the hospital, Mom saw Jeanne and Betty standing and knew I was the one on the stretcher. She lost it. That was the first time I ever talked ugly to her (I wasn't in my right mind). She was making so much noise, I thought she was going to wake the people at the hospital. The hwy patrolman questioned me in the ER and I am glad I passed the test since I have no idea what I might have told him. I had large mental blank spaces due to the head injury. Oh I fractured my skull in 3 places. Actually, I pulverized my skull and that is one thing that was in my favor. I ended up being rushed to Duke University and having neurosurgery. I was in surgery for 4 long hours........Mom was in the hospital in Hamlet and Daddy was alone, It was at this time, that Dad made his peace with the Lord and was a changed man after that time. My doctor, George Tindall, later went on the become a famous neurosurgeon. I read about him when he operated on Rita Hayworth and saw another time in a magazine he was one of the top doctors in his field. He was a bright spot in my day because he always had a cute team of interns with him when he came to visit. I was told that I could have severe headaches the rest of my life or maybe not. I am very thankful that I only rarely have a little headache. It was a happy day when Daddy and Frank Gibson came to get me in the Wilson-Harrington hearse at Duke University. I am guessing this was due to their friendship and being co workers with the rescue squad. I still had the gauze bandage on my head, I had green markings on my forehead where they lined me up for X-rays (and looked quite similar to Frankenstein). My left side of my face had a large red eye with a dark pupil and a black bruise that extended to my mouth. I was quite the site. We were rolling down the highway, I was laying on the stretcher in the back. As we went through Roxboro, I could tell we were in a town so I propped on one elbow to see where we were. I will be the only one who ever saw the face of the man, standing on the sidewalk in Roxboro when he thought he saw a dead person sit up in the back of a hearse. You may have never seen eyes that large. If I could have owned only 1 picture in my life, that may have been the one. Anyway, it was a happy day when we rolled into Hamlet and a disappointing one when we pulled up to the back entrance at Hamlet Hospital. I was there for rest for 2 weeks. It was a conspiracy to keep me down. They put a sign on my door that said "1 visitor at a time".......This was not a good situation. They relented after a while on that one. I had a sign in sheet on my door that friends made......You had to sign your name, address and phone number......it was a guest book of sorts. I also had another sign that said "Freak Show...10 cents a peek" because I was bald and that was rather novel in Hamlet so people would come by my room and stare into my room. You know how people are.... It was during this time that a co worker from the News Messenger, Margaret Brown and Robert Waddell of Wadesboro got married. She came by to see me and brought me food and a bridesmaids floral spray with one of those hand holders so we hooked it on the hospital bed. I looked like I had died or I had just won the Kentucky Derby. Hubert Maples Sr brought me one of the very best steaks I think I have ever eaten about 11:30 one Friday night after a football game. Actually, Hubert cooked it and Cookie brought it to me. I either couldn't ...wouldn't or didn't eat the hospital food so they made me Jello 3 times a day and that worked. I had wonderful friends who came bearing Hamburgers and fries from The Hub Grill...They were always welcome. Unfortunately, I don't calm down at 8:30 in the evening for a long night of sleep so we had a few problems with late night visitors. I am afraid we gave Jean Thompson, a classmate who was in Hamlet Hospital School of Nursing, a difficult time. If you read this, I am sorry Jean. One night I was out on the fire escape with my boyfriend and we got locked out so we had to go down the fire escape and walk back into the hospital. A while later, I saw policemen walking around the parking lot with flashlights. I asked what was going on and was told that one of the patients had thought they heard someone on the fire escape. It was about midnight at this time. I enjoyed that little moment of mischief. Virginia Martin, my boss at The News Messenger, gave me a little bouffant curler bonnet to cover my ugly little bald head. I would wear this when it bothered people to see my skull. Anyway, I put this on one day, had my lounging pjs on and walked out of the hospital and down the street to Bennett Chevrolet to see my car before it got hauled away. I figured while I was there I might as well go over to the newspaper office for a little visit. I was abruptly returned to the hospital by Barney Martin. I was blessed with many cards, gifts, flowers and many visitors. It was a lesson I learned about how much those seemingly small things mean to someone who is hospitalized. I have tried to remember that when someone is down. Those are a few things I remember. These are a few little stories associated with this situation. I worked at The News Messenger and one of my duties was to go to the Post Office to get the mail each morning. Kirk Kurt, editor at the time, like to keep Hamlet posted about Baldie Raby. Shortly after I returned to work, I was walking back to the office when a gust of wind blew my wig off. Now a wig was an unusual things in Hamlet in 1963. If you only could have seen the face of the man as I chased my hair back up Main Street with an armful of mail. It looked like a tumbleweed. Of course, that made the paper...LOL Another story was when we had visitors in the office from New York City. They were from BC Moore & Sons company in NY. The Hamlet News printed out their sale fliers and one of my jobs was to mark the truck drops for the shipping. I was returning from lunch this day and on my way to the time clock, I heard this rather sophisticated looking woman say to her friend, "that girl has a wig on." I went to my desk and took the fuzzy little creature off and laid it on my desk and walked back into the back so I could get a reaction. (You do know if you wanted to have fun you had to make it.) My head at this point looked like a man with a 2 week beard growth. Of course, I still had the scar and the indention in my head. Her mouth dropped open and I still remember Barney standing in the background laughing his head off. We had a strange humor connection. The Beatles hit the shores of America in 1964. Once a photographer took Tom Carters (of Tom and Sarah's fame) photo wearing my wig. Long hair was such a novel idea then and the only guys who had it were The Beatles. My boyfriend use to get a kick out of saying "You want to see my girlfriend flip her wig?" and the hair would fly. Once we went to Rockingham to The Strand theatre. I think that was the name of it. We went to see "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" with Bette Davis. This was one of the scariest movies I had ever seen. Bette Davis chopped unsuspecting people's heads off and they would roll on the screen. I am not into horror films. Well, JL Lassiter was sitting behind me and I imagine that he had already seen the movie. At a time when a head was getting ready to roll, JL grabbed my wig and threw it about 6 rows foward just as the head came off on the screen. I never knew anyone could scream like that. I never did know who she was. Well, I don't remember how, but somehow I got my wig back and we had a few good laughs over that. This was not kind but I went home and told my good friend Shirlee Russ how great the movie was and she should go see it. The night she went, I saw her coming home so I took my little wig on it's foam head stand and went to her house. I knocked on the door and tried to hide in the shadows. When she opened the door, I tossed it in and we won't talk about the rest of it. By some miracle, we are still friends today. I had turned 19 just 4 days prior to the accident. I had spent about 1 1/2 hours being "sold or talked into" a group insurance policy that the Hamlet Chamber or BBB was signing up for if we had enough participants. I think I was the one who pushed it over (we probably all thought the same thing). What a blessing that was to have that coverage. I did actually say ok so the person would go away and I could get back to my proofreading. It was during this time that my friends were all going off to their second year of college and things got quieter after that. I had been encouraged by Mr. Martin to attend college and had been accepted at Chowan College in Murfreesboro, NC and was going to study photography. I was due to leave Sept 10 and that date came and went. Due to life circumstances, I never pursued that dream. I am still an avid amateur photographer. This is one of my life events that the Lord used to draw me unto Him because I would look back and know that I could just as easily been killed. I would wonder to myself, why had He saved me? I know now that it was so I could experience this incredible journey called life and touch people and bring a bit of sunshine into people's lives. Jer 29:11 is my favorite scripture.....He knew the plans He had for me. Well, this is my memory lane stroll and I am thankful that after all I have been through with the head injuries that I REMEMBER OUR HAMLET...LOL

written by Jean Raby Nelson
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