IRH - The First Wreck

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.

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IRH - The First Wreck

Postby David » Mon September 10, 2018, 7:42 pm

The first wreck
a costly experience - 1958
by: Russ Lancaster
"I saw it all", she shouted! "You ran the stop sign". "I’m calling the police".
The screaming woman was the least of my worries but she was right on all three accounts.
It was January 1958. We were taking our mid-term high school exams. I had earned grades good enough to be exempt from all exams but one. Actually I had done well enough to be exempt from all of them but it was required to take at least one.
I had begged my mom to let me drive the car to school that morning. I didn’t get to do it very often. I promised to be home by noon after the exam was over. I hadn’t told her that I would be through before 10:00 a.m.
My plan was to take the exam, then drive the car down to the Birmingham Drug Store on Main Street and sit at the soda fountain impressing my friends with the fact that I "had the car". I also planned to check out the girls there while drinking my 10 cent fountain vanilla coke.
I never got there that day!
I finished my exam around 10:00 a.m., got in our old family 1953 Chevy station wagon and headed down Hamlet Avenue to High Street. I turned right and crossed the old wooden bridge turning left on Vance Street by the Hamlet Hospital. (You can’t turn left there anymore, the street is closed)
I drove past the hospital and turned right where the old Pansy Fetner school once stood. It was a warm day for January and I had the driver’s side window rolled down and my elbow sticking out. That was the cool way of driving.
I was busy tuning the radio to a Charlotte station that played all rock and roll (somewhere around 600 or so on the AM dial). On a good day, it would come in clear enough. The music had to be played loud enough for any teen-agers I might pass to hear. (That was also cool).
As I came upon the first corner (Jefferson Street), my eyes were on the radio and I totally missed the sign telling me to STOP!. I heard something to my left and saw an elderly gentleman in a Studebaker with its distinctive grill just before he plowed into the side of my station wagon just below my extended elbow.
The sound of the crash was horrible. But once I collected myself and got out (on the passenger side) and SAW the damage I was sickened by the sight.
The Studebaker had hit the post between the front and rear seats (probably what saved me from getting hurt worse than I did). The whole left side of the Chevy was smashed in from the hood to the rear panel. I never had a chance to apply the brakes until after the accident nor did the Studebaker driver who had no advance warning I was going to enter the intersection directly in front of him.
The woman was screaming about it all being my fault and she did as she said. She ran inside and called the Hamlet police. It took them no more than a minute or two to get there (we were only a couple of blocks away).
She told them it was all my fault, that I had run the stop sign. The officer listened to her but asked me if I was all right. It seemed my health was more important to him than whose fault it was.
After assuring him that I felt ok, he did question me. I looked back at the intersection for the stop sign and noticed it was slightly obscured by a tree or bush. Thinking quickly, I pointed that fact out to him. I didn’t tell him about adjusting the radio. Instead I told him the sign was not visible enough. I also told him the Studebaker driver must have been speeding. After all, he could see (I thought) that the amount of damage done to my dad’s Chevy had to have been caused by someone going more than the speed limit.
The policeman deemed my car still driveable and had us exchange names and addresses. I had no idea where the insurance papers were. The policeman further made me go to Dr. Garrison’s office just another block away.
I went inside and told Dr. Garrison what had happened. He took some X-rays and examined me. He also called my parents and let them know what had happened and assured them I was OK. He then came back in the examination room and told me the X-rays showed nothing broken but that I might be sore beginning the next day for a week or so. He was right.
Then he sprang a big surprise on me. He asked had I ever smoked. He told me not to lie, he had X-rays!
I admitted, yes, I had smoked but probably less than a pack in my whole life. I think he had seen the cigarettes in my shirt pocket. I don't think the X-rays showed him anything related to smoking.
He told me to stop smoking, period! I quit. Heck, I didn’t like those things anyway, it was just "cool" to have them with me around certain friends. I wouldn’t smoke again until I joined the Air Force. I should have listened to him because I am still hooked to those things to this day.
A few days later, an insurance agent came by the house and talked with my dad and me. He made me draw a diagram of the accident. He showed me the police report which showed neither the Studebaker driver or me responsible. It was a wash. My observation of the slightly obscured stop sign had saved me from being charged with anything.
My dad told me the damage was about $300.00 and that I would have to pay for it out of my pocket. I argued that the insurance company was going to pay him. Why did I have to pay for it?
It was to teach me a lesson, to be more careful when driving (he knew the real reason for the accident – my attention to the radio).
I had worked the previous year at the Bus Station as a soda jerk and telegram runner and had filed for an income tax refund. It would be just about the same amount as the damage estimate to the car. I told my dad I would pay.
I had to wait until March until the income tax refund came. The car didn’t get fixed, we drove it like it was with the side caved in. I forked over my refund to my dad. But still, the car didn’t get fixed. Every time I drove it was a reminder to be more careful.
I left for the Air Force a year later, June 3, 1959. I wouldn’t see Hamlet or my folks again until September. When I got home again for the first time that September, there was a fairly new Chevy Impala in the driveway. It had replaced the old ’53 Chevy wagon that had been traded smashed in side and all.
I never mentioned it to my dad nor did I ask to drive that Impala. The lesson had been taught and learned. The cost of $300.00 was well worth the lesson.
I never made it to the Birmingham Drug Store that January day in 1958. I never got to sit and drink that vanilla coke at the soda fountain and hang with my buddies or watch the girls that day. I didn’t even get the station from Charlotte properly tuned on the radio before the wreck.
But, I had other days yet to come, more days at the Birmingham Drug Store and lots of vanilla cokes and girl watching to do in the year I had left in school. I just had to get there with a friend or drive the old Chevy with the smashed in side to get there.
I remember that car and that first wreck, but most of all…. I remember Hamlet

freddie hassler
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu May 3, 2007, 3:05 am
Location: Hamlet,N.C.

Re: IRH - The First Wreck

Postby freddie hassler » Wed September 12, 2018, 2:05 am

In 1964 it was also required to take one final , I had to take English, since that was the only sugject I didn't make an A on the best grade was a C+ during McBeth

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