I must have been 15 years old at the time of this event I’m sharing. A guy named Randy was 16 and Randy was popular for many reasons, one being that he was the oldest kid in our particular age group…and had access to one something we all desired as blossoming teenagers. No, I’m not talking about Playboy magazines – I’m talking about a car! This was no average vehicle. No, it was the one and only Ralph Nader Death Machine, the Chevrolet Corvair, affectionately referred to us as “The Pic Mobile”. It belonged to Randy’s dad, but was the primary transportation for Randy, (known to us all in the neighborhood as Pic – short for Pickle).
Before I write about the event, a bit first about the Pic Mobile. The Corvair was a small 4-seater, rear engine, and was built to compete against the Volkswagen Beetle. This one was a 1963 (I seem to recall) and was a convertible. It was especially useful during the summer ‘egg wars’ of high school….but that’s another story for later. The most unique aspect of the Pic Mobile was a special, built in ability to make a right hand turn without handling the steering wheel. At precisely 12 mph and the right moment, one of us would call out – “make a Ralph” (kid slang for ‘turn right’). At this command, Pic would release the steering wheel and the car would make the 90 degree right hand turn (he had to quickly then take command of the wheel else we end up in someone’s front lawn). You get the point – it was the role model for the perfect death trap. But to us, it was the coolest car in town!
One of our favorite all-day adventures was to get Randy to drive us to go fishing. We knew of a hidden, ‘secret’ catfish pond up in Darrtown, a small nobody place on the way to Oxford, Ohio from Hamilton. We never came back empty handed from our secret spot! For anyone who grew up in Hamilton, Ohio and ever drove to Oxford, well you must have experienced Old Oxford Rd (hwy 130) at least once. I don’t know what this road is like today, but back in the 70’s it was akin to the first drop off of the Kings Island Beast roller coaster, complete with the deadliest head-banging dips a kid could ever ask for. You know the kind; those that caused your stomach to rise up to your esophagus when you took them too fast? Yeah, those.
I guess you know where this is going. One Saturday, Pic, Joe, Tommy and I went fishing. All was normal except the ride home. Pic was driving, I had shotgun, Joe was seated behind me and Tom behind Pic. We hit the top of 130 and Pic slipped it into neutral. Thirty, forty, fifty mph…faster and faster…and then we started hitting the dips. We must have been doing 70 mph, downhill, no seat belts in those days when we hit the first dip. Yeehah! The first and second dip was a tad dangerous, but it was that third dip that changed our outlook on life. I can recall this all so vividly! We hit the 3rd dip and all four of us lifted up maybe 10 inches off of our seats. We all had huge smiles on our faces until that dip – I remember holding onto the top of the windshield and then hitting the bottom of the car with the road. I had quickly glanced backwards enough to see Tom with my peripheral vision, up in the air with a ‘scared shitless’ look on his face.
About 60 seconds of complete kid silence later and Pic was the first to speak – “well that was stupid”……we all nervously chuckled…..I remember Randy driving very slowly all the rest of the way home. We didn’t talk about that until the next day and we certainly never told our parents. Pic’s dad was a big guy and he would have killed Pic if he knew. We would retell that story for years, but it went down in the ‘Alley Annals’ as the dumbest thing we did and should not be alive to tell about. I reluctantly share it now when I think my boys are at an age where they’re not as stupid as we were at 15. (Yet another example of why I am glad to be alive today)