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190916 September 16, 2019


 The "Bomb"
The Wheels of Freedom
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    Of all the cars I ever owned, I guess I both loved and hated my car in high school the most.  Most people have fond stories of finding that first car they couldn't live without and working hard and saving money to buy it.  The car was usually a little run-down, and their parents really didn't want them to buy it but they got it anyway.  My first car was a little different.  I didn't have to buy it, I kind of inherited it.  

    My first car started out as the family car.  Mother bought it and drove it first and then my brother Don started to drive.  He joined the Navy and left town, my mother remarried and moved to Memphis, and my grandmother couldn't drive.  One morning I woke up and found that I was the only one left in the house who could drive, so I got the car.  And what a car it was.

    "The Red Bomb," later shorted to just "The Bomb" was my car.  It was a 1953 two-door Customline Ford V-8, painted red of course.  At least it started out as a red car, but the sun faded it so badly that it was almost orange.  The Bomb was a perfect name for this collection of classic auto parts.  Mother had bought a different 1953 Ford in 1960.  One Friday night, about a week before the first payment was due, Don was coming home from a date and ran off the road into a field and hit a two-foot ditch.  It was totaled.  The front end was smashed and the frame was bent, but the engine and Don survived.  Don went to the hospital and the car was towed home.

    It sat in the driveway for a long time and finally Don found a friend, Gene, who had another 1953 Ford with a bad engine.  Our engine was good, so we bought the body from Gene for $75 and towed it home.  With the help of some of Don's friends, we took the engine out of the wrecked one and put it in the other body.  I remember my part of the transfer was to remove and replace the battery box.  I was proud of that and bragged for many years to come that I helped change out the engines.  That was when it was cool for boys to know how to work on cars.  I even remember getting some grease on my hands.  Don filled the old car's gas tank with water to add weight, and sold it for scrap.  I think he got seventeen dollars for it.

    With the engine implant, the new car ran okay and didn't give us too much trouble, even with the work having been done by amateurs.  The next problem happened one morning as I was on the way to school.  It was raining and I was going to pick up Dianne Hughey coming down Cross Street and when I went to turn on Grove Avenue a lady ran the stop sign on Grove and darted out in front of me.  I hit my brakes but the streets were wet so I slid and hit her broadside.  She was a very lucky person, for she had all six of her children in the car and none were hurt.  I too escaped injury, but not the Bomb.  Its hood was crunched in as were both front fenders, but the engine survived that assault too.

    The lady I hit did not have insurance, and even though it was her fault, we didn't get any money out of the accident.  I didn't have any insurance either.  Even the thought of that these days scare me to death.  She paid for her car and we paid for ours.  After several weeks of looking, we finally found a new front end and got it installed for $75.  The new front end was white and not red like the rest of the car.  We couldn't afford to have it painted.

    Another problem was that the garage made one little mistake when putting the two parts together.  The one little mistake they made was with the entire wiring bundle, I think.  The first time I drove it after getting it out of the garage, when I pressed on the horn button in the center of the steering wheel, the bright lights came on.  The parking light switch blew the horn, unless I stepped on the dimmer switch, and then the regular lights came on.  I'm not sure where the parking light controls were, and I was afraid to try the windshield wipers.  It made for some interesting driving for about a week.  After a short while, the thrill was gone and we took it back to the garage got the wiring fixed.  It remained white on the front end and red on the back for the rest of the time I had the car.

    It was not much to look at, and as the days and months passed, it ran worse and worse.  It didn't really matter, The Bomb was mine and I loved it.  It has always held a special place in my heart, maybe because it was the first car I soloed.  I remember one weekend when I was fifteen, and before I had my driver's license, Mother went to a conference in Florida for dental assistants and Grandmother was at work.  There was a girl I wanted to see and she lived about five miles from the house, so I took the car and drove over there.  I just got in it and went.  Until this confession, no one has ever been the wiser.  The Bomb was neat.

    Don was my driving instructor.  Some afternoons after school he took me out into a new housing development being built in Jones Valley and let me drive.  There were lots of streets but only one or two houses had been erected.   The initial encounter with a clutch was eye opening, and we bounced back and forth up the street for the first couple of sessions.  Eventually I got better, and even though I felt confident, I did not want to drive the straight-stick Bomb for my road test when I went to get my license.  Don decided that I would do better in an automatic, so he borrowed Gene's red 1960 Chevy automatic for me to use.  I went down to the old Elks' Theater and took my test.  I remember the last words of my inspector were "Pull up over there, and be careful."  I had passed.

    That was the last time I drove the automatic '60 Chevy.  From then on I drove the straight-stick Bomb.  Less than two hours after I received my license, I tried to take the Bomb up a rather steep hill going up to the court square from the water department.  Stopping at the top was no problem, but trying to let out on the clutch and take my foot off the brake at the same time was more of a task that I was capable of accomplishing, having been a driver for only two hours.  As I let off the brake, I rolled backwards before I could let out the clutch, so I slammed on the brake.  I tried again only to make another advance to the rear.  Lucky for me and for all, there was no one behind me.  When I found myself at the bottom of the hill, I decided that fate did not want me to go up that hill.  The hill had won that day.  But I knew that in the days to come, the hill would never get any steeper.  I would get better and I would win the war with hills in later battles.

        Memphis, TN - As I noted last week, Don Wynn's story about the cars in his life could only make me recall my very own first car. And, almost all the things he said about the early car in his life applied to mine as well. Please share your car story.

Name That Tune

Last Week's Name That Tune

Name That Tune

Last Week's Name That Tune

    Jeffrey Fussell, LHS '66, "On the road this week staring with Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man”.  We still play this song, but the lyrics are no longer PC. The following 5 songs are about specific places:

Freddy Cannon “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans”
Johnny Rivers “Memphis”
Tony Bennett “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”
Glen Campbell “Galveston”
The Dovells “Bristol Stomp”

    Linda Collinsworth provost, LHS '66, "I learned a lot about censorship in communist China...I don't like it - No access to Google, Gmail or Youtube.  While I could check my email, i could not access your blog or name that tune contests. I returned home late last night and will submit my incomplete attempt to answer this week's name that tune trivia.

1.  Travelin' Man -Rricky Nelson
2.  Way Down Yonder in New Orleans - Freddy Cannon
3.  Something by Johnny Rivers
5.  The Bristol Stomp

    Sarajane Steigerwald Tarter, LHS ‘65, "This Travelin’ Woman has been to New Orleans, Memphis, SanFrancisco, and Bristol TN but not to Galveston. (I’ll put it on my bucket list.)  So the songs this week are:

Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
I Left My Heart in San Francisco 
Bristol Stomp

This Week's Name That Tune

Name That Tune

Name That Tune Survey


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Cars

Joel Weinbaum

LHS ‘64

    I liked the article by Don Wynn regarding his forever interest in cars, particularly old cars. I worked in North Georgia twenty years back and traveled through the back country on some really back country roads. I was amazed at the number of junk cars sitting on farm property where the vegetation had grown and in many cases thru the chassis of an old car or pickup. Paint was mostly gone and the bodies were heavily rusted…no chance for salvage. The same situation existed in the Tennessee Valley, and I have seen it in Kentucky and West Virginia where folks would park a car, often more than one, out front of the house, no longer drivable,  with the idea of fixing it back ‘cause the old ones were really better than the new ones! TVA in Knoxville instituted a program where a wrecker company would go out and retrieve as many cars as they could for salvage, to clean up the country side. The company in E. TN had a truck for collecting and hauling, blue in color, with the name of “the Blue Goose.”  

    But today is so different than back in the early seventies when this was going on. The collector market wasn’t so prominent nor were parts available like today. As an engineer I developed an interest in repairing my cars in the driveway, so to speak. I didn’t develop the skills growing up since my dad with his military engineer background always said that was to be done by those who make their living that way. At TVA in Knoxville I was a EE assigned to a mechanical engineering group and they worked on their cars. They would chide me for not doing repairs myself. And partly out of necessity with three kids and a wife with their own cars in the driveway, I applied all the skills I had.. There was always something to do, tire pressure, oil changes, hoses, belts, batteries, you name it. If i hadn’t learned to do for myself with that load I would have gone broke. But the really complicated things I let a Garage do. With all that to take responsibility for, I could screw something up with the best of them, but I learned and had a lifetime guarantee for all the work I did until the car sold. Now retired, I am back out of necessity working on an old ’01 Suburban, recently changing the front shocks, the master cylinder, and starter. And a bunch of other stuff over time.

    Reflecting further on what Don said about the girls we dreamed about and the quiet success of Jim McBride, Huey Lewis of the News was interviewed about the time he was turning 40 and had gained significant success, with a serious number of women in love with his music, was asked about how he was dealing with it all.  Thinking on the early years, he said, “Where were they when I needed them?” I am sure he was talking about record sales during those times.

Subject:    Don's Cars
Jeffrey Fussell 
LHS '66

    I enjoyed Don Wynn’s story about being a car guy.  I had the opportunity to ride in his ’31 Ford. When he says it had a chop top, he wasn’t kidding. The windshield on that car didn’t look more than 10” from the dash to the headliner.  Scary fast.



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