Monday, August 03, 2015

Memories of Indiana

The idea for this column took root during my search for the spare key to our Volvo. I decided the carved cedar box sitting on the bedroom dresser would be a good place to start because it’s where I store old knives, broken watches, and other keepsakes. Facedown on the bottom of the box was an old picture of my dad standing behind our old 1947 Chevy.

The picture was taken in 1956 as he stood in the driveway of our apartment in Whiting, Indiana where we lived for just over a year. Holding the picture, I stepped closer to the window to get a better look.

For some reason, the drive to Indiana stands out in my mind. Mom and Dad packed our belongings along with my brother Neil, my sister Mary Lois, and me into the old Chevy. We headed north on the Friday night before Memorial Day. Dad thought the traffic would be better at night.

We stopped at a rest stop somewhere near Paducah, Kentucky. Rest stops in those days were wide places in the road with two concrete picnic tables and a garbage barrel. We pulled baloney sandwiches from a brown paper bag that mom had packed for us. We lingered long enough for my dad to take a short nap so that he wouldn’t fall asleep while driving.

I was wide-awake and I remember hearing vehicles gearing down, and then accelerating to climb a nearby hill. In my mind, I thought it was all the racecars headed to Indiana to race in the Indianapolis 500. When I mentioned this to my older brother Neil, he made fun of me for being so goofy.

The racecars were actually tractor-trailer trucks using gears to maneuver up and down nearby hills and hollows.

When we loaded up for the last leg of our trip, I camped out in the hat rack. That was the place under the back window. Seatbelts had not been invented then, and the family was unaware that one sudden stomp on the brakes would have turned their sleeping child into a human missile.

There weren’t many lights then in rural Kentucky or Indiana so the stars in the sky were as bright as diamonds on a blue velvet blanket.The picture of my dad triggered another thread of memory about our short time in Indiana. Had the photographer taken a few steps backward, you would have seen massive petroleum tanks that looked like shiny fat ticks. The storage facility was just beyond the fence at the back of our apartment. There was a troubling odor of petroleum in the air when the wind blew from the wrong direction.

Early one morning our family was jolted from deep sleep by rumbling explosions. A short time later we heard sirens. Every now and then there would be another explosion.

Across the fence, the predawn sky glowed orange and yellow. Soon rescue people came down our streets and told us we would have to

My grandparents lived in Hammond, Indiana which was a few miles away and that’s where we went that morning before the sun rose.

Soon after that experience, we moved from that strange land back to the comfort of the drafty old camp house in Sloss Hollow.

I had not thought of these things in years until I saw the picture of my dad.

Obviously this is not my dad. That picture ran with the first segment
of this story which I posted on July 16. The story tonight is the
story I promised then.


  1. Those old long road trips were interesting. I remember the Hatrack, though we did not give it a name.

  2. I never heard the term Hatrack .. but all these years later there's a part of me that still misses climbing back there and curling up to sleep.

  3. Actually that story sounds a bit scary. I think you were lucky to be able to leave when you did. The angels were guiding your family that night. I di remember that we never worse seatbelts and when they came into law we hated it! My dad often refused to wear his until the fine became too great. Now I would not think of driving without it on.

  4. Anonymous10:24 PM

    I slept up there, too!!

  5. Great choice for your column, a wonderful insight into times long gone.

    Ms Soup

  6. Wonderful memory. Pictures do tend to jog our brains.

  7. It must have been scary being ordered to leave like that.

  8. First of all my mother would have loved that picture of the zinnias. As for your trip to Indiana, why is it that fathers always think that we have to travel at night? My father did the same thing. We would pile into the car, he would aim it and step on the gas. We missed so much scenery that way.

  9. This one was a great read. Thanks for the entertainment as we sit here in St' Louis waiting for our tow boys to return from being Tourists. This is the first time back in His birth state for the youngest, he is now in his 50's.



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