Recently my husband, my mother and I were sitting on the patio sipping on a glass of freshly brewed sweet tea and talking. Hubby decided it would be fun to liven things up a bit, “what was the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?” He looked right at me, so it was obvious he wanted me to go first.
“Oh great, “I thought to myself, right here in front of my mother. It didn’t take me long to come up with the answer though. It was a secret I had kept from her for nearly 45 years. I had thought about this experience over the years, and each time it made me cringe with fear.
As I began my story, I noticed my mother’s shock and disapproval, her hands covering her mouth in utter horror. Maybe it is a good thing she didn’t know what I was doing back then, or was it?
I grew up in a sleepy town in the Texas panhandle and a 10 mile stretch of the old route 66 went right through the heart of it. That part of the iconic stretch of road represented exciting times to exciting places for a couple of West Texas teenage girls who had never been more than 100 miles from home. The year was 1967 and my best friend since junior high, Sadie Sue, had spent Friday night with me. We woke up early on Saturday morning to prepare for our day of adventure. I washed my hair and put it up in big bright pink curlers. She made pin curls with silver clips and a dab of Dippity Doo, put on a pair of short shorts and was ready to go. Back then it was an unwritten law that you must never be seen on a Saturday without your hair in curlers, if you did, then everyone in town would know you didn’t have a date that night. So whether you did or not, you must be seen with wire in your hair. Our first stop was to the gas station. We pooled our resources and came up with $1.50 for gas. That would surely get me through the next several days. Our next stop was Stanley’s Drive Inn where every teenager in town would go to see and be seen. I cruised slowly through the parking lot in my little red Dodge Dart, passing through three times with Sadie Sue in tow before finding the perfect parking spot. We ordered our cherry cokes, got out of the car, walked around visiting with various friends making sure they saw we had our hair prepared for upcoming date night. It was fun going from car to car laughing and talking with friends. An hour had passed and it was time that Sadie Sue and I started the adventure we had discussed the night before. We had decided it would be a great idea for us to drive up and down Route 66 picking up hitchhikers and taking them to the other side of town. We had to make sure we never left the city limits or we knew we would be in big trouble. Our first day was very successful, we picked up one right after the other, after dropping one off, we would turn around and there would be another one going the other way. We would do this for several hours at a time, sometimes having picked up as many as 8 hitchhikers in a day.
It was so exiting to hear the stories of their lives, where they’d been and where they were going. Most of the time we picked up one guy at a time, but occasionally we would hit the jackpot and get two. Everyone we picked up had a story to tell and each one nicer than the one before. Some of them were really cute; too bad they didn’t plan on staying around town for a while. The stories we heard were so impressive, one guy was telling us that he was a valet at a parking lot in Hollywood where he had parked Elvis Presley’s car. Can you imagine, he drove Elvis’ car? I could think of nothing more exciting than that, I had goose bumps just thinking about having a guy like that in my back seat. We met another fellow that was going to Hollywood to audition for a new TV show, and another who was going to live with his uncle, Clint Eastwood. Oh how we drooled at the young Rowdy Yates on the current television show, Rawhide. Having his nephew in my car was the next best thing to actually meeting the real star. We could hardly contain ourselves for our next trip down Route 66. Sadie Sue and I were having such fun and doing a favor for these down on their luck guys. We decided right then and there, from now on, we would make this a weekly thing and over the next two years, we picked up well over 200 hitchhikers and putting lots of miles on the old iconic highway. Preacher Bob would surely have been so proud of us should we decide to share that information with him.
Now, when I think back to what could have happened to us, it boggles my mind and scares me half to death; someone was most definitely looking after us back then.
Finally my secret was out. After looking at my mother holding her hand over her heart, maybe I shouldn’t have shared quite so much information. She always told me I was going to drive her into an early grave. I think it took her over a week to recuperate. My husband has not asked since for any more secrets to be shared in front of her.