Our annual kick-off event for the summer of ’63 had just begun; neighborhood kids had gathered around the Zenith in our living room to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The local TV station always ran the comedy the Saturday after school let out. We watched the movie in a different house each summer. This year it was my turn.
Dad was attending big brother’s baseball game and I couldn’t wait for my mother to make herself scarce. She’d already hung around too long. I was worried when the movie started that she’d give us all a lecture on Mary Shelley and other female writers. I was relieved when she finally retreated to the room she referred to as her boudoir—to my knowledge the only boudoir in the neighborhood.
Noticeably absent was goofy Andy Holloway (a.k.a. Hollowhead) from across the street. After his parents’ divorce, Hollowhead and his older twin sisters (see Tight Asses) spent the first two weeks of every summer with their mom in Redwood City. Today Andy would probably be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but back then we just said he had ants in his pants. He wasn’t missed because he could never sit still through an entire movie.
We sat in a semi-circle on the floor—little natives paying homage to the great god Zenith. It was a reeeaally good part in the movie, when Costello first sees Frankenstein. We always screamed in mock terror…but this time someone outside beat us to it—Hollowhead’s stepmom. Wilma Holloway couldn’t have sounded more upset or frightened had Frankenstein himself just pressed her doorbell.
We poured out of the house to see what was up. Wilma was across the street running in circles around the white Edsel station wagon that was her husband Bud’s reason for living. The Edsel was a ‘58 Bermuda, with the famous (and later ridiculed) horse collar grille, scalloped indentations on the sides and gull-wing taillights. It sat nine passengers and was designed as a chrome-and-steel homage to the American spirit. It weighed nearly as much as a Sherman tank. Bud nicknamed it Moby Dick.
At first we couldn’t tell what had caused Wilma to come unglued. But we soon pieced together what had happened: Bud had been in his usual spot on the driveway, tinkering beneath Moby. The huge station wagon had slipped from its jack and now rested directly on Bud’s chest. A moment earlier he must’ve barked for a beer and Wilma had dutifully fetched it, arriving just in time to observe the car slipping onto her husband—the can of Pabst was still in her hand. Good thing she was prompt with the suds; the weight on Bud’s chest would have prevented him from yelling for help.
As we stood around like statues, Wilma ran to the front of the station wagon, tossed aside the beer can and grasped the chrome bumper in an attempt to lift Moby off her husband. I’ve since read amazing stories of people doing incredible things when pumped up with adrenaline and this was undoubtedly the case here. Wilma couldn’t actually lift the car, but she did budge it enough so Bud could replace some of the air squeezed from his lungs.
Luck arrived in the form of a Sears repairman, who was conveniently passing by. The bull-necked fellow hopped down from his truck and raced to the rescue. Mr. Simons dashed over from the house next door, which further added to the drama because Bud and Mr. Simons worked for rival auto companies and detested each other. Mr. Simons and the repairman quickly re-jacked Moby.
Bud was in the hospital for a few days with several cracked ribs, but it was Wilma who endured the most pain. She had damaged her back trying to lift the Edsel and would suffer for the rest of her life. Bud undoubtedly felt badly about this; there was soon a change at the Holloway house.
Most people in those days had push mowers, and mowing the lawn was an unpleasant chore many parents passed on to their children. But Wilma enjoyed mowing the grass in the front yard, claiming it relaxed her. Now, because of her bad back, she considered giving it up. But when Bud recovered from his brush with death he bought her the first power mower in the neighborhood.
Wilma loved her new power mower, but not as much as she hated that Edsel. She was not pleased when Bud turned a deaf ear to her demand that he get rid of it. Wilma never again wanted to ride in the Edsel, but Bud decided that while on medical leave from the Ford plant he would load his family into the Edsel for a long overdue trip to Texas to visit his mama.
Hollowhead’s sisters weren’t pleased to be pulled out of cheerleader camp. They were at that age when it was a disgrace to be seen with parents, much less vacation with them. They had no interest in Texas, unlike Hollowhead who was determined to see The Alamo, even though he was repeatedly told they weren’t going anywhere near it. Hollowhead was a big Davy Crockett fan and would still have been wearing his prized coonskin cap if Ricky Delgado hadn’t swiped it and buried it in a shallow grave in his backyard.
For most families, having the head of the family crushed beneath a behemoth car would have topped the list of memorable summer moments, but for the Holloways the excitement was just beginning.
Conclusion on Wednesday