After his brush with death, Bud Holloway herded his family into Moby Dick—the enormous white Edsel that had nearly crushed him—and headed to Texas for a visit with his mama. Hollowhead later described what happened.
As Bud drove through Albuquerque, he toyed with the radio and managed to tune into a radio station somewhere in Midland, Texas, which coincidentally was close to where they were headed.
The disk jockey came on and announced a contest. “Our l’il ole’ radio station is gonna give away a check for one hundred dollars to the first ‘58 car to pull into our parking lot.” The deejay set a one hour time limit for someone to claim the prize.
Hollowhead said his dad didn’t give this much thought because they were hundreds of miles from Midland. The hour came and went, and no car arrived to claim the prize.
The deejay returned. “All right now, ya’ll, let’s sweeten the pie. We’re gonna make it three hundred dollars if a white ‘58 car pulls into our parking lot within one hour!”
Hollowhead said his dad still wasn’t thinking about it much, but there was a slight possibility Bud tapped the gas pedal a bit harder.
Another hour passed.
“This is getting interesting, folks. It’s hard to believe that in the entire Lone Star State there isn’t a white ‘58 car around to claim this prize. So here we go again, more milk for the kitty. Now we’re looking for a white ‘58 vehicle with a red interior. And we’ll pay five hundred dollars!”
Bud must have glanced over at his wife rubbing her sore back as she sat beside him on the Edsel’s red vinyl front seat. I imagine he gave thanks then and there for the powerful V-8 engine as he put the pedal to the metal. The city of Amarillo must have passed by in a blur.
When the deejay interrupted a song to announce a winner, Bud reportedly started to slow down. But he accelerated again when the deejay exclaimed, “Sorry folks, thought we had a winner, but some guy was trying to pass off an orange interior as red. No dice. We want red, and now we want a Ford as well. Bring in a ‘58 white Ford with a red interior, and we’ll give you seven hundred dollars. Now listen up folks: a few of our great Midland merchants are calling in to see how they might participate in our l’il ole’ contest. Midland Tools has agreed to add some honey to the pot. In addition to the seven hundred dollar prize, Midland Tools will gift a thousand dollars’ worth of tools to the first car meeting our specifications.”
According to witnesses in the car, tool-addicted Bud started drooling at this point. Another hour passed without anyone claiming the prize, after which the deejay demanded the sought-after car have air-conditioning. Sixty minutes later, the car needed to be a station wagon. Another hour and it needed to be manual, not automatic. Hollowhead said his dad fingered the column shift out of overdrive, dropped to a lower gear and pressed the gas pedal to the floor.
Merchants were calling the radio station and donating all sorts of goodies to cash in on the cheap advertising, but Wilma was most intrigued when a jeweler phoned in to donate an unusual item. He had an imitation of the crown jewels worn by Catherine the Great of Russia at her coronation, a set that, although not genuine, was still valued at five thousand dollars. How such an item came to be in Midland, Texas, was a mystery, but this was also added to the booty for the first white ‘58 Ford air-conditioned car with red interior and manual drive that also happened to be an Edsel.
Speed limits were definitely a thing of the past when they rocketed through Lubbock on their way to Midland. Another contender for the prize was eliminated for exceeding the amount of recorded mileage the deejay had requested. Miraculously, Moby Dick had just the right number of miles on its chrome speedometer. They’d come halfway across Texas by the time they reached the radio station and screeched to a halt in a cloud of dust. They’d won, and it was too bad for that other white ‘58 Ford Edsel wagon with air-conditioning and red interior and manual drive and equal mileage that blazed into the parking lot just moments after the Holloways had claimed all the prizes.
Local reporters made a big deal out of the contest, and pictures of the Holloways made it into several newspapers. Hollowhead even got to talk on the radio about life in California. The deejay unofficially proclaimed him an honorary Texan and wanted to know what he thought of Texas so far. Hollowhead said it was just fine and that he wanted to spend the afternoon touring The Alamo. The deejay tried to explain that The Alamo was in San Antonio, not Midland, but Hollowhead insisted that it must be hidden around there someplace.
I learned that people phoned the radio station to question the quality of California’s public school system or to ask if Hollowhead was retarded. Evidently it was beyond any Texan’s imagination that a school kid anywhere wouldn’t know the location of The Alamo. Finally, a hotel manager in San Antonio called; he’d been listening and offered a free hotel suite if the Holloways wanted to drive on to San Antonio to see the Alamo, which they did. It was with reluctance that Hollowhead climbed back into the Edsel—he was convinced the Alamo was hidden somewhere in Midland. The twins had no interest in The Alamo, but a monumental fascination with the hunky deejay. They would have preferred hanging around Midland but Bud rounded up his family for the drive to San Antonio so Hollowhead could finally tour the Alamo. On the drive back to California, somewhere near Flagstaff, Bud remembered they’d forgotten to visit his mama.
When the Holloways returned home, everyone in the neighborhood took turns ooohing and aaahing over the treasure. Bud was nearly readmitted to the hospital after learning the amount of his tax liability for all the money and prizes, but Wilma took it all in stride. She wore Catherine the Great’s coronation jewels while manning the lawnmower—claimed they made cutting the grass easier. I can still picture her mowing her front yard, a bejeweled crown twinkling on her head, her chest covered by a glittering necklace weighty enough to stop bullets.