The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


April 18, 2014

It’s funny how things can change as our kids get older

“You can just let us out here, you don’t have to drive all the way up in front of the school,” one of my nephews said early one morning as I prepared to drop them off at junior high.

They started to open the door before the car came to a full stop in an attempt to bail out before we reached the front steps.

“Hold it, guys,” I said. “Wait until the car stops.”

By that time they already had their backpacks and were gone.

I laughed to myself. It was my old brown 1972 Plymouth Duster. It was not an attractive vehicle, I supposed at the time. I got it from my father-in-law for a couple hundred dollars.

But the truth is, I needed a car. The one I had, an old Toyota that had approximately 450,000 miles on it, had been wrecked once and rear-ended twice.

When I arrived at Shady Spring High School in the fall of 1987 to teach English, the athletic director made a speech at an afternoon faculty meeting. He was glad I had chosen to come there, he said, because he no longer had the ugliest car in the teacher’s parking lot. Everybody laughed.

Later, on one snowy morning, I was about half way to school when the car overheated and started belching steam from under the hood. I had to make a choice; it was the same distance back home as it was to the schoolhouse. I opted to keep going. When I arrived in the school parking lot, I skidded to a stop in what had become a near-blinding blizzard. I grabbed my briefcase from the front seat and continued on to the front door.

“Hey, Mr. B.,” a student voice called out from the parking lot. “I think your car is on fire.”

“It’s OK,” I returned. “It won’t burn up. It’s just hot.”

That evening I had two seniors go out and check out the engine. They came back and told me that a fan belt had broken.

I went down to the principal’s office and told the man in charge that I needed a fan belt. “Don’t have one,” said the man of very few words.

On my way back to my classroom, however, I ran into a female colleague, and I proceeded to tell her about my vehicle woes.

“No problem,” she said. “I can give you my pantyhose and you can tie them on the crank, the alternator and the water pump; that’ll work until you can get home.”

“Gosh,” I said. “You’d do that for me.”

“Sure,” she said. “My husband once used that trick on the Interstate.”

I must have gaped for a full minute.

“Just come down to my room in a few minutes and I’ll fix you right up.”

After I got my hands on the pantyhose I asked the two seniors if they would mind installing the makeshift fan belt on the front of the engine, which, of course, they were glad to do (for extra credit, no doubt).

Well, the long and the short of the tale is that the pantyhose worked so well that I decided to wait until payday to replace the fan belt.

When I drove into the garage, I showed the problem to a mechanic, who seemed puzzled at the creative solution to the machine-driven difficulty.

“How’d you do that?” he asked.

I related the story and he just shook his head. He installed a new fan belt for a fee and I was on my way.

Meantime, I continued to take my nephews, Adam and Ryan, to the junior high each morning, realizing that I was expected to stop about 50 yards from the main entrance and allow them to bolt from the vehicle without being seen by their peers.

I thought back on the years, when I used to drop them off at elementary school in my red Corvette convertible. They would proudly get out of the sports car as if in triumph and style.

Funny how things change as our kids get older.

We’ve all done the same thing, though, in one way or another, haven’t we?

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Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail:

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