Busted but not rehabilitated

Published 1:19 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

By By Lloyd Albritton
In the days of my youth, most parents believed that "an idle mind is the devil's workshop," and they did their best to keep us busy with productive tasks. My father once observed that there was nothing more disgusting to him than to come home from working all day and find a bunch of lazy teen-age boys laying around in the house doing nothing. "I want to see you boys doing something outside when I get home, if it ain't nothing but digging holes and filling them back up!" he often ranted. When I later entered the military service and was assigned to police up all the cigarette butts on the base parade deck, I was already well trained in that art, for whenever we complained to Daddy that there was nothing left to do around the house, he would always shout, "There's trash all over the yard. I want you boys out there picking up everything that ain't nailed down!"
There were five boys and one girl in our family and keeping us all busy and out of trouble was no easy job, but Daddy tried. He knew that a young'un with nothing to do would soon be up to something, and it would usually be no good. When we wanted to go somewhere, Daddy would often say, "Going is seeing, and seeing is wanting, and if you see something you want, I know you don't have any money to buy it, so you'll probably steal it and I would just have to come and get you out of trouble, so you'd better stay right here at home."
As we got older and were allowed more liberties, we often did get into meanness, just like Daddy said we would. Sometimes Daddy never found out, but sometimes he did and a licking with his belt was the usual punishment. Other times, Daddy would seem to muse about some of his own childhood pranks and would feel merciful. In those instances, we always felt lucky to get off with a warning.
Atmore teenage society in those days revolved around three main events: (1) the movie show, (2) John Dixon's Record Hop at the National Guard Armory, and (3) riding 'round 'n 'round McMurphy's Dairy Bar trying to meet girls. When I was about fourteen years old, I talked Daddy into letting me and my buddy, Art Gunn, use his old 1947 Fleetside Chevy to drive to town on Saturday night to go to the movie show at the Strand. I did not have a driver's license, so Daddy agreed that we could use the car if I would drive to town on the back roads and leave the car parked in Faircloth's Parking Lot, then return home directly after leaving the movie. "I don't want you boys driving that old car around that Dairy Bar and you without a driver's license!" was his final caveat.
After an hour or two at the movie show, Art and I grew bored and soon decided we were not where the action was. After discussion and agreement that Daddy was always in bed by eight o'clock and would surely never know, we decided to take the old Chevy for a cruise around the Dairy Bar. Now, this old Chevy was a long, ugly, gawky-looking thing, pea green in color, with high doors that barely exposed the driver's and passenger's heads. The shocks and main springs on the car were like rubber bands and when the brakes were applied the old car would bounce along like a stagecoach on a bumpy road. Though hardly a "girl-getter," no one could possibly not notice a conspicuous cruiser like this circling the Dairy Bar, especially with its name painted boldly on each rear fender, i.e., The Green Hornet. But, we didn't care. We were just proud to be men-about-town in an automobile of any kind.
As we made our second round, Art ducked down and shouted, "There's your Daddy!" I jammed the short vacuum shift lever into second gear and sped directly back to Faircloth's Parking Lot without looking back, parked the car, and Art and I ran back to the movie theater.
"Are you sure that was Daddy?" I asked.
"I'm not sure," Art replied, but it sure did look like him and it looked like ya'll'ses car too." I suspected Art was either lying, joking around, or just plain mistaken, but he would not own up to either one.
All shaken, we waited a reasonable time and drove the old car home. The lights were off and all was quiet. Daddy's car was in the yard. We quietly sneaked into the house and went to bed, feeling reasonably confident that we had been mistaken. After all, we reasoned, what in the world would my father be doing at the Dairy Bar on a Saturday night at that hour?
The next morning at Sunday breakfast, Daddy seemed cheerful and never said a word all through breakfast. Just as Art and I had relaxed and assumed we were safe, Daddy pushed his chair back and began to muse, "I saw a funny thing last night. I drove over to Flomaton to visit a friend in the hospital, and on my way back through Atmore, I was hungry and decided to stop at the Dairy Bar for a burger. As I was sitting there, what did I see but two fellers who looked just like Lloyd and Arthur in an old green Chevy just like mine cruising through the Dairy Bar. But, of course, I know it could not have been Lloyd and Arthur because they promised me they would leave my car parked in Faircloth's Parking lot while they went to the movie show."
We sat quietly and said not a word of excuse or protest. Just hung our heads and awaited our punishment. Daddy sat for a few minutes looking at us, then without another word, forgot the whole affair and got up and walked away, leaving Art and I alone at the table. We looked at one another, two idle minds which never learn, and our faces beamed the same scheming thought. Then Art raised his eyebrows inquisitively and expressed it, "Reckon your daddy would let us use The Green Hornet to go to the Record Hop next Saturday?"

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