Southern Life

Certain names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent, both at the same time.

Once upon a time, my good friend Rusty Randolph and I had been hanging out Shoney’s Big Boy in College Park, Georgia. I didn’t get to hang out much since Daddy was convinced that boys hanging out were headed for trouble. I never did understand his reasoning, but the 11th commandment according to Daddy was, “Thou shall not hang out!”

This notorious event happened on a Sunday evening when Rusty and I had convinced our parents that we were going to youth events at church. Both of us had wailed long enough that we each got to drive a parent’s car.

My Mom had a 1949 Plymouth (this was in 1960) and Daddy had a fairly new Chevrolet Station wagon. He never let me drive his car without him in it because he was a traveling salesman and made his living out of his car. I got to drive Mom’s car pretty much anytime when she wasn’t using it, except when I wanted to go out to “hang out.” The Plymouth was in sad shape. When we turned left, the right side passenger door swung open. I saved my little brother’s life countless times by grabbing the seat of his pants as he flew out the swinging door. Daddy put used tires on it because they were cheap, so there generally was no tread, and the tires would slip if even the tiniest amount of dampness was on the street. I didn’t dare drive it hard because a rod knocked loudly when the engine was under strain. I got about 10 miles to the gallon of gasoline and 25 miles to the quart of motor oil. Consequently, we kept a supply of burned motor oil in the basement to keep the silly car lubricated.

Rusty’s family car was some kind of exotic model that his Daddy, a major in the Army brought back from Europe. The driver sat on the left side, opposite from American made cars. For the life of me, I can’t remember the make, but I do remember that it had an electric clutch, which was always slipping. Rusty would rev the engine, put the car in low, let out the clutch pedal and there we would sit, I started to say go, out of habit. It could take as long as 30 seconds before the tires would make the first revolution. The engine was about the same size of the one that powers my lawn mower. Eventually the clutch would fully engage and off we’d go at one third of the speed of light or twice the speed of a snail, which ever came first.

So having set the stage, “Now the rest of the story”; we both had let time slip up on us since we were eating strawberry pie and flirting with the gorgeous girls of College Park (I just realized we could have published a calendar featuring, Betty, Francis, Ann, Julie, Sandra, Sally, Becky, Ann, Janet, Tina, Robin, and Francine. We would have made a million, had we not found ourselves in jail. This would have been the first of its kind and later when Playboy was published H.H. might have bought it.). Anyway, we were later than we should have been leaving and knew we would be in trouble if we didn’t get home soon. We got into our respective cars and pulled out of Shoney’s parking lot side by side, Rusty on the left, me on the right. Julie told me earlier that she thought Rusty was cute so as we rode along side by side I was telling Rusty about her. We were literally two feet from each other and just having an innocent conversation. Suddenly, we heard the siren behind us and red lights flashing, the ever diligent Sergeant Wingo had caught us. I pulled up first and Rusty pulled over in front of me. We turned our cars off as Sergeant walked up to my car with his pistol drawn. He called to Rusty to join us in front of my car, holding his pistol the entire time.

Wingo was a rat faced, skinny type after which the writers of “The Andy Griffith Show” must have modeled Barney Fife. In his high-pitched nasal twang, as he bounced from one foot to the other, he proclaimed that we were under arrest for drag racing.

I could hardly contain my laughter, there was no way on God’s earth that we could have been drag racing in those pathetic machines we called cars. As I made the left turn on Main Street upon exiting Shoney’s’ I had to reach all the way across the seat and shut the passenger door before it slammed against a telephone pole.

Rusty, being fairly new in town didn’t know anything about Wingo and was absolutely terrified. He started to stammer and stutter, all the spit dried up in his mouth and tears started flowing. As soon as he could moisten his lips a bit, he started.

“Sir”, he said”, “We are good boys, we would never drag race, he’s an eagle scout and I’m an honor student. Sir if you arrest us, my Daddy could be discharged from the army and I will never be allowed to drive again. Please, please let us go, I promise we will never do anything like this again.” With that, he wet all down the front of his pants.

I stood there trying hard not to burst out in laughter. Rusty got louder and louder as I tried to get him to shut up. Sergeant Wingo became more and more agitated, waving his pistol around as he danced more frantically, on one foot then the other. I realized that if I didn’t do something, one of us was likely to die before the night was over. There was a moment when both Rusty and Wingo stopped shouting at each other so they could breathe and recognizing my opportunity, I jumped in.

I asked Sergeant Wingo to let Rusty sit in his car while we talked. He thought that was a good idea so Rusty was relegated to the back of police car and Sergeant Wingo and I talked. He shone his flashlight in my face and I said, “Sergeant, please put your pistol away, I am not going to resist you.” Reluctantly he did. “Let’s start over,” I said, “You have known me for years, and you know that I don’t cause trouble.” (I hoped he didn’t remember any of our previous encounters.) Obviously he didn’t. I continued, “Now sergeant look at those cars, you know there is no way we could have been drag racing, but I understand why you might have thought that we were. We pulled out of Shoney’s side by side. We drove along side by side while I told Rusty that he should call Julie for date.”

Sergeant Wingo looked at me like a doe looking into headlights, he scratched his baldhead and said, “I know you, you are the deJarnette kid, I heard about you; you saved that ladies’ life the other night didn’t you?” (I’ll explain that in a minute.) “There is no way you would be drag racing, you are a good boy, why you are even an eagle scout. But I don’t know about that other kid, he’s all mouth and talks like a Yankee, I think I’ll run him in just to teach him to shut up.”

I said, “Now sergeant, you really don’t need to do that He is a good guy and my friend and if you took him you would have to go see his family and write a report. Can’t we just call it lesson learned and besides Rusty wet his pants and it is getting on your car seat.”

“O, s–t,” Wingo said, and shouted to Rusty to get the hell out of his car. He instructed us to go straight home and that if he ever caught us again he would put us in jail.

Rusty and I remained good friends. Julie and Rusty dated for a while. Sergeant Wingo remained the senior deputy on the College Park Police Department as long as I can remember and we all lived happily ever after.

The Lady whose life I saved.
I had just gotten off work from a swimming pool where I was lifeguard on Saturdays and Sunday afternoon. As I turned onto U.S. 29 south of College Park, I witnessed a horrendous wreck. Two cars ran together head on. I pulled to the side of the road, ran to the wreck, and started checking. One person was in the southbound car and seemed to be okay. The northbound car was a different matter there was blood everywhere. I quickly checked the man, who was just beat up, but the wife was literally spewing blood. Her head had gone through the windshield when the cars hit and then had been drawn back through at the secondary part of the crash. She was scalped from the back of her head all the way over the top and down to her nose. Several small arteries had been severed and she was weeping blood all over her scalp. I took off my shirt and made a compress with which to apply pressure.

I have no idea who called the police, but they showed up after a few minutes, as did Hemperlies ambulance. This was long before EMT’s and real dedicated ambulances. We were put into a funeral coach and I held pressure on the lady’s head all the way to Grady Memorial Hospital. The doctors at the hospital commended me for saving her life and I rode home in the ambulance. She had a complete recovery. Later we learned that she and her husband were good friends of my family.

Sergeant Wingo was the policeman who showed up.

I attribute my knowledge of what to do to first aid training given by the Boy Scouts of America.

Copyrighted © 2011 by Jack deJarnette

Jack deJarnette

Jack deJarnette

I am a United Methodist Minister who in June 2008, was placed on incapacity leave due to kidney failure.  My kidneys failed due to immusuppression medications secondary to a heart transplant in 1997. The ministry is my second career having spent 12 previous years at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta as Chief Respiratory Therapist and Technical Director of Life Support Systems at Emory University School of Medicine. I  have a wonderful wife of 45 years, two super children, and four grandchildren. My life has been exciting, challenging, and full of wonder as in my early years I was concerned with saving lives and in my later years saving souls I was graduated  from Georgia Military Academy in 1961 (Woodward Academy). I attended Emory-at-Oxford College, The University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Emory University for postgraduate work. I received my ministry credentials through the United Methodist Church Course of Study at Emory's candler School of Theology. My Theology is primarily Wesleyan and varies with the particular topic under discussion. I refuse to be labeled either liberal or conservative. My politics are moderate embracing what I hope is the best of all parties. I have a deep love for Christ, the Church, and the United States of America. Bev (my wife) and I are deeply thankful to God for the blessings that have been showered on us throughout our lives.

  1. Ah, the infamous Sergeant Wingo! Thanks for that flash from the past as I grew up in East Point where we would also hang out at Shoney’s and McDonald’s just on the edge of College Park. My father worked nights at the airport so I had daytime use of his white Ford Galaxie until he bought a teal ’65 Mercury Comet for me to drive. One day I decided to spruce up my car by giving it a wash and wax, but I didn’t realize that the wax wasn’t supposed to dry onto the car while sitting in the blazing sun. After my father proclaimed my car was ruined (and it was), I drove it to the end of my days at Russell High School and into my first year at Tech!

    1. Jack deJarnette

      I must confess, I made Sergeant Wingo a bit larger than life. He really was a pretty good guy, except when he was dispatched to our house to discuss the antics of my Daddy’s oldest son.

      I remember the McDonald’s but never “hung out” there, remember the 11th commandment.

  2. Will Cantrell

    Jack, I REALLY enjoy reading the stories of your misspent youth, especially one’s involving that College Park Shoney’s. If I remember correctly, this is the very same Shoney’s from which you were eventually banned. As the late Virginia Cantrell, would say, “I guess you just never learned.”

    While, I am just a few years younger, your story brought back memories of my own ‘misspent’ youth spent in a parallel universe of sorts in Southwest Atlanta. In those days, the eleven story Fulton National Bank Building was the tallest building in Atlanta and Hartsfield was the name of the Mayor, not the airport. The sign in front of the Darlington Apartments that kept track of Atlanta’s population had just barely turned 1,000,000 and Truitt Cathy had not “invented Chic-Fil-A yet. Lastly anyone who’d suggest that Hank Aaron would ever play baseball in Atlanta rather than Milwaukee would have been considered to be daft. Hockey? Surely you jest! Those were different times, Jack but you describe them colorfully and with ‘affection’. Good piece. I look forward to reading more. Will

  3. Jack deJarnette

    Will, Thanks for the comment.
    We used to “park” on the hill overlooking the airport where the Holiday Inn was built. My girlfriends daddy was the manager of the Airport. Sometimes we would shoot wild dogs on the south side of the airport and Grady would walk me through the plans for the expansion.

    Bev, my wife, and I were just discussing the population sign.

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