Growing Up in Alameda: Can a ‘49 Chevy jump a telephone pole?

Growing Up in Alameda: Can a ‘49 Chevy jump a telephone pole?

Dave LeMoine

Dick Stevens worked full time at the corner Chevron station. His main car, until it met a brick wall at the end of Flower Lane, was a ‘47 Ford convertible powered by Oldsmobile. Dick was given this ‘49 Chevy four-door sedan. With nothing better to do, we used to ride around town.

One day Dick, Red, Budda, Flip, and I were cruising the back streets when Dick said, “Ya know, these Chevy transmissions are strong. I wonder, if I were to ram the car into reverse at 35, could it burn rubber backwards?”

“Do it!” came the cry in unison.

So Dick did, and the car did, though I bounced off the dashboard. The result was a cloud of tire smoke, a few turned heads, and the prettiest U-shaped burn pattern on the asphalt. All around town for the next couple of weeks there appeared U-shaped burn marks, especially on Lincoln. Questions from the public were never answered.

Winter was in full swing and we decided that the open fields at the west end of town were perfect for spinning donuts in the mud and tall grass. It would have worked even better if we had walked the field first to see what was in the tall grass, but not us.

Problem one: We entered at our normal speed of 35 mph and promptly went airborne, having jumped a concrete foundation. No harm, no foul: The car was still in one piece as we spun in the mud, slipping and sliding to a stop.

Problem two: We were now inside and needed to leave. The only way out was to jump a telephone pole that was there to keep cars out.

Dick accelerated to launch speed and hoped for the best.

As the Chevy and five bobbleheads went flying, we were getting used to impacts and were better able to ride with, instead of against, the dashboard. With a crash, the car bottomed out back onto terra firma, and off for the station, slowing just long enough to hit reverse and spin on the wet road. We soon grew bored with spinning U’s and decided to drive the top of the Bay Farm Island dyke, which made an S turn, gravel flying in all directions. By that time, we had lost all the hubcaps. Most of the chrome was off or sticking out at odd angles.

Stopping at my house on Beach Road one afternoon, we robbed the refrigerator and, returning to the car with most of us inside, Flip ran up onto the hood, then onto the roof, which collapsed down on our heads making the doors hard to open. A quick thrust upward and the roof returned.

“Hey! Why not take a picture of four of us standing on the roof?”

“Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if we chopped a hole in the roof with my pick?”

“Let’s do it!”

From there, we learned that we could drive through town with or without the roof collapsed. Anything to get attention.

Alameda police once pulled us over for a safety check. The cop was concerned that some of the chrome was sticking out too far and could impale a pedestrian, so we obliged by pulling the offending chrome off and he let us go with a smile and warning. Driving from the island to the mainland, we passed a concrete wall separating the road from the golf course. At that time, the wall was much higher as the roadbed was lower. If you stand on the golf course side today, you will see what I mean.

“Why not drive up against the wall after dark and see if we can makes sparks?”

We drove and drove that night, sparks flying, a real light show – until we realized we had worn clear through the wrap-around bumper and ground down the fender, endangering the tire. From there, back to the mud fields by this time and after one too many jumps, we broke the suspension. It was Sunday night. All the wreckers were closed and the car had burned its last U.

We parked old Bessie out in front of the wreckers, started the engine, put a large rock on the gas pedal, and let it run wide open, thinking it would blow up. Thirty minutes later, the Chevy was still screaming, though the sound would change at times. It was smoking more but there was no sign of explosion.

We bowed our head and gave her the last rites, said our goodbyes, and left her at full throttle.

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Submitted by Kenneth R Heaton (not verified) on Tue, Apr 7, 2015

Dave as long as you can remember don't stop writing