My dollar car
Your only true free time was Saturday afternoons & evenings if you weren’t working a second job that is. So on Saturday many Bethelites would take the train up to Times Square and Seventh Avenue and walk around looking for a good movie to go to. Of course some guys were looking for hookers like Pat P who was the elevator operator in the 129 building.
Some guys would walk all the way down to Flat bush Blvd. in Brooklyn. It wasn't unusual to walk all the way down there to find there wasn’t a movie worth seeing and walk all the way back home. With little money there wasn’t much to do in the city.
They don’t give you a vacation your first year there. So, in your second year there you got eleven vacations days. Besides that time, the only time I got to leave the city was to go to the district conventions. In 1970 it was Virginia Beach, Virginia. In 1971 Jim Pipkorn and Dave Borga and I went to Montreal Canada. In 1972 it was Jim and me to Scranton Pennsylvania.
So to own a car at Bethel meant you had freedom to leave the prison! Without a car your whole life was either Bethel or your Kingdom Hall. Unless you knew someone with a car, you were stuck there months on end.
A car could change all that.
Some guys there had some nice cars too. Jim Pipkorn first had a 1965 ford mustang rag top. Then he got a 1967 GTO. Mr. G Job king Dave Borga had a 1969 Mach 1, There was a 1968 396 rag top SS camaro there, that some guy on the waiter crew had. Anyway they all spelled... freedom!
They did have their problems. One of the biggest problems was parking. There was none for the average Bethelities back then. The Bethel “Heavies” all had parking spaces of course. The society had plenty of places for us to park after they bought the Squibb property but why make it easy on the brothers? Many years later they finally decided to give the Bethelites some free parking.
Driving around "The Heights" looking for an open spot could be a real adventure. If you got back there late on a Sunday night you might spend an hour looking for a spot. At that time of night you might find a parking space maybe a mile away over by the factory. The walk home could be very exciting. Sometimes you have to run all the way back if there were six black guys following you. I love New York.
The other thing you could do was park illegally. Sometimes you just didn’t have a choice. Many guys did, sometimes you got lucky and got no ticket. If not, the fine was ten dollars and twenty five dollars for a fire hydrant.
The other problem was break-ins. If you had a rag top you would never lock your car. The reason was if they wanted in, they would just take a knife and cut your roof open. You would have to leave your door unlocked, so they could get in. Most of the guys there used a heavy duty chain around the steering wheel and brake pedal with a big pad lock on it. Sure, they could hot wire the car and maybe even drive it away. There would be no brakes or steering for them to use however. Some guys would put a kill switch in. You would always chain your hood down so they couldn’t steal you battery. Another thing you would do is always leave your glove box open, to show them there was nothing of value in your car. If you didn't your side mirror could be broken by the next morning.
Believe it or not in the two years I had my car in New York City people broke in it and tried to steal that piece of shit three times.
We would see new cars parked on the street, in "The Heights" in six months they looked terrible. The reason was the way New Yorkers like to park. The parked by sound. They back in, until they hear a crunch, then they move forward until they heard another crunch and then they back up and hear the final....crunch....now you’re parked.
After two years there, I met the love of my life. She wasn’t pretty but she was cheap. I bought a car for only one dollar. That’s right, one buck! My roommate Jack Sutton’s girlfriend’s Hedie had a 1968 Ford Fairlane. The car got totaled in a crash. The insurance paid her off and gave her the car. She sold it to me, for a dollar. The car looked like something out of a "Mad Max" movie. It was a complete wreck! Every quarter panel was trashed. It had been rear ended at about 40 mph. The trunk that was 5 ft. long was now only 3 ft. long. It looked like shit, but she ran great.
I would drive down the FDR drive radio on. Elton John singing "Rocket Man." It was like parting of the Red Sea. A 1/4 mile ahead of me, people in their cars would start moving into the other lanes. They knew someone was coming, a man who had nothing to lose.
As Bob Dylan said once. "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose!"
I was in Lower Manhattan driving my piece of shit car one Saturday. I pull up to a stop sign and this tramp walks up and starts trying to clean my windshield with a rag that looked like he blew his nose in it a few times, After 15 seconds he asked me for a buck.
I saw the irony in this and I had to say. "Are you Crazy? You need to give me a buck!”
He said. "Why should I?" I said. "Because I bet you make more money than I do. How much money do you make a month?"
He said." I don't know, with my VA check, maybe three to four hundred dollars. I said "I make twenty two bucks a month. You need to give me a buck buddie!”
He didn't believe me. I'm not sure, I believe it either. A homeless person was making more money than us a month.
I took Guys to the airport for five dollars, good money. I drove guys in my Kingdom Hall to our meetings. Instead of the hour plus train ride we could do it in just twenty minutes . They gave me their subway money. Five people at .70 cents per trip was good money. Last but not least she could get me far, far away from the wonderful house of god, on the weekends.