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Bangin' Gears and Bustin' Heads By Roger Jetter

Bangin' Gears and Bustin' Heads By Roger Jetter
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Book Review By Jack Lawford
February 2006

In the late 1950s, a teenager's most coveted item was a driver's license. It gave every 16-year-old relative freedom, but it also gave some teens a permit to do stupid things with what amounted to a four-wheeled weapon. In a small Midwestern town, that license was a way to explore surroundings, an opportunity to show off, and for a few, akin to signing a death certificate. When the newness of automobilia in general wore off, the next step was to "soup up" a car. Speed was the game, and fearlessness ran rampant: How good a driver were you? How fast could the car go? Seeing how many opponents could be beaten in illegal drag races on the streets and highways was weekend "sport," tempered only by carnage left in the wake.These stories reach back to a time when a driver's license and a hopped-up car were easily the most important things in every teen's life...and the heartache of every parent.

Here are some excerpts from some of the pages of this book so that you can get a glimpse of the Author’s life:

It was an extremely dangerous road, not curvy and not well traveled...yet in a strange, teen-aged, automotive way, it was a fun road...a thrill seeker sort. We called it “The Seven Dips” and it was known for several counties around.

Small towns didn’t offer much in the way of recreation for teen-agers back when I was one. In our small town, Denison, there were two movie theatres, one bowling alley, a skating rink, one public swimming pool, a local hang-out soda shop, one A & W Root Beer Drive-in and a drive-in outdoor movie.....All in all, not much to do if you were least, under legal driving age...and that’s all any of us small town boys wanted...a driver’s license.

The A & W Drive-in was the local cruisin’ hangout on the weekends...and of course, the drive-in movies were always a kick...we’d sneak more people into the drive-in movies, in the trunk, than the total number of double features ever shown there.

Episode 5: Dad’s Kustom!

My dad was a gear-head...I’m certain that’s why I’m one...and a biker. Before he married Mom in 1938, he rode an Indian.

Mom said he loved to ride the Indian to work and hated to give it up, but his children were important and so was his job. Dad was a mechanic and a body man. He learned the trade from craftsmen and that’s all he ever knew...never got past the sixth grade.

Dad brought home his “kustom”...his “new” car. I lusted after that car, but I was given specific instructions: “You are not allowed to drive this car.” He didn’t really trust my “driving skills”...yet. His “new” car was dark blue, with a white top lowered, whitewalls against red rims and single-bar flipper hubcaps. Nosed and decked, ‘50 Lincoln pushbutton door releases, frenched headlights, frenched stock taillights lenses, ‘51 fender skirts, dual exhausts with chromed pencil tips, a “warmed over” flathead with two carbs and tons of chromed acorn nuts on the heads, a three speed and overdrive behind that...that was the coolest looking 1950 Mercury convertible that I had ever seen.

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This is my Dad, “Buck” as he was known, he liked anything mechanical. This photo was shot about 1934 or 1935.


Episode 8: Sixes Are Killer!

Six cylinders, In-lines. I like sixes. Always have. Had my share of ‘em, too. Had two in High School. One in my ‘50 bullet-nosed Studebaker Starliner Coop (I’ve always been ahead of the automobile popularity curve-shameless self-promotion there!)....Dad put up the money for the Stude, guess he figured I couldn’t kill myself with a six cylinder. Took a year to pay him back for a car I didn’t want. He was right, tho, didn’t kill myself.

The second six was in a ‘57 Chevy, a 150 two door...I finally convinced Dad it was time to step up to a REAL CAR...and I’d just finished my junior year of HS-June, 1960.

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This is what is left of my ‘57 after I gave it to my brother...and that’s where it ended up, in our front yard after someone nailed it as it sat on the street.