Sunday, August 08, 2010

Lady Jane Was A Beautiful Model...

Lady Jane was indeed a lady. She had all of the attributes of refinement and gentle manners. She was beautiful. She was gracious. She was looked upon in great admiration by all who were privileged to know her.

One day Jimmy Cassady, my best friend at South Park High School in Beaumont during the early 1950s, introduced me to Lady Jane. She was so elegant and surreal. Never in my entire life had I met such a charming 1938 Chevrolet Coupe. By special order, she had her gear shift installed on the steering wheel column and not on the floor as mere common cars of her era. Lady Jane had not a scratch on her curvaceous body. She was in reality a pure dream.

Lady Jane was a deep green in color and that meant she truly was a South Park Greenie. Her previous owner was Ethel Jo Simkins, that most popular biology teacher/person at SPHS. Lady Jane’s license plate number was 101 because that was Ethel Jo’s room number at school.

Ethel Jo decided it was time to update so she bought a new Chevrolet Coupe. She named this one Lady Jane II. There are some stories that should be shared about this new vehicle but at another time.

Jim bought the original Lady Jane from Ethel Jo for a few hundred dollars. Jim and I had met back in the 6th grade at Giles Elementary School. We remained best friends till graduation from high school in 1953. When he bought Lady Jane in 1952, we began cruising in style. We loved to drag Pearl and Orleans Street in downtown Beaumont. Actually back then, there were no other drags. Downtown is all there was.

Anyway, Jim was holding down three jobs at this time. He rewound and edited film for the Terrell Public Library, worked in the accounting department for Hall’s Truck Lines, and he operated the merry-go-round at Playground Park located on College Street/Highway 90 near the Circle. Retired Lamar Professor David Taylor told me that, “Jimmy Cassady was one of the finest young men he ever taught.”

Jim’s shift with the merry-go-round ran everyday from 6 p.m. till 10 p.m. One evening, we drove to Playground Park in Lady Jane. The plan was that while Jim worked, I would drive the lady back to my house, then return to the park at 10 p.m. to pick him up. We intended to do some late-night cruising.

While driving home, I stopped at a red light on 11th Street in front of the Gaylynn Theater. Then a strange thing occurred. Smoke came drifting into the passenger cab of Lady Jane. I mumbled, “Oh no, we’re on fire!” I jumped out and opened the hood. Gray smoke billowed up. I ran over to a service station and found a mechanic. He came out and said, “Your brake lights have a short.” He proceeded to rip out the brake light wiring. He then charged me fifty cents for “saving your car from burning up.” Then he added, “Now be careful, you don’t have any brakes at all.” So I drove on home using every precaution.

As 10 p.m. loomed, a glum heart returned with me to the park. I was driving my dad’s Oldsmobile since Lady Jane had no brakes. I didn’t tell Jim anything at this point. But when we walked out to the parking area and Jim saw the Oldsmobile, he blurted out, “Where’s Lady Jane?” Then I revealed all just as it had transpired. Jim’s face reminded me of a dad whose daughter had been injured.

Anyway, following surgery, Lady Jane was as good as ever. And so she remained a lady indeed.

Winston Hamby


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