Friday, November 8, 2013

Steelworker Picnic - Part 1

Microsoft Word Illustration
by Robert Giles

My father and mother once did a Tarzan and Jane routine. 

“I Chuck”, my father said. “I Dora”, my mother replied. Then they embraced and Dad gave Mom a kiss.

Maybe that is why Dad would take us to Idora Park for a picnic even though he scorned Kennywood and Westview.

That was about fifty-five years ago. I will tell you the rest of the story, as well as I can remember it.

My first visit to Idora Park dates back to about 1956 or 1957, somewhere about there. My sister’s friend, Janice, had tickets. Her Dad worked at Spangs.

We packed ourselves into my Dad’s station wagon. Janice brought along one or two friends. There were big kids in all three seats. We small-fry had to sit on laps. We didn’t worry about seat belts in those days.

Air conditioning was still not standard equipment either. Too bad, because it was a very hot day.

The car was so heavily loaded that the shock absorbers complained on every curve.

We went out to Warrendale to get on the turnpike. My Dad got confused. He headed east toward Route 8 instead of west toward Route 18.

“Aren’t we going the wrong way, Chuck?”

Dad was feeling the heat. He hated to be caught in a mistake. He would fix things up if he could. What’s that up ahead? Can it be? Yes, it’s a cut-over for the state police. Cops sat in the middle of the cut-over and chased speeders in either direction.

The cut-over was empty. Dad wasn’t about to let an opportunity like that get away. He slipped across the median. We were off and running in the right direction toward Ohio. Dad's destination was the Beaver Falls interchange - the last one before the state line. Dad calculated that he would get more lenient treatment in his home state, if it came to that.

“Chuck, what are you going to tell the man at the toll booth?”

“We’ll find out when we get there. Could you kids pipe down in the back seat!”


“Sir, this is an east-bound ticket. “

“I know, I started out in the wrong direction back at Warrendale. I had to make a “Huey”.

“U-turns are against the law on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.”

My Dad gave his best “Oh, shucks” grin and pleaded ignorance. It was somewhere near 90 degrees out. Horns began to beep. The tollgate was backing up.

The turnpike guy peered into the back of the station wagon. “How many passengers have you got in there?”

Dad pretended he didn't hear the question. “We’re on our way to Idora Park for the Spangs picnic.”

The man in the car behind us put his head out the window and started to yell.

The turnpike guy didn’t know what to do next –  he let out a long deep sigh like a tire going flat.

“OK, you and your gang just get the hell out of here.”

Maybe he saw that we were turning blue in the car from a lack of oxygen. Maybe he was fond of Idora Park. Maybe he had kids of his own.

Maybe it’s true what they say – the worst scofflaws are always the ones who get off. They’re too hard to deal with, especially when traffic is backing up and it’s 90 degrees.

Anyway, Dad handed him a fiver and hit the gas. We were on our way north on Route 18.

1 comment:

  1. I had to laugh when I read your post. Sometimes, our moments of childhood family misadventures are rather funny in retrospect.