The Fast Lane of 1949

Michael Simmons, guest writer

A lot of people ask me why I do what I do. Well, the feeling of acceleration is incredible, the sound of beastly engines roaring, not knowing for sure whether you or the guy next to you’ll win or not, and then just the straight adrenaline, when all that is combined just makes all risk worth it. The long time it takes to get to the finish really is only a few seconds, but can change you quick. You become so focused and you and your car become one and you even talk with her. Hoping that begging her to give you a bit more’ll help, even if it’s just hopeless to think such a thing. A loss is crushing to a man’s pride, it feels like you don’t deserve your car when you do. When you win, though, that’s different. No feeling is greater in my eyes, I’ve tried it all and nothing can compare to the sweet taste of victory, even more when you have a trend of losing. Racing is an easy way to have fun. You pull up next to your buddy on a straight road, and keep going to your heart’s content. Length varies depending on how much gas you have in the tank, and how confident you feel in your machine. From quarter mile all the way to across a few states and back again. It becomes even more fun when the police get involved, their cars may not be fast enough to keep up, but they’ll chase you until they leave their jurisdiction, sometimes even further just for the heck of it. Don’t get me wrong, they have a year newer Ford Custom than I do, but my friend gave me parts from his old car that had a supercharger. A supercharger forces a ton of air into the combustion chamber. The more air you have, the more fuel can go through the engine, and more the extra fuel creates even bigger explosions and gives you more power. It sounds great and makes good power, what more do you need in a car?
My name is Robert Greene, I’m a mechanic in Grand Haven, a nice small town in Michigan. I didn’t have much schooling, but I’m happy doing what I love and continuing my dad’s work, which is worth more to me than any learning I could’ve done. All I need is my music, my tools, and my car; nothing else matters. With this “Cold War” going on with the stupid Communist Russians going on, and China joining them, a guy needs any distraction from threats of huge explosions destroying everything and everyone he loves and cares about. Luckily, Grand Haven is a bit of a quiet place, perfect for racing, a perfect distraction. Also, the new television show The Goldbergs is another nice distraction. It’s not so common to see any kind of traffic on these roads. I grew up here in this town, in this shop, and I intend to keep it alive even if I lose everything to keep it open.
My car is an extension of myself, I try my best to keep her looking real pretty and running good to impress the ladies, because unfortunately you can’t marry a car. She’s a light blue 1948 Ford Super DeLuxe V8 with chrome that outshines the sun, the love of my life. Her heart is the great Ford Flathead V8 producing an amazing 100 horsepower, I suspect around 130 horsepower with the supercharger though. Regardless she has the growl of a wild beast ready to kill, and drives like it too. She and I make a great team and pretty much all of Michigan knows it, hopefully all of the states if I get lucky enough. That’ll probably not happen. I don’t need more police attention anyways.
When I race, I see nothing around me but the road ahead, the speedometer, and the car that’s hopefully behind me. My world is racing for that short period of time, it clears my head and I can quit thinking about my problems. It’s a time when I can forget that anyone exists but me and my rival on the open road without any worries other than losing. Of course it’s not always safe and fun to do this, I lost one of my best friends to a race. He wasn’t paying attention and ran head on into an Oldsmobile and everyone involved died. You have to be somewhat alert so you don’t end up in the hospital or a coffin, especially around here ’cause the nearest proper hospital is a few towns down. It’s unfortunate, but is a risk you take while racing. I’ve had a few close calls in my time, like once someone just pulled out from the nearest burger joint and I had to dodge around a few cars on the other side of the road. It’s rare, but a definite test of grit for everyone involved. But it’s always nice to be cruising down the road at 80 miles an hour listening to “Pistol Packin’ Mama”, some Smoky Mountain Boys, and maybe a bit of swing music. The rhythm keeps me from totally tuning all of the world out and just going until I die.
Sometimes music is a bad thing, it can be distracting. I never thought it would happen. But on June 5, 1949 my life changed and wouldn’t ever be the same. I was driving around to clear my head, listening to my favorite album, and I sideswiped someone. Worse than that, I was going about 75 down a main road, and I killed the man. The police arrived seeing me on my hands and knees asking repeatedly “why?” Which gave the police a good sign that something wasn’t right. I was arrested and taken to Michigan State Prison to wait for my trial in October.
While waiting for the trial, my mind kept on boiling and thoughts stirring around of you’ll never get out of here. You can give up, it’s easy. It’s not worth it. No one will care, you’re a dead legend. I had no peace of mind, my life was in shambles. Out of pure need and desire I called out to God. I used to go to church when I was younger, I figured I might as well see if there really was anything out there. I thank the Lord that in my lowest point that He sent a familiar face in my childhood pastor out for prison visitation. He acted surprised to see me in stripes, I wasn’t a bad kid growing up. He immediately took time to ask me “what happened Robert, how did you end up here?” I answered, “Well Pastor John, I was racing around in my baby like usual, I didn’t look and ended up killing someone,” my head lowered from the overwhelming feeling that I was gonna get damned for admitting what I had done. Instead he told me “God will work all this out, I still love you just like the Heavenly Father does.” I was blown away, I felt a sudden rush of peace and also a feeling of happiness hit me. I stayed silent, tears streaming down my face trying to get my mind back in line. “Pastor, you have no idea how much of a selfish, sinful person I’ve been since you last saw me. God could never forgive me, and you shouldn’t either! Stop!” His response is something that I will never forget. He looked at me with the straightest face I’ve ever seen and said “Son, God could care less if you’ve been ‘Mr. Perfect’ all your life or if you were Hitler as long as you come back to Him and make Him your God over all else. Did my sermons teach you nothing? If so, I apologize that I failed you as an ordained minister.” He just put himself out there bold as could be. Suddenly, all of the words I heard as a kid just came back and made me realize that this may have been God’s way to bring me back. This was not a punishment, but a blessing.
This blessing also gave me 20 years in prison, though. My trial came and went, and luckily the judge lowered the amount of years expected in half. He saw I was young and dumb, and definitely showed mercy. My time spent in the slammer definitely gave me the chance to make up time with God for sure. I never thought such peace was possible while in a prison, but it was honestly the most peace I’d ever felt. I was released a few years early due to good behavior and I thank God every day for the mercy I was shown and love I was given while incarcerated. He saved me, an uneducated gearhead with a death wish. God is good. . . God is good. . .
Works Cited
Harris, William. “How Superchargers Work.” How Stuff Works, supercharger.htm. n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2018.
“The 1941-1948 Ford Super Deluxe.” How Stuff Works, 1941-1948-ford-super-deluxe.htm. n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.
“The History of Paxton Automotive.” Paxton Automotive. article.php?id=3. n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2018.
Trueman, C N. “What was the Cold War?” History Learning Site, https:// was-the-cold-war/. n.d. Web 2 Feb. 2018.
Sickels, Robert. American Popular Culture Through History: The 1940s. Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.