Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We Had to Take Brewer

There is a particular stretch of pavement near where I live now that is constantly monitored for speeding by the local police. Even though the posted speed limit is 45 mph, the average speed by most drivers is, at least, ten miles over that. Depending on the day of the week, the Cobb County police set up their motorcycles and one or two squad cars and pull people over and issue them tickets. Last week, I saw four or five cars pulled over to the side, drivers frowning as they were cited for speeding.

No tickets for me in this time of my life, though, because I’m not in a hurry anymore to go anywhere. I guess that’s one of the perks of being retired. I go the speed limit; I got the time.

In my long, driving life so far, I have been the unhappy recipient of one speeding ticket. I have been pulled over numerous times but only ticketed once. It must be my charm or my sense of humor, or in one case, tears that has exempted me from this “road tax.”

BTW: I meant those tears; it was 1983. I was teaching full time, attending college twice a week at night for my Masters, and my daddy had recently undergone open-heart surgery. I burst into tears the minute the Cobb County police man pulled me over on Cumberland Parkway at 11 pm on a work night. I continued to weep through his kindness, his warning, and then his departure. Those tears were real.

When I was eleven years old, I remember my oldest brother Hunter getting his first speeding ticket. I don’t know how many speeding tickets he has gotten in his life, probably a few, but I know that our family witnessed his first speeding ticket in a fashion that was right out of a situation comedy, unless you were my brother.

Hunter turned 16 in 1965, and like any teenager could not wait to feel the independence and power of being in a car all by himself. I don’t know where he had been that day or what day of the week it was, but I know that the whole family was home, so I guess, it was a Sunday.

Gas was cheap in 1965 -- around 30 cents a gallon, and our generation did a lot of what we called “riding around.” Riding around by definition involved driving by the high school, by the church, by friend’s houses where a couple of blasts of the horn let them know you had been by, or just up and down streets, in and out of parking lots, over railroad tracks, just to be out and free of the parent, who had been sitting beside you for a year during your learner’s licensing and instructing you on when to slow down, speed up, brake, turn, and yield. Not good times as I recall --- probably because I learned to drive on a stick shift -- and there were some hopping and lurching moments involved. [BTFALB]

The smoothest residential road in our area was Brewer Boulevard, a winding and hilly thoroughfare, paved to smooth perfection with relatively new asphalt and a major artery for us to get from place to place. The other secondary roads and residential streets in Sylvan Hills were rougher --- the macadam still more stony than tar, better than gravel, but not as good as spanking new asphalt.

Brewer Boulevard was the best kind of road: about a mile and a half to two miles long, its wider than most streets [thus, given the name “boulevard”], the green sloping lawns that bordered each side, the cozy, brick bungalows with shining windows that nested on it, made it the most pleasant kind of road to ride or drive on. Our own home, located on a side street, fed into Brewer, and in order to go anywhere, we took a left or right on Brewer: the grocery store, school, or the park where we met our friends all needed a sojourn on Brewer to get there. We had to take Brewer.

As children, we knew every inch of Brewer; we walked it, rode our bikes down its many hills as it was the best biking thrill we had. Our young legs sometimes too tired to pump the pedals up, we dismounted those bikes and walked up in order to fly down them again. Many times, as we descended those exciting hills, we screamed the old bike riding cry: “Look, Mom! No hands!”

Of course, my mother was no where in sight. [There’s a second line to that bike riding cry -- BTFALB.]

We went to high school at Sylvan, located at the north end of Brewer. We rode the city bus mostly to school, but not wishing to wait for it in the afternoon or way-laid at school for other reasons, we walked home as we used to say, “Taking Brewer.”

We investigated the creek that ran under Brewer’s one lone bridge, a bridge that collapsed at one point and detoured unfamiliar cars up and down our home street to take them to the local shopping mall or Lakewood Freeway. We sat on our front porch and watched the “traffic” caused by that inconvenience. I remember how strange a passenger bus looked as it made its way up my home street -- its large body on our narrow road like a dinosaur that had crawled out of a time warp and found itself in a place too small to contain it.

Trust me, the traffic of my youth is nothing like the traffic of now.

We knew Brewer like we knew our own street, and my brother got his first speeding ticket on that pretty road; unfortunately, the Atlanta City policeman, who pulled Hunter over, didn’t catch him till he turned onto his home street right in sight of our house and my family.

Perhaps it was my mother or father who always waited anxiously for us to get home who saw Hunter's crime.

Perhaps it was the blue swirling light of the Atlanta Police that brought us to the front porch.

Perhaps it was the police siren, a foreign sound in our neighborhood.

Perhaps, someone *cough, cough* must have been looking out the window at the time and alerted the whole family to Hunter’s humiliation.

“Look Daddy! Hunter’s been pulled over by the police!!!”

Perhaps it was simply, as we say in the South, “flat out” bad luck all around, but my brother got his first speeding ticket with an audience. Not only did it bring out the family, but it brought the neighbors to their stoops and porches to see what was going on.

The other memory I have of this day was of my daddy's walking up the street and shaking hands with the policeman. I have no idea of the conversation that transpired between any of them, but I believe, because I know the fiber of my parents and their care and concern for their children, that it was moral support for my brother who was young, alone, and "in trouble."

I don’t know if Hunter was punished in two ways for his “law breaking” on that day, once by an expensive ticket he had to pay and once by my parents, but I do know that when my siblings and I are together, one of us will say to the other: “Do you remember when Hunter got that speeding ticket at the top of our street?”

And the other will say, "Yes. Too bad -- he had to take Brewer."


  1. Oh man Harriet, this was classic. These were the days weren't they? I haven't gotten a speeding ticket in a very long time, (not that I didn't deserve it!) I could just see the whole event in my mind, bet your brother still can too! :-)Lori

  2. I loved this story! More because there is always something that happens in your childhood that your siblings never let you forget! We all have them and it cracks me up that when you all are together it comes up. Thanks for sharing this one!