“The Atlantic City Boardwalk”
Seven p.m. Labor Day 1959 had been confirmed as the time for the rematch drag race between Quinn and Cummings. I dictated to Jokes the layout of the Atlantic Blueberry Company plantation on Route 322 in Mays Landing, New Jersey. Bo drew up several sketches of the race’s course for Cummings and Quinn to study.
The race’s distance would be about five miles in length. A half-mile-long asphalt road stretched from the five-hundred-acre farm’s main gate to its packinghouse. Dirt roads branched out to the left and right in two identical semi-circles, forming forward and backward figure nines. The ends of the figure nines ended back at the asphalt road where the drivers would switch lanes and speed back to the packinghouse. Then each driver would follow the opposite figure nine until the charioteers reached the asphalt road again. Finally Quinn and Cummings would again alternate lanes and go full throttle straight toward the finish line.
The asphalt and dirt roads were elevated twelve feet above canals, which served as the farm’s irrigation ditches. The race would end at a flag erected two hundred feet before the packinghouse. Since blueberry season ended in the middle of August the farm owners and workers would not be present on Labor Day weekend. The drag race on the farm’s treacherous dirt and hard-topped causeways could go off without outside interference.
The morning after Labor Day I knew that Bo Jalonec would be driving up to Penn State. B.J. opted not to motor over to the blueberry farm drag race because he insisted that his ‘57 Chevy was packed with clothes and personal belongings that he was taking along to college.
Susie Parker and her close friend Patty Van Arsdale were planning to make the trip to Jersey in Susie’s ‘55 Ford Crown Victoria, so Quinn and Bo were free to have plenty of time before the seven p.m. race for them to review last minute strategy. The basic rule was that the winner (in an undisputed victory) would receive the loser’s car title.
Quinn traveled into Jersey with his chief mechanic Marcus Spellman, Robbie, and also the Diablos’ leader’s cousins Chuckie and Jimmy Callahan. I made the jaunt in Carnie’s ‘49 Mercury. His two other passengers were Bo and Tinker.
On that September morning the ‘42 Ford’ and ‘49 Merc’ stopped at an Esso station on Route 13. Since the Diablos were all gas-asses, the notion of a blueberry farm drag race fifty miles away seemed an appropriate change of environment. The Levittown cops on patrol were becoming entirely too interested in local greaser gang affairs, and a new venue was desirable to both the Diablos and the Kamikazes.
As the gas station attendant filled Carnie’s Merc’s tank I just knew that Bo would have something profound to say. “Quit fueling around,” Jalonec jested to the grease monkey. “Can’t ya’ tell we’re on an important business trip to nowhere.”
And after the annoyed service station employee checked the Merc’s oil supply Jokes aptly noted that it was a hazy summer morning, and that fact soon inspired him. “Okay guys,” Bo joked, feigning austerity. “It’s a little hazy this mornin’, so let’s get the fog outa’ here!”
Ace Roberts was bringing a carload of Diablos to the event later that afternoon and other Dogwood Hollow guys were cleaning-up their street machines to make the eventful Jersey trip. Everyone was told via the Feed Bag grapevine to assemble at the main gate of Atlantic Blueberry Company, Route 322, Mays Landing at exactly seven p.m.
Quinn and Carnie stopped for breakfast at a Route 130 diner over in Jersey about two miles south of the Burlington-Bristol Bridge. When the Diablos entered the diner most of the patrons stared at us as if we were criminals and after they spotted Marcus Spellman in our company, I could just tell that some of the regular customers felt uncomfortable and had prejudice in their hearts for colored people.
The Diablos, with the exception of Tinker, were more flexible about race than most ‘50s white citizens and if Quinn wanted the attitudes of society bent to accommodate Marcus, then we would skew them, regardless of what the public (or Tinker) thought. We must have looked a little devastating to our audience of fellow diners because no one made a catcall or gave a Bronx cheer. A daring blonde waitress scurried over to take our orders.
Everything went rather normally until Carnie had to imitate some of Bo Jalonec’s favorite lines. Apparently we had gotten a veteran waitress skilled at dealing with obnoxious egocentric greasers.
“What do ya’ have that’s pink, wet and hot?” Carnie repulsively asked while poorly impersonating Bo Jalonec.
“Tomato soup!” the luscious blonde replied, much to our appreciation and to Carnie’s frustration.
Being somewhat insulted Carnie attempted to establish his male dominance in defense of his fragile ego. “Listen Honey,” he said, “I think I need a new epididymis.”
“Stand up!” the waitress commanded.
“What?” Carnie asked incredulously.
“You heard me Dip-head, stand up!” she imperatively ordered.
Carnie rose to his feet and the young lady must have had some paramilitary training in self-defense. Instantly she gave Carnie a swift knee to the scrotum as if she had been a certified Parris Island drill instructor. Our humiliated buddy bent over in excruciating pain.
“Well, not only do you need a new epididymis,” the aggravated waitress persisted, “but now goof ball you also need a new set of testicles too!”
The other Diablos broke-out in a spontaneous wave of laughter. The diner’s patrons that had witnessed the encounter joined in the merriment and the only somber person at our table was poor Carnie. After our silliness subsided Quinn made Carnie apologize to the young honey, and my unstable friend finally realized that only Bo Jalonec could be Bo Jalonec.
The Diablos all ate comprehensive breakfasts of eggs, bacon and pancakes, and in another half-hour we were on the road again. Quinn and Carnie took Route 130 south to Route 73 and then headed east toward Route 30, the White Horse Pike.
All the distance from the 130 Diner on the way to Hammonton Jokes was working on Carnie about his bad experience with the pretty blonde waitress. “Carnie,” Jokes began, “maybe ya’ can buy a new scrotum at sacks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan,” and that zinger was followed by “or maybe you’re Balls Hertz, Dick Hertz’s younger brother.” And when Jokes elaborated, “I’m surprised the waitress didn’t have the courtesy to ask if ya’ owned any land before she smashed your nuts into a double hernia,” Carnie turned the radio up to maximum decibels, nearly shattering our vulnerable eardrums. Tinker and I negotiated a truce between the warring factions and soon tranquility had been restored.
Somewhere between Hammonton’s Bellevue Avenue and somnolent Weymouth Road, Jokes had the notion that we should all sing the lyrics to Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” until Carnie could find the song on his Merc’s radio. Thank heaven he did, on W-ABC out of New York because the melody we had sung for twenty minutes was extremely horrendous, making the Almighty sorry that sound had ever been created.
Sometimes Bo Jalonec could be more nauseous than an extremely long and rocky deep-sea fishing expedition. Carnie turned right off of Weymouth Road and he drove past the historic chimney of the Weymouth Iron Works that Jalonec erroneously thought dated back to the Revolutionary War era. Jokes prematurely declared, “George Washington needed big balls to shoot off his cannon to win the war, and here’s where they came from!”
“Jokes, that chimney belonged to a foundry that made munitions during World War I, not the Revolutionary War!” I historically clarified.
“I sometimes get my wars and my whores mixed up!” Jalonec specified. “I could’ve sworn that chimney once belonged to a disreputable house of prostitution frequented by John Handcock and Davy Crotch-it.”
Soon we were heading east on the Black Horse Pike (Route 322) to view the Mays Landing Division of the Atlantic Blueberry Company. The enormous five-hundred-acre plantation must have been a mile long and as we zipped past, I pointed out the layout of the fields. “The farm has forty-five fields,” I remembered and stated. “These fifteen are in the W section, the next fifteen are in the C section and the last fifteen are in the E section.”
When Bo heard C-section he had something irrelevant and inane to discuss. “My mom had a C-section when I was born,” he facetiously said. “But then she went into convulsions and almost had a Julius Seizure.”
I ignored Jalonec’s idiotic drivel, which at times could be very annoying. I concentrated my mind on clarifying my serious blueberry farm description. “W stands for west fields, C for center ones, and E for east sections.” I couldn’t believe Bo’s permanent attitude toward life. He had never been serious about anything, not even his own birth.
After we passed the middle length of the farm Carnie’s Merc’ was on its final leg to Atlantic City. Bo Jalonec’s mouth formed a scoundrel smile. “Wow guys!” he crazily exclaimed. “I haven’t seen so many bushes since a hundred thousand naked women chased me through Independence Square because they wanted to rip my birthday suit off my bod’!”
All of us burst out into a roar of laughter because we knew that a birthday suit was non-existent and could not be torn off anyone. And if Jalonec could cause so much commotion with Philly’ females when fully clad then maybe his naked torso could really generate a wild pursuit of a hundred thousand horny Philadelphia chicks.
Bo interpreted our reaction as just cause to continue his characteristic insanity. I was fully aware that the remaining twelve miles to Atlantic City would probably seem like an eternity. Mr. C and Mr. Fix-it thought Jokes’ funnies humorous but I valued his convoluted statements as being grossly absurd and contrived.
Bo Jalonec’s arduous monologue included how George Washington’s wife once owned a winery on a large island off the coast of Massachusetts and how Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was 14 Maple Street. Jokes also told us how President Franklin Pierce had finally found a use for the earring and how John Adams was the true discoverer of nuclear energy. When Bo informed us that New Jersey had gotten its name from the need to replace a torn football shirt, Tinker and Carnie screamed with delight while I remained somewhat irritated.
I wished that a thorny cactus had been available to shove down Bo’s trachea and when Jokes asked us why more Americans were not born on Labor Day, I thought that the thorny cactus shoved down his throat should be replaced by a giant saguaro. I gave a sigh of relief when Carnie’s dependable Merc’ finally entered the outskirts of Atlantic City.
Quinn and Carnie parked their hotrods in a Virginia Avenue lot. While Quinn and Marcus Spellman worked on the ‘42 Ford’s carburetor linkage the rest of us walked the world famous boardwalk the full mile from the Steel Pier down to the Million Dollar Pier on Missouri Avenue.
We played some wheel games of chance without much luck, had lunch at a pizza parlor, bought a large box of salt-water taffy and then trekked the mile north back to the Steel Pier.
The renowned pier’s marquee featured South Philly’s Fabian, who was appearing on stage to sing his latest hit “Turn Me Loose.” Fabian’s brand of music was labeled “bubble gum,” a hybrid of the dreaded Pat Boone’ sound, so the Diablos boycotted the sanitized rendition of black rhythm and blues.
A teen dance’ television show similar to American Bandstand was in progress on the pier. It was hosted by Wilmington, Delaware Channel 12’ DJs Joe Grady and Ed Hurst but the Diablos were denied admission because we were wearing black leather jackets, blue denim jeans and engineer boots. Those trademark greaser articles of apparel were violations of the show’s inflexible dress code.
The Diablos passed the rest of Labor Day afternoon playing arcade games, getting our photos taken at an old-time picture stall and smoking Camel cigarettes. Several Kamikazes were also checking out the Steel Pier attractions to burn some time before the big race but we avoided them and they stayed away from us.
I was experiencing stomach pains from eating too much pizza and salt-water taffy and without cessation, Bo Jalonec kept on peppering my tolerance with stupid verbalizations. At first I politely listened to his pestering litany but as the afternoon advanced, and as my intestinal fortitude fought off cramps and excessive gas, Bo’s zaniness pushed my spirit to the brink of insanity. It was a torrid late summer day and the sultry weather only added emotional disenchantment to my physical misery.
“Say Words”, Bo began his monologue, “do ya’ know how Tinker learned to open locks?”
“No I don’t, Jokes,” I innocently and semi-politely answered. “Enlighten me even though I’m not a damned lamp and I don’t really care.”
“Tink took a correspondence course from Yale University,” Bo informed. “Not only can he open Yale locks, he can also jimmy any Master lock as well.” Bo was a wordsmith at associating two unrelated ideas and for some remote reason Carnie, Tinker and I were always captivated by his language tricks.
“Maybe Tinker received his Master’s Degree at Yale University,” Carnie theorized and conveyed.
Bo resented when Carnie tried challenging his humor dominance. “Say Carnie,” Bo countered, “did ya’ hear about the stick-up on the Ben Franklin Bridge?”
“No Jokes, I didn’t,” Carnie gullibly confessed.
“Some moronic kid threw one up there!” Bo volleyed. I hoped that the next thirty minutes would pass by quickly because a half-hour with Bo could be equivalent to a month in hell.
“Say Tink,” Bo habitually continued, “if the Kamikazes lived in ancient times they would’ve persecuted the Christians worse than the Romans did. The K’s would’ve put the Christians on the Rotary, would’ve thrown them to the Lions, and if those methods didn’t effectively work, the Kamikazes would’ve thrown the Christians to the damned Kiwanis.”
I didn’t know whether it was the intense heat, the anticipation of the rematch drag race, the thrill of trekking the world famous Atlantic City Boardwalk or my apprehension about Bo Jalonec leaving for Penn State that was causing my disconsolate disposition. Jokes’ conversation was getting under my skin like a twenty-pound hypodermic needle. Carnie said that my face was rapidly changing from pale green to deep purple. As we strolled by a crowded boardwalk seafood restaurant Jalonec persisted in his repulsive verbal rambling.
“Ya’ know J.W.,” Bo said, “ya’ often say ya’ wanna’ have a Tarzan-type body with smooth muscle tone. Ya’ see those dead sea-creatures in the window?” he rhetorically asked. “They’re called mussels. If ya’ eat six of ‘em a day you’ll soon develop a Tarzan physique. But ya’ gotta’ be especially careful. If ya’ eat a dozen a day you’ll develop a Joe Weider Mr. America-type body, and that’s just what ya’ don’t want, too many damned mussels.”
At that moment I wished that Bo would get a very severe laryngitis attack. Just the thought of eating a half-dozen of those squiggly mussels on top of four slices of pizza and a half-box of already devoured salt-water taffy made a sour taste squirt-up to my mouth from my stomach. And when Jalonec further pursued his sickening lingo my eyes began rolling, and I started to audibly hiccup and burp.
“Say Carnie,” Jokes addressed his chief admirer, “did ya’ know that Queen Elizabeth cut a hit record over there in England?”
“Er, no Jokes, I didn’t,” Carnie stuttered. The unbearable heat, my excessive junk food diet and the silly stupid jokes were making me feel dizzy and ready to vomit.
“That’s right, she did,” Bo insisted and persisted, “but Queen Elizabeth couldn’t collect any royalties because she was already blue-blooded nobility.”
I was about to puke but I held my head back while walking with my hand over my mouth and kept redundantly belching and hiccupping.
“Ya’ know Tink,” Bo bantered, “they call this here giant platform a boardwalk because if ya’ spot a good-lookin’ chick, ya’ just lumber over and introduce yourself.”
I thought I would either die from brain damage listening to Jalonec or from drowning in my own barf when my abdomen couldn’t deal with any more of his relentless aggravation. Fortunately I only remembered a fraction of the crap that Bo Jalonec laid upon us that Labor Day as we ambled around the exhibits and games of Atlantic City’s biggest and most famous pier. Through it all I prudently bit my tongue and tried swallowing and breathing in a relaxed manner to settle my urge to regurgitate, because to a bona fide ‘50s greaser, puking in public was tantamount to crying or kissing in public. It was taboo to the Diablos’ rigid value system.
But finally after three hours of B.J.’s irritating oratory, my cesspool was about to overflow. I felt I couldn’t handle any more of his chicken shit, horseshit and bullshit, which he deftly packaged and merchandised as serious shit. And when Bo suggested that we ride a miniature roller coaster and then go down to the ocean’s bottom in the Steel Pier's “Diving Bell,” I blew my cork.
“Ya’ know, J.W.,” Jokes said, “I betcha’ a...”
“Bo, do me a big favor and shut the hell up!” I uncharitably snapped.
“Excuse me?” Jokes asked as he cupped his outer ear with his left hand in an exaggerated manner.
“I said ‘shut the hell up’!” I emphatically reiterated.
Finally Carnie, Tinker, Bo and I made it back to the Virginia Avenue parking lot. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was almost six p.m. Quinn and Sugar Ray Spellman had completed their final tune-up. I admired the chrome on Quinn’s beautiful flathead’ engine right before Marcus closed the black ‘42s’ hood.
When Bo Jalonec’s presence caught his commander’s attention Jokes suddenly turned solemn and asked our fearless leader an intelligent question. “You’re up against stiff competition. Ya’ ready to kick ass?” Bo asked.
“Sure am, Bo,” Quinn confidently stated. “I’m not exactly racin’ Oscar Mayer in his Wienermobile, ya’ know. Cummings is gonna’ be hard to beat.”
“Well, good luck!” Carnie said as he shook Quinn’s strong right hand.
“Well Carnie,” Quinn replied with a grin, “when you’re good, ya’ don’t need luck.”
“The Blueberry Farm Rematch”
The ‘42 Ford and the ‘49 Merc’ exited the Virginia Avenue parking lot. When Carnie’s James Dean Special slowly passed Pacific Avenue Bo spotted several hookers on the corner and startled them by yelling out, “I’m a visitin’ District Attorney. Could ya’ tell me where the local prostitutor’s office is?”
Quinn, followed by Carnie, turned left onto Atlantic Avenue and after around twenty traffic lights, the cars reached Route 322, the Black Horse Pike.
I figured I’d try to hold a decent conversation without Jalonec contributing his very disturbing prattle. “Things have really changed since last Labor Day,” I soberly said, “because a year ago the D’s were afraid of the K’s. Now it’s hard to tell which gang is the protagonist and which gang is the antagonist.”
“You said it,” Carnie concurred. “Cummings fooled us good with that friggin’ telephone booth scam last Labor Day.”
“The Kamikazes are still dangerous,” Tinker concluded and stated, “and if you asshole guys didn’t have me on your side, you’d have lost the greaser war ten months ago.”
“Carnie’s right,” Bo declared, ignoring Tinker’s conceited opinion. “Those Kamikazes made all ya’ jerks stuff yourselves into the Dairy DeLite phone booth just to see exactly how the D’s would stack-up against the K’s.”
As Carnie motored past Pleasantville on our way to Mays Landing, anxiety and suspense were peaking in our hearts and minds. Bo came through with a goofy one-liner as a meat delivery truck sped by us in the passing lane. “Now that’s what I really call fast food,” he remarked.
We all laughed at Jalonec’s witty observation, mostly because a giant void existed where nothing was said, and any language would have aided in filling-in the vacuum.
Bo then told us about some of his former acquaintances over in West Philly’ named Monty Zuma, Vic Trolla, Cliff Dweller, Luke Warm, Hans Zoff, Philip Yertanc and Buster Cherry. I had to open the back window on the passenger side to get more ventilation. So much perspiration was rolling down my forehead that I thought it needed a windshield wiper.
I complained to Jalonec that his sick humor was giving me a terrible headache at the base of my neck and Jokes even had a dumb remark for that grievance. “Hey Words,” he answered, “why don’t ya’ visit a doctor and have your Medusa oblongata checked?” And before I could respond Bo elucidated, “J.W., if ya’ don’t have a family physician, I know a barkin’ veterinarian that’ll take ya’ in as a new patient.”
Carnie was laughing so wildly that I thought he might get his head stuck in the steering wheel. Mercifully the ‘49 Mercury finally reached its destination and soon it was in the parking lot of the enormous blueberry farm.
Carnie followed Quinn down the entrance road as it snaked around several bends and in half a minute we were obscured behind tall pine trees from anyone that was driving behind us on the busy highway. Seven cars were already waiting at the Atlantic Blueberry Company’s main gate. I was happy to see Ace Roberts’s ‘55 Oldsmobile and I noticed that Slim Jennings had borrowed Tinker’s blue ‘49 Plymouth. Looking around, I also observed Jim Amari, Al Keller, Gene McCann, Fritz Feldcamp and Slip Carson proudly standing around the Diablos’ street machines.
Three Kamikaze hotrods were already there too to give Cummings representation and I glanced over at Jake Mullins, Popeye Messina, Dave Evans, Spits and Worm leaning against the K’s all-too-familiar cars.
Soon Susie Parker and Patty Van Arsdale showed-up on the property in the classy powder blue and cream ‘55 Ford Crown Victoria, and a minute later Bubbles Messina’s white Ford Thunderbird pulled into the front gate area with Angie Palermo as her passenger.
Tinker swiftly moved to the blueberry plantation’s gate and in ten seconds he uncorked the lock. Carnie and I pushed open the cantilever gate on its rollers. “The farm’s ours!” Robbie proclaimed, for it was a custom of both the Diablos and the Kamikazes to temporarily use private property to serve our own selfish needs.
Cummings designated Popeye Messina “the official flagger” since Bo Jalonec had been the starter at the first drag race August 3rd on Haines Road.
‘This is how it should all be settled, just like Quinn had said it should be,’ I thought. ‘Instead of two gangs fighting out a solution with kids getting maimed and hospitalized, the leaders of both factions should compete, winner take all, title for title.’ But could the Kamikazes be trusted if Quinn were to win the contest fair and square?
Carnie, Tinker, Jokes and I briskly walked down the blacktop road to our observation station. The asphalt strip was barely wide enough to accommodate two automobiles side by side. The four of us stood over a dirt ramp that sloped down from the paved main road, which was really a causeway built above parallel canals lying twelve feet below on either side. Everyone stood nervously at their posts awaiting the cars to be aligned at the starting line.
Susie Parker and Bubbles Messina cautiously drove their autos the half-mile distance down to the expansive plantation’s packinghouse. Ace, Robbie, Mullins and Evans were selected to stand at the finish line next to the girls to determine the true victor should the contest’s outcome be too close for comfort.
All in all twenty-three Diablos and twenty-four Kamikazes showed-up for the dramatic race. Even Langford had heard about it and he brought a carload of Renegades over to Jersey to view the impending contest. About fifteen other curious Levittown chicks had also driven over from Pennsylvania to witness the highly anticipated event.
I was so nervous I could feel the pizza, salt-water taffy and the imaginary six mussels churning around in my very sensitive stomach. Only a two-foot-wide tolerance would separate the speeding steel frames, and any minor error or deviation could easily knock both vehicles off the narrow asphalt road down into the parallel canals.
The cars were evenly matched in terms of gear ratios, engine performance, horsepower and speed. The race’s conclusion hinged on the skill and the courage of each driver. Neither Quinn nor Cummings had ever lost a fair and square drag race.
On the count of three Popeye flicked on his flashlight and the two black chariots’ back wheels squealed and the hotrods instantly sped down the straight long perilous blacktop road. Both cars wound-out first gear and then almost simultaneously their back wheels screeched when second had been achieved. As the souped-up engines whined, third gears were entered at around seventy miles per hour.
The racers had to be vigilant. Soon sharp right and left turns had to be made onto the farm’s airstrip, where during the harvest season crop-dusting planes took off and landed to spray the blueberry bushes. The ‘42 and ‘52 Fords kicked up clouds of dust as they rounded their respective turns onto the airstrip, which led to identical narrow dirt causeways that were also elevated twelve-foot-high above treacherous canals.
Quinn and Cummings appeared dead even as they sped ahead on similar elevated dirt and gravel roads on opposite sides of the farm. Suddenly a police siren was heard originating from near the guard’s trailer located at the race’s starting line.
A few seconds later a New Jersey State Trooper’ drove his cruiser through the open entrance gate onto the asphalt road. Soon the trooper was in desperate pursuit of the two greaser chieftains. His car was going at least eighty miles per hour on the narrow elevated blacktop road and as the patrolman zoomed by me he seemed focused on his objectives and oblivious to the presence of greaser’ bystanders. When the state cop arrived at the airstrip fork he decided to chase the car that had originally started in the left-hand lane, which happened to be Quinn’s black ‘42 coupe.
The racing Fords entered their’ respective elevated dirt causeways. Their speeds had not diminished one iota. The trooper’s car chasing Quinn looked like a cloud of dust in pursuit of another cloud of dust. The elevated twin causeways were dangerous serpentine dirt roads winding through the eastern and western sections of the five-hundred-acre plantation, and a single mental lapse by either Quinn or Cummings would result in either serious injury or even death.
The speeding cars soon reached the blacktop road again, completing their forward and backward figure nines. Upon re-entering the smooth asphalt surface the howling vehicles switched lanes and then again sped-off toward the airstrip. The police car’s siren wailed as the cop took a shortcut and now was only a thousand feet behind Quinn, but with the honor and prestige of the Diablos on the line there was no way that our leader was going to stop for any stubborn state trooper. Dust and dirt billowed-up from the three speeding cars into the twilight sky and all three drivers still appeared very determined to complete their individual missions.
The sixty or so spectators at the finish line began leaping up and down’, cheering in sheer excitement, and the fuzz’s diligent presence added a new dimension of sensationalism to the nerve-racking spectacle. The dirt causeways’ second laps led back to the blacktop road and the drivers would have to again safely and swiftly negotiate their turns, switch lanes and then accelerate across the airstrip to the packinghouse finish line. The victor’s gang would earn honor and bragging rights at every Levittown teen hangout. The Diablos and the Kamikazes both knew that our gangs’ reputations were on the line.
Cummings and Quinn simultaneously reached the asphalt road from opposite directions in what constituted a classic game of “chicken.” Quinn expertly rotated his steering wheel and Cummings, anticipating a head-on collision, panicked and applied his brakes. The Diablo leader successfully (and miraculously) skidded back onto the paved road and Cummings’ ‘52 Ford spun around and crashed into the trailing police cruiser’s left front fender. The cars caromed off one another, each flipping over three times into separate irrigation ditches twelve-foot-below. Quinn continued onward toward the finish line.
The terrible accident momentarily stunned us all. The ricochet of the powerful metallic objects and their subsequent tumbling down the slopes into parallel canals froze everyone in their tracks. When the closest spectators finally sprinted to the accident scene they found that the trooper was in far worse shape than Cummings was. The cop’s car had landed roof-down in the canal.
The trooper’s head was partially submerged under murky brown canal water. Tinker and Carnie slid down the steep embankment, hopped up onto the inverted chassis and then the lame Diabo leaped into the irrigation ditch’s waist-deep water. Tink managed to partially pry open the door on the driver’s side.
Reaching inside the patrol car, Tink and a now wet Carnie grabbed the trooper’s blue jacket and leather holster strap and the pair managed to pull the man’s head above water. Robbie and Ace rendered their assistance and the four Diablos tugged the trooper out of the smashed-up inverted vehicle. The officer was laid on his back on top of the upside-down chassis.
Tinker, who had been performing some primitive artificial respiration on the cop’s chest, soon was able to revive the trooper. The cop coughed out three gushes of swamp water before finally opening his eyelids.
Meanwhile Marcus Spellman, Dave Evans, Jake Mullins, Bo and I ran toward Cummings’s ‘52 Ford, which was tilted facedown in the opposite canal. Cummings was in shock. Cuts, bruises and lacerations were all over his face. Blood was dripping from his forehead, mouth and nose.
Sugar Ray compromised his own safety to rescue Cummings. Spellman and Mullins had splashed and waded through the canal, reached the ‘52 Ford on the opposite bank and after several desperate attempts, they successfully yanked the Kamikaze King from the wrecked vehicle.
Before Cummings went unconscious he stared blankly at Marcus Spellman’s chocolate-brown face. The racist K leader took a deep breath and then lapsed-off into insensibility.
After Cummings had been extricated from his car the ‘52 Ford gradually slid at its steep angle sideways down the remaining five-feet of the soft muddy embankment. The driver’s door was soon submerged beneath lily pads in five-foot-deep brackish canal water. The state trooper and Cummings would have drowned if alert and courageous greasers had not descended the twin trenches and salvaged the two lucky accident victims.
Quinn raced back to the accident scene in his victorious ‘42 Ford. “We havta’ get Cummings and the trooper to a hospital quick!” the Diablo leader insisted.
Fortunately a second state trooper arrived on the scene and he radioed for emergency vehicles. Two ambulances, one from Hammonton and the other from Hamilton Township arrived on the blueberry farm fifteen minutes later. The dazed survivors were transported to Atlantic City Hospital for treatment and observation. Police citations were written-up by the second trooper and a New Jersey court appearance was scheduled for the evening of October 6th.
Quinn had won the second drag race fair and square, no doubt about it. But since Cummings’s ‘52 Ford had been totaled in the impact with the trooper’s car the auto’s title was valueless. Quinn’s satisfaction came from the honor and prestige he had earned from defeating his awesome archrival honestly. That’s what I really admired most about Quinn. Abstractions and virtues meant more to him than either money or mere material property.
Author of 42 books