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Nostalgia September 2019

Chevy Days

By Geno Lawrenzi, Jr.

I started up the car and backed it carefully out of the driveway. It was the first time I had ever driven the car and, damn, it felt good!

When I turned 15, my father, who was a coal miner in western Pennsylvania, started building a house on a hilltop just outside of Sutersville. My two younger brothers and I helped dig the foundation, and my mother served us iced tea and other cold drinks to ward off the heat.

It took Dad two years, but he finally finished the construction. To celebrate our moving in from the company housing we had been living in, Dad bought a used Chevrolet that he parked in the driveway.

I loved everything about that car, even the smell of it. I didn't have a driver's license, but I would sometimes slip behind the wheel and pretend to be driving.

After I started high school, I met a girl named Christine. She was blond, had fair skin, a great smile, and I fell heads over heels in love with her. Christine had no time for me. She was two years older and dated an older crowd of guys who had cars and who slicked back their hair while wearing leather jackets, pegged pants and t-shirts.

I didn't give up on Christine. I would see her at the public swimming pool. She would be there in her enticing two-piece bathing suit with her girlfriends, and I would start up a lame conversation with her. At first she ignored me but after a while she grew tolerant of my juvenile attitude and began talking with me. I was in absolute heaven.

One Saturday I became bold and asked her for a date. I had made the three-mile walk to the pool with my brothers who were sunning themselves on the lounge chairs. Christine seemed
amused at my request.

Where would we go and what would we do?" she asked. "You don't even have a car."

An idea was forming in my mind. "I'll have a car," I assured her. "Don't worry about that."

Somewhat reluctantly she agreed to meet me that night at 11 p.m. at the Dairy Queen, which was halfway between where the two of us lived. I promised I would be there.

Now I had to get the car.

I knew where my father hung his keys. Mom and Dad went to bed early on a weeknight because Dad had to get to work early. That night I lay breathlessly in my bed until I was sure they were asleep. Then I slipped into the basement, picked up the keys, and entered the garage.

I started up the car and backed it carefully out of the driveway. It was the first time I had ever driven the car and, damn, it felt good!

The night was starry bright as I drove to the Dairy Queen. It was a favorite hangout for the local crowd, and the parking area was filled with cars. Christina was there with a couple of
girlfriends. When she saw me she walked over to the car and smiled.

"You got it," she said admiringly. Then she got into the passenger's seat and said, "Let's go."

We took a drive beneath the Pennsylvania moon. I played the radio and Christine sang along with the songs. She had a surprisingly good voice. She asked me if I had a girlfriend.

"Oh, sure," I said. "Dozens."

She arched an eyebrow and smiled. "Really?"

I was caught in a lie. "Not really," I said, "but I'm working on it."

On our way back to town Christine told me about a place where we should stop. It was a bar in a black neighborhood just outside Smithton where Shirley Jones, who would star in
Oklahoma! and The Partridge Family, grew up.

She exited the car and said, "I'll be back in a minute."

Five minutes later she returned with a pint of vodka. My eyes bulged as she opened it. She handed it to me and I sipped. The vodka burned all the way down.

Around 2 a.m. Christine said she had to go home. She had been hired at a new job working for a department store and needed to be at work by 9 a.m. I was disappointed but didn't try to show it. Before she got out of the car, she leaned over and kissed me. She smelled wonderful – perfume and vodka.

"It's been fun," she whispered. "Good luck on finding a girlfriend."


Geno Lawrenzi Jr. is an international journalist who has worked in many parts of the United States as well as the Caribbean on newspapers and magazines. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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