Simpson: Cousin Stella never knew she hit the pole

Published 11:02 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

This is the story about a 70-year-old man who used to be a young man riding around in his hometown in his mother’s Chevrolet Nomad station wagon.

Back when I was the young man, being the future 70-year-old guy never crossed my mind. I was surrounded by young people. I had access to The Fountain of Youth and life was good.

I have thought back over my 70 years, and wondered what my 70’s will be like.

I was born in 1946, which placed me in the first wave of “Baby Boomers.” The first few waves of our generation were raised on “Buffalo Bob Smith,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Spin and Marty” and “Wild Bill Hickok.”

Oh yeah, and who could forget Annette Funicello from The Mickey Mouse Club. She belonged to me, exclusively, but I didn’t mind other young guys admiring her on TV. I was 10.

My 70 years started in post-WWII Charlotte, N.C.

I don’t know if the doctor who delivered me gave me the post-birth spanking, or not. I tried to be a good little boy, while waiting in what I call “the waiting womb” but I understand, sometimes, they do it anyway.

I look back on my childhood as a happy time. In fact, a very happy time. I had my friends, my family, my sports, a family television and my imagination.

I have met some really great people. People who have accepted me for who I am, not for who or what they want me to be.

Everyone has experienced the trials and tribulations of life. I got through the first 70 years without once finding myself in the fetal position.

Born in Charlotte, N.C. Then I lived in Columbus, Ga., LaGrange, back to Charlotte, then to Atlanta.

I caught a break at birth. My parents were top notch. My Dad was a solid individual who loved his country, his family, his church, God, The Citadel, my Mom, and me.

He served in the Army Air Corps in WWII in Europe.

He once had a German fighter pilot fly right over him and his men. He was close enough to see the pilot’s face. The next morning, there was hair that had fallen out on his cot from the trauma of the night before.

My Mom was a farm girl from Shawnee, Okla. She had three brothers and three sisters.

She served in the Army Air Corps in WWII as a flight nurse. As I’ve referenced before, she was involved in caring for and evacuating wounded U.S. soldiers who had been wounded on D-Day, also known as the Normandy Invasion.

She returned home as a Captain.

The LaGrange experience:

One of Mom’s scarier moments happened back in the states, in LaGrange.

Our family had connected up with an older relative who also lived in LaGrange. Stella Bradfield. She was a sweet woman. She was excited to have some newly found relatives who were easily accessible.

Mom referred to her as “Cousin Stella.” She was related on my Dad’s side of the family.

Cousin Stella would drive to our Gordon Circle home, pick up Mom, and they would go places.

I don’t know how old Cousin Stella was. I was a teenager. When you’re a teenager, older people sometimes seem older than they really are.

Mom was in her 40’s and Cousin Stella seemed much older.

One incident could have been a hint that she was, in fact, much older.

On that fateful day Cousin Stella was driving my Mom west on Broad Street on that blind curve next to LaGrange College. She was in the left lane ….. left lane?! There was no left lane for drivers going west! That lane was for drivers going east! I’m sure Mom was pushing on her imaginary brakes with both feet, just like she did when I first got my learner’s license.

When you’re in a situation like that, you don’t want to let out a blood curdling scream, but you are extremely anxious to continue living, and enjoying the beauty of “The City of Elms and Roses!”

On another occasion, I was standing in our den which was on the back side of the house. I spotted Cousin Stella driving down our driveway. At that moment, she was nowhere near our basketball goal, which was held up by a 4-by-4 wooden pole. But she was headed in that direction to turn her car around.

At that very instant, knowing she was planning on turning around, I either said, or thought to myself: “She’s going to hit the pole.”

I watched. I waited.

When her car hit the pole, both the pole, the backboard and the goal itself, registered a “2” on the Richter Scale. The pole survived!

My basketball games, with a bunch of guys at our house, or my late night solo shoot-arounds were safe!

I never knew whether, or not, sweet Cousin Stella was ever aware she had made contact with the pole.

The wide-eyed teenage boy watching from up in his den window was relieved!

More stories to come.

Rich Simpson is a former LaGrange resident and LaGrange High graduate who worked 42 years in radio. He may be reached