Have you ever noticed how a scent, a taste, a sight or a sound can dredge up memories from the distant past?
Well I had such an experience a few weeks ago.
You see I get notices each day in my email about classic cars for sale. The one that’s singled out is called the “Pick of the Day” and lots of information about it is presented. So one morning when I looked at my pick, it was not a car but a 1940s Cushman motor scooter. And it was red. I don’t think they were made in any other color. The scooter was in Texas and the seller was asking a few thousand dollars for it.
I immediately started to think back to a late October day when a couple of friends and I were able to get one for $15. It was at a junk yard in Brooklyn and the year was 1959. It did not come with the registration. That was $15 more, which we were supposed to pay a week later. So we pushed the scooter through the streets to my friend Joe’s garage behind his house. His father had recently died and no one in his family ever went into the garage. Safe place to hide the scooter. And also a good place to get it cleaned up and running. And this scooter was red.
So we spent afternoons cleaning the spark plug and carburetor and polishing up the body. We put in fresh gas and kick started it. It fired right up. But where could we ride it? We were only 15 and it could not be driven on the street. So we thought of a place nearby which everyone referred to as the “Creek.”
This was an inlet of Jamaica Bay bisected by the Belt Parkway that was empty — lots of rolling sand hills and grasses and with a large selection of wildlife. There were rabbits and ducks and pheasants. Many kids would go there with bows and arrows. But that did not interest us at the time. We wanted to blast around the hills at speeds of 20 or 30 miles per hour and feel the wind and just be cool.
On the next day off from school we wheeled the scooter from Joe’s house to the “Creek” and spent most of the day riding. It was very exciting. We took turns behind the handlebars until we ultimately ran out of gas. Time to get the scooter back to Joe’s house.
While pushing it back, a police car pulled up next to us. We explained where we were going. At first everything seemed O.K. until he asked for the registration. We explained about our purchase plan and that the junk yard dealer still held the papers. We had to get into the police car and go to the precinct. A tow truck came for the scooter. Perhaps it was stolen, they thought.
I remember suggesting that they give us the $15 balance and we could go and get the registration. They did not buy my plan.
Ultimately parents got involved (except for Joe whose mother had just lost her husband and she had a bad heart and might not be able to handle the stress).
The owner of the junk yard was found. His yard was in another precinct. And he hauled the “restored” scooter back to his yard.
I don’t remember what happened to the $15 we had chipped in to get the scooter initially.