Editor’s note: Margie Love writes a regular local history column for the Courier. This column seemed appropriate for Father’s Day.
Suddenly the fishing boat capsized and both father and son found themselves floundering about in the middle of the lake. Ice chest, fishing tackle and bait all went tumbling to the bottom. They were both good swimmers and it did not take long to right the boat and get it back to shore. What had caused the small boat to capsize all of a sudden?
Actually, it was caused by something that had happened more than 30 years earlier. I was talking to a salesman on the telephone one day in 1994 and he asked me if I was a native of Hinesville. I told him no and that I had come from a far away country—Long County. He informed me that he was from the real sweet onion country, Vidalia. But, he had a very interesting tale to tell me about an experience he had in Ludowici around the year 1960. “Oh, boy,” I thought to myself, “here it goes again.”
But, as I listened, this tale had a slightly different tune.
This man was a 17 year old teenager in 1960. He had a habit of speeding and his father had warned him numerous times about it, but it did not seem to help his heavy foot.
One Friday afternoon, his father gave him some very important paperwork that had to be delivered to two different towns before dark. After he delivered the papers he had his father’s permission to go to Alamo to see his girlfriend. He had a date with her at 7:30 p.m. and was going to spend the weekend with her family. It was rather late in the evening when the father sent his son on this important mission. He even let him use the family car which was a much nicer one than his own jalopy. He was warned again not to lose time but not to speed.
This boy fumed and fussed to himself but took the precious important paperwork and left on his mission, just knowing that he would be late for his date in Alamo. Going through Ludowici, he watched the speedometer carefully. He was traveling five miles under the posted speed. No way was he going to get caught in this tiny town! Looking through his back mirror he could not believe what he saw! A police car with lights blinking and siren blaring was coming up behind him. He pulled over and his heart was in his throat. He certainly knew he had not been speeding. He had to show the officer his driver’s license and answer other questions about his destination. He was then instructed to follow the officer to the jailhouse. By this time he was so nervous that he could hardly drive slow, let alone speed.
At the jailhouse, the most unbelievable thing happened. He was booked and locked in a cell! No telephone call was permitted. The young man pleaded with the officer to just let him call his father. The plea fell on deaf ears. The officer left the teenager in the cell on this Friday evening. He sat and worried about the papers his father had entrusted him to deliver before dark and what would his girlfriend think when he did not show up. Someone had to be told where he was. But, there was nothing he could do but sit and worry and look at the two prisoners in the cell next to him. They were a couple of the meanest looking fellows he had ever seen. They almost scared him to death. At least, he was thankful that they were not in the same cell.
Friday night, Saturday all day and night and finally Sunday evening came around. He had not slept a wink and had very little food. He was about to go stark crazy in this place. Why hadn’t his girlfriend or father come looking for him? Why hadn’t someone?
Late Sunday evening his father showed up at the jail to get him out. He had been charged with speeding! He had never been so glad to see his father and told him that he had not been speeding. His father listened to all he had to say but did not seem to believe the teenager. After all, he had warned him numerous times about speeding.
All through the years, the son never forgot the terrifying jail experience. His father never had to warn him again about going too fast. That was one lesson he had learned well and had never to be shown the consequences twice.
Now, on this beautiful summer day 30 years later, the father had invited the son to go fishing with him to a lake. They had fished for several hours and were catching fish and catching up on old times as well as the present. Both had a few cool ones to drink and had gotten “loose-lipped.” The father asked the son if he remembered the time he had been locked up in jail for speeding in Ludowici. Did the son remember this? You bet he did just as if had happened yesterday. Then the father spilled the beans about the incident. The father told the story that he and Ralph Dawson had always been close friends. (The son had never heard of him.) The father decided to teach the son a lesson about speeding. He had called Ralph and told him that his son was coming through town and the time and description of the car he was driving. He wanted him pulled over by an officer and jailed for the weekend and not be permitted to use a telephone. The father had telephoned the girlfriend and told her that the son would not be coming for the weekend. As for the papers, they were nothing at all. He had told Ralph he would pick his son up on Sunday evening.
As the father was laughing about this great joke he had pulled on his young teenager to teach him a lesson, the boat suddenly turned over in the lake—accidentally, of course!
The salesman told me this story and related that he has to be on the road a lot with his selling career, but plainly remembers the “speeding ticket” he got and the terrifying jail experience and it reminds him to stay within the speed limit.
Love’s regular column, Liberty Lore, has been running in the Courier for decades.