When Jack went to The Citadel, his Daddy promised to buy him a car after his freshman year was over. When he went home that summer, his old high school friend, Biffle, was getting ready to go into the Navy. He had an old 1934 Plymouth that he wanted fifty dollars for. His Daddy was running a little short so he borrowed the money from Jack’s younger brother, Joe. Jack and Joe shared the same birthday four years apart, but that was probably where the similarity ended. Joe saved every penny he earned and then would lend it to the other kids in the family with interest of course. Jack always thought that Joe had the brains of the family. He use to mimic Joe, saying he remembered every single thing that happened in a play on the football field. Joe’s come back was, “You would’ve too if that was the only play that you ever were in.” Jack was the football player, the brawn; Joe, the Ivy Leaguer, the brains. Jack actually had plenty of brains too but he was an athlete and try to dumb it down. He loved sports but his passion was football.
He bought that old car that had already been dubbed The Black Streak by his buddy. It had a windshield that rolled out which would prove to be an handy asset when you lived in Charleston, South Carolina before air conditioned cars were the norm. Out of town cadets would say if the upperclassmen don’t kill you, the humidity will. The Black Streak served him well during his years at The Citadel. It certainly got him and other Tennessee boys to and from those hills on many a day.
During his senior year, the brakes began to fail, but he had no money to have them fixed. He quickly learned how to bleed the brakes and use the hand brake to stop the car. In his later years when he would tell the story about The Black Streak to his kids and purposely would always leave that part out. He couldn’t believe he had done something that stupid. Annie always remarked, “I thought you knew what you were doing, it never occurred to me that it was dangerous.”
When he took Annie to their first Citadel Hop, he was wearing his white dress uniform and at one point, had to take off his jacket, lie under the car and bleed the brakes. (He carried brown paper sacks in the trunk to put on the ground just in case this would be an issue.) He somehow managed not to get a drop of grease on him and the brown paper sacks saved his white uniform from the road dirt.
When he picked Annie up at the Nurses Residence, she was wearing a gown so pouffy with crinolines and hoop skirts that she couldn’t fit in the front seat. The Black Streak had a floor gear that came up between them. Now that feature never did anything for smooching that was for sure and it almost acted as a chaperone between Jack and his date. Annie surveyed the situation and climbed into the back seat alone. Her dashing young handsome cadet was reduced to being her chauffeur. So off they went to the Hop.
When the hop was over, he thought this is going to be a bummer, me in the front and her in the back. As he went to help her into the car, she said, “Jack, open your trunk, turn your back and close your eyes.” He did as she commanded and could hear a whole lot of swishing and rustling going on. She had reached under her gown and removed the hoop skirt and crinolines. They threw them into the trunk of that old car. She climbed in the front seat like nothing had ever happened. She had not planned to spend the rest of this magical evening with a seat between them. They drove to High Battery, parked and watched the moon shining over the Atlantic Ocean.
As she always told him, “If you listen, you can hear the palmetto trees singing with the ocean.” They also did a little smooching under that beautiful old Charleston moon and it was one of the best nights they had ever had.
Jack’s Daddy never paid that loan back to his brother. After Annie and Jack were married, every time Jack would see Joe, Joe would ask him about it in a teasing fashion. Jack would always reply, “Get it from Daddy. He’s the one who borrowed it.” Years later, he would tell Annie that he always felt bad about Joe not getting his money back, but of course, he made no attempt to pay him either.
After Jack passed away fifty-two years later, Annie thought that she would send Joe a check for the loan, she even wrote him a letter.
Dear Brother Joe,
Enclosed you will find a check for $50.00. I am paying off Big Jack’s loan that you financed for The Black Streak. It is now time to settle all debts. I know Jack always meant to, but being the tease that he was, he loved to hear you whine about it.
Now, if you would rather have the car, it can likely be found in a field on old Highway 41 in Dalton, Georgia. That was where it finally died when he and his good friend, Tommy Long, were on their way to Herman Oelrich’s wedding after graduation. He wrote a bill of sale in pencil on an old piece of cardboard that he found in the trunk next to my hoop skirts and crinolines. (Don’t ask. That’s a story for another time.) They sold it to that poor farmer for one dollar. Jack said that the farmer’s whole family was thrilled to get it (although I rather doubt that). He said that he and T. Long threw their Block C sweaters over their suitcases, stuck out their thumbs and hitched a ride the rest of the way. He vowed that they caught a ride in a Cadillac convertible with a pair of long horns on the hood that belonged to Hank Williams. (I suspect that was a figment of his imagination.) He told the story how they arrived at Herman’s wedding in high style many, many times.
Please keep in touch. I know how much your brother loved you.
Best Regards to the family,
Annie never mailed that letter for some reason. I suspect it was because Jack always told her how Joe never emptied the “Klinkers” from the basement because he was allergic to coal dust. Jack would laughingly say, “Nobody cared if I was allergic.”
Who knows? Maybe one of these days, she’ll send Joe that letter with a check enclosed for fifty dollars, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.
*Jack bought Annie a beautiful black Chrysler LHS in 2000 that had all the bells and whistles. He named her The Black Beauty. It was the only other car that he had ever named besides The Black Streak.