Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt
For Christmas in 1938 Bud's parents gave him a bright red Roadmaster bicycle. It had wide spread, bright chrome handlebars, a tank with a battery-powered horn, a chain guard and whitewall tires. The boy was speechless and even though the roads were wet and some of the puddles in the driveway pretty deep, he had to take it outside and ride it before he opened any other presents.
By Easter of 1939 the tank was gone as well as the front fender, the handlebars had been reversed, there were bottle caps in the spokes and the whitewalls were now red, white and blue.
Bud had taken on an Evening Star paper route at the behest of the man who delivered a stack of papers to his father's store every afternoon. He rigged a detachable wicker basket to his handlebars with leather straps and spent an hour or so every day after school delivering twenty-two papers on a route that covered nearly two miles. On Sunday mornings, he was up before the rest of his family and out on his bike.
His farthest south customer was at the Corby's big brick house on the hilltop, a tough climb on a bike or afoot, and he usually did that one last after dropping off four papers at the Prep school: one for the headmaster, one for the library, another for the athletic department and the last one to a retired Jesuit in a wheelchair. When he collected for those he generally got a fifty-cent tip from the bursar, but the Corby's maid or butler gave him nothing but what was due each month and stood silently, hand extended, to get their change and receipt.
The paper route earned Bud about fifteen dollars most months, and he was very diligent on rainy or windy days about getting the folded papers on the porch, for those people who did not have a metal Star tube mounted on a pole near their mailbox. Bud gave up the paper route the same summer he hitchhiked to Ocean City, the summer between 9th and 10th grades, the summer after the great snow of Palm Sunday, the summer before he entered high school.
After having practiced with his father's delivery truck in the driveway for many months, Bud Williams got his driver's license the same week he turned sixteen and even though the war was still raging in both Europe and the Pacific, he found a car that he could buy. It was a woebegone 1934 Ford three-window coupe with a rumble seat. The retreaded tires looked better than they were, the speedometer did not work and the roof leaked, but it was his car, bought with his own money and insured on his parents' policy.
The car looked as if it had been painted with a whisk broom and it smoked a good deal and used a quart of oil every hundred miles or so, but that summer, the summer before he would be a high school senior, Bud put a lot of miles on the old Ford, made several trips to Glen Echo to go swimming and even got a girl or two to neck with him at the drive-in theater.
Unfortunately for Bud, when he was revving the engine one night at a stop light and getting ready to have a short drag race with a friend of his in an old Buick, the V-60 engine threw a rod right though the engine block after a piston collapsed. Bud choked back tears when his car was hauled away to the junkyard. All he managed to save was the knob from the gearshift lever.
Bud did not own another car until he was married and bought a 1940 Plymouth with a bashed-in front end at the body shop where he worked. That was the car he left behind when his wife threw him out.
Shortly after he took the teaching and coaching job and visited his wife and children, both of whom were now enrolled at Bethesda Elementary School, he received a call from Jeanne.
"You want that poor old Plymouth?" she asked.
"I don't understand," he said.
"My folks are buying me a 1950 Chevrolet station wagon, for my birthday. It's only got 12,000 miles on it."