August 29, 2010

Driving down memory with the driver ed teacher's son; remembering the mother of all skids on Cornflower Road

Jeff Peyton, son of our esteemed driving teacher Mr. David Peyton

By Jeff Peyton, class of 1961
As you may recall, Cornflower Road passed by the Levittown Community Church to the east, thanks to a fairly long banana curving north and intersecting with Periwinkle. At the south end, near Division Avenue, Cornflower skirted the power lines that ran clear to Newbridge Road.

The Cornflower Road time-space banana curve remains etched in my memory. I was driving to school with my dad. I rarely did. I did not want to ride with him or be seen riding. I was nobody’s child. I walked. It was not cool having your dad teach at the school you went to.

In the winter, walking to school was not always pleasant but it was a choice. What was a backpack? You carried your books to school. But this morning I was late and it had snowed. And so there I was “riding to school” with dad. The roads were slick with ice but clear of snow. As we approached Cornflower Road, the walkers glided by. Ahead, a car had turned onto Cornflower Road. (Actually, it would never really stop turning.) The car was familiar. It was Mrs. Gaskins’, Richard Gaskins’ mom. Unpredictable movement associated with her car was not unusual.

Immediately, dad’s Driving Teacher Instincts kicked in. He slowed, being careful of course not to go into a skid. Mrs. Gaskins, however, was still turning. Time, yup, seemed to be standing still. She had entered “the mother of all skids”—a skid as long and as curved as Cornflower Road itself, a skid as simple as a forward pass ‘line’ drawn on a play diagram. We could see it coming. Even though Mrs. Gaskins was clearly on the other side of the road, her vector was locking on.

My father, pathetically trying to mount a snow bank in a 1960 Comet, could not evade Mrs. Gaskins, now zeroing in, her face quizzically framed in her windshield. The sound of the impact crunched the air. Thus it happened that two cars kissed, steam rising, on Cornflower Road on a frosty morning. The walkers stopped, gathered, and looked. A scene out of a Little Lulu comic book. Wow. An accident. Mr. Peyton, the driver ed. teacher, in an accident And me smiling wistfully at passers by, the crackle of snow under the feet, feeling more sorry for my dad than for myself.

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