March 19, 2012

Skidding down memory lane with the driver ed. teacher's son; remembering the father of all accidents on Cornflower Road


Class of 1961

As I recall, Cornflower Road passed by the Levittown Community Church to the east, thanks to a fairly long banana curve going north and intersecting with Periwinkle. At the south end, near Division Avenue, Cornflower skirted the power lines that ran west clear to Newbridge Road.

The Cornflower Road time-space banana curve remains etched in my memory. I was driving to school with my dad, something 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 (David Peyton) 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.


Toni Crescenzo Gelfer said...

I can still hear and sense the crunching snow, under my feet..and feel the stillness of a night snow in Levittown..Just as I can totally visualize your car crash...Great story..Thanks, again..Jeff..

Larry Bory said...

I took drivers ed in the summer at Memorial so i could get my full license at 17. Based on the traffic and fools here in DC area who think that stop means slow down and yellow light means speed up, and if you want to stop in a traffic lane for any reason, just punt your flashers on, I wish they all would be sent back to driving school. there, i got that rant out of my system.

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