Fantasies & Aspirations. Published in numerous car magazines, 2009-2012 and Circa 1957, 2nd Ed.


© 2012 Chuck Klein

Seeing her at her Mother’s funeral forced memories

 forever melded to the sentimental portions of my mind.




In my 13th year, the summer of 1954, the Cooper's moved next door. I was just starting to notice girls and Suzan – Suzie - got my THE BEST OF CHUCK KLEINattention when she beat me at a game of mumbly-peg. And, even though she was a tom-boy, she was a very good looking tom-boy. Nothing was ever said, but my best friend, Carl, knew that the looks between her cyan and my hazel eyes meant a destiny that didn’t include him. Our families became close in many ways. Suzie and I were the same age, her brother and I swam on the school team together and our mothers became the very best of friends.

 Throughout high school, I was on the wild side - a hot rodder - and only dated "chicks." I was embarrassed to call Suzie until I'd sowed my oats. I re-noticed her when she came over to swim late in the summer of ‘61. Now, I was enrolled in  college and more mature - and she was so pretty. Somehow I talked her into a date for that Saturday night. I then spent an entire day cleaning and polishing my 1960 Corvette. The Vette was rigged for road racing with the quick-steering adapter, HD shocks, metallic brake linings and 3” x 6” galvanized pipe welded to the exhaust header pipes. The only external change to the car was the addition of Marchal head lamps to replace the outboard standard sealed beam lights.

 Temperature wise, it was a perfect Cincinnati evening and I had the top down and soft music playing on the RCA 45 record player I had installed on the “chicken bar”('cuz the radio was all static due to the solid spark plug wires). She wore something white and was so pretty – wait, I already said that. Slowly, so as to enjoy the music and not disturb her with the loud exhaust, we motored to Sorrento's restaurant, turning every head we passed. Though Corvettes weren't common and car aficionados would always look, everyone noticed a beautiful blonde.

 We spent a lot of time together that late summer – swimming, dancing, movies and other fun stuff. One warm night, while watching an Elvis Presley movie at the drive-in, The King sang "Can't Help Falling In Love. Circa 1957 front 2nd " At the line, "Take my hand, take my whole life too . . . ." we instinctively reached to hold hands. I don't remember the song being "our song," but whenever I've heard it, I've thought of Suzie. The end of September found her returning to the University of Colorado at Boulder and our courtship continued via mail.

 In mid January, exams over and during a conversation with my friend and fellow hot rod club member, Kookie, I suggested we run out to Boulder. He didn't have anything else going on and was game, especially after I promised Suzie would fix him up with a real honey.

 We picked up U.S. 36 in downtown Indianapolis, a reprieve, after following mostly state highways with their inherent undulations, stream-chasing routes and long, wild grasses growing over the edge of the pavement (expressways yet to open). West of the city the traffic thinned out and we were able to return to our cruising speed of 90 MPH. The Corvette had three Rochester 2-barrel carburetors on straight linkage and at that speed the engine was running 4000 RPM which was well into the power curve of the Duntov cam.In other words, it was a comfortable clip that produced over 14 miles per gallon.

 Somewhere around 5:00 a.m., in a dense fog, a wheel came off. Kookie was driving and did a great job of keeping the Vette on the road. There was no damage to the car, but, due to the thick fog we never found the tire and wheel. We took a lug nut from each of the other wheels and used those three nuts to hold the spare tire on. Limping into the next town we found a Chevrolet dealer and after a two hour wait for them to open, we were on our way again.

 Deep into western Kansas, running the usual 90 per, a semi-truck emerged about a half mile ahead. It appeared we would pass the truck, maintaining the present rate, in the middle of an intersection. The land was flat and the cross road was clear, so I just held her steady at 4000 RPM. Halfway around the semi and over the double yellow line, I was startled to see a state trooper on the truck's front bumper! The noise from the muffler by-pass reverberating off the truck was deafening and produced a look of surprised outrage on the trooper's face as we roared past. Not for an instant did I think I could talk my way out of speeding, excessive noise, driving left of center and passing in an intersection.

 I went to full throttle while Kookie scanned the map. One Hundred . . . a hundred and ten . . . two-miles-per-minute. We were a lightning bolt on wheels. My co-pilot leaned over and shouted that there was only one little town and then about ten miles to Colorado. We had to chance that there weren't any other cops between us and the border. Now my attention was riveted to controlling this 300 horse-powered, plastic-bodied roadster – a land-rocket that was sans power brakes, power steering or steel-belted-radial-tires. At these speeds even glancing at the gauges was forsaken. I had to rely on engine sounds, the feel of the wheel, gut instincts and luck. Billboards and highway signs such as Burma-Shave and Mail Pouch became mere peripheral splashes of color.

 Coming into the small burg, a pandemonium of smoke and danger - fire shooting from the open lake-pipes - people stopped and stared, mouths agape. I forced the Vette to just under 60 in second gear to negotiate a hard left turn then got a piece of third before having to shut down for a tight chicane in the heart of town. Once through the business district, I red-lined in third gear before leveling off again at 90. The state trooper was nowhere in sight.

 Inside Colorado, with Denver in view, we came around a bend in the road and there sat two highway patrol cars. Both pulled out after us. We got out of their sight over a small hill and slammed to a stop. Having anticipated this from previous high speed runs, Kookie and I were both wearing like-colored shirts. When the officers finally pulled up behind us, we were standing outside the car studying a road map. They couldn't give us a ticket, because they were unable to determine who was driving. However, they let us know that Kansas had called that we were coming and they were going to follow us all the way through their state if necessary. They stayed with us until we turned off at Boulder.

 At the university, we found a motel and called Suzie. She came right over and the hug and kiss made it all worthwhile. We got a little shut-eye, Suzie came through with a co-ed for Kookie and we did the college scene. The next day, Kookie wanted to see a mountain and the girls found the way where we took pictures and enjoyed the day.

 The home-bound leg was uneventful except for the final stretch in Indiana . . . where on lazy, sunny, summer days giant deciduous trees over-hang the country roadways, their branches reaching out as if to shake hands. Uneventful: except this was night, the dead of winter and we picked up a cop. I quickly tripped the switch I had installed to cancel the left tail light. A few miles further down this highway that snaked in and out of those towering trees and the officer, who had been chasing two tail lights, now only saw a vehicle with one light and surely The Way it Wasfigured we turned at a side road – which he must have done as we never saw him again.

 The trip out took almost 24 hours due to loosing the tire. Coming back, we covered the 1190 miles in 19 hours, five minutes - a 63 MPH average - all on two lane roads with no side-lines and very narrow, if any, shoulders. I've never been sure the trip wasn't more about the opportunity to road race than it was to see my girl.

 I developed some very strong feelings for her and I know she pined for me also, but the timing wasn't right. Both of us had agendas - places to go, things to do, worlds to conquer and commitments were a long way off.

 It is said that everyone experiences three loves: the

     one they marry, the one they're glad they didn't marry

     and the one that got away

 Suzie and I kept in touch, but with careers and dating others the touch got lighter. Within a few years, Suzan accepted a job in California and . . . married. Me? As soon as I figured out that it was just as much fun to be the chaser as it was the chasee, I became a police officer.

 The Corvette? A few months after the Colorado trip, before I burned the valves experimenting with nitro-methane and sold it to an unsuspecting dealer, I made one last run. They had just opened the six-lane Interstate between Cincinnati and Dayton and nine of us, all in Corvettes - three rows of three - broke in the new road. With seven Vettes to block cops, two at a time would line up, and from a roll, run flat out. I was up against a ’59 270 with a higher rear axle ratio. I beat him from 70 to about 130, and then he came on by.

 Yeah, I know, we were crazy back then. But traffic was light, cops fewer, radar not perfected and we were very lucky. Lucky to survive and lucky to have lived during that era.

 Late in the spring of 1996, and now a widower, my second wife, Annette, and I were honored to be treated to lunch with Mrs. Cooper and my mother. Suzie, who has known Annette since grade school, was in town for a visit and also joined us. Both of my wives have known about "Suzie and me." I made certain they did - a tinge of jealousy never hurt any relationship. I always wondered if Suzan, in the same vein, kept Paul on his toes, too.

 Never being able to satiate aspirations

is better than not having

any fantasies at all.

 At some point during the luncheon, Suzie and I found ourselves alone  . . . and 42 years since our eyes locked in that game of mumbly-peg, I asked this girl next door, "Did life turn out okay? Are you happy?" She smiled, her blue eyes twinkling, “Oh yes. Surely you remember your mother always telling us, ‘the secret to life is the ability to adapt to change.’ And you?”

 I smiled out of the corner of my mouth and gave her a slow wink, “Can’t argue with my mom.”

          After the funeral Suzan introduced me to her daughters,
one of which immediately turned to her sisters and whispered,
"He's Klein. He could have been our father."