|Me...in the blue shirt at age 6 (1964)|
This week, I'm remembering the time I got hit by a car.
It was right before I would begin first grade at Garfield Elementary School in East Liverpool, Ohio. Back in 1964, parents actually would let their kids out the back door on summer days and allow them to play most of the day with nary a worry about where they were and other more formidable bogeymen parents these days contend with.
As with many other summer days, I was with the neighborhood gang, some of whom you see pictured above at my birthday party that year.
All of us had been sent over to the candy store on Mulberry Street by one of the kids' mothers to get Popsicles for everyone. It was a hot day. While in the candy store, perusing the glass-fronted cases filled with penny candy, an older kid came in, one that was known as a joker*, came in and told little six-year-old Ricky (aka me) that my mother needed me at home right now.
I don't recall questioning it, although I do remember this probably meant I wouldn't get the free banana Popsicle I was lusting after.
I left my friends in the store and went outside to confront crossing busy Mulberry Street alone, which I had never done and, like playing on the banks of the Ohio River a couple of blocks over, was expressly forbidden to do.
Buy hey...I could do this. Hadn't someone recently told me all I needed to remember, when crossing a street, was to look at the traffic light (we didn't have walk/don't walk signs back then--not in my little town). If it was red, I could safely cross.
What I wasn't remembering was that the rule only applied if one was at the corner.
I was halfway down the street when I saw the light was red and assuming, in my six-year-old mind, that I was safe. I darted out from in between two parked cars and...
...was confronted with what I remember as a big-grilled, deep green car bearing down on me.
I don't remember the impact, nor the screeching of brakes. I vaguely remember groaning as I went down on the pavement. I remember a man (and that's all I can recall) jumping from the car. I don't know if he asked me if I was all right or what, but the next thing I knew he had me in his car.
I suspect he was young, because I don't think he knew what to do.
Someone in the neighborhood, I think it was Vic from Fiorello's Market on the corner, ran to our house to tell my mom what had happened.
I still remember my young mother very clearly on that hot summer day, running to the car, still stopped in the middle of the street. She wore slacks and a white blouse with red flowers. There was an expression of terror on her face.
She got in the car and there must have been frantic talk.
They took me to the emergency room, where I was diagnosed with a concussion. I was not so bad off that I wasn't unable to weakly mumble, "I want a toy, I want a toy." One of the nurses found a hand puppet for me.
I was "treated and released" as they would say in the East Liverpool Review's listing of Emergency Room visits (yes, my hometown paper used to catalog all ER visits, with names and addresses). I know they bandaged my head and I was up and around pretty soon thereafter.
But what I really remember, and this still chokes me up to this day, is my eyes widening as we drove up to our green and white shingled house on Pennsylvania Avenue because outside, a crowd of neighbors had gathered, waiting to see if I was okay. That kindness and concern touched me as a little boy and still touches me today, almost 54 years later.