It is that time of year. No, not the time when autumn smells are wafting through the air, but the time when high school basketball practice is starting, at least for those kids not involved in another sport.
Once up a time, I was one of those kids.
So, if you will, join me as we slip back to the fall of 1978, when I was a senior, we had a fairly late basketball practice one evening, and my schoolmates were playing a South Central Ohio League football game at Madison-Plains.
Even though I did not play football after junior high, it was rare that I missed a football game during my school years. Mostly, it went because I liked to watch the games. But as I grew older, it might be accurate to say that social time — or more accurately girls — had something to do with the attraction.
Anyway, on this particular evening, one of my teammates, who also did not play football, and I decided that as soon as we could change after basketball practice we’d made a quick drive to Madison-Plains to catch the game.
The ride there was pretty smooth. But because we were a couple minutes late, there were few parking spaces. We finally found one fairly close to the field, but the trick was that I had to maneuver my Chevy Vega around a long utility pole, lying flat on the ground, to fit in the space. When I finally parked, the utility pole was situated in such a way that it was pointing directly at the back end of my Vega.
I told myself not to forget the pole when I went to leave, but then the game happened. And the socializing, and, well, I guess maybe high school boys have a short memory.
In those days, Hillsboro rarely lost to Madison-Plains in football, which might have been part of the reason we made the trip, proudly wearing our red and white varsity “H” jackets.
Things did not go well for the Indians that night and they came up on the short end of the scoreboard, 7-6.
We were disappointed, but that disappeared quickly as we were exiting the stadium and some girls from Madison-Plains noticed our red and white jackets. They started playfully joking with us about the outcome of the game, and we started teasing them back, telling them the outcome would be different when basketball season rolled around.
The playful banter continued all the way to my Vega, because as fate would have it the carload of girls happened to be parked just a couple spaces away.
As we climbed into my Vega, my buddy and I were still yelling at the girls, and by then I was a little excited. So I jumped in the car, threw it in reverse, and hit the gas.
In about 20 feet my car came to a sudden stop. The motor was running fine, but my back tires were not touching the ground. I had run atop the utility pole, which had the more narrow end pointed at my car. I was completely stuck, and my buddy could not push my car off the pole.
By then, the parking lot was fairly cleared out, and the carload of girls were having a real hoot. I looked around for a familiar face, but could not find anyone. So, as a last resort, I had to swallow my pride and ask the girls if they would help push my car off the pole.
The good thing was that they were good-natured enough to help and easily pushed my car onto solid ground. The bad thing was that they continued to laugh and tease us the whole time, and there was not much we could say.
We were relieved to be off the pole, thanked the girls, and finally went on our way, lucky that there was no damage to my car.
But a few miles down the road we noticed that I was dangerously low on gas, and I don’t know that we had more than a dollar between us. Another problem was that gas stations didn’t stay open real late back then and we were in the middle of nowhere. I cannot remember whether we were too broke to get gas in Washington C.H., or if we just decided to risk it.
But if risking it was the idea, it did not turn out well. Somewhere between Samantha and Hillsboro my car sputtered to a stop. I was out of gas.
There were no cell phones back then, so our options were limited. Plus my car was stuck on the side of U.S. Route 62. Somehow or other my buddy hitched a ride into town, found some gas and brought it back to me.
I don’t know how long I sat alone there along the side of U.S. 62, but it seemed like a really long time. But I should have been used to it because it was far from the only time I ran out of gas during my high school years.
In fact, at our junior/senior banquet that year, they gave away record-shaped awards that were named after popular songs of the time. I got one for Jackson Brown’s “Running on Empty.” Actually, I only got half of one. My girlfriend got the other half. But that’s another 1970s story.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.