By Pat Edwards
While I was attending Queen Anne Grade School in Lebanon, Oregon during the late 1940s and early 1950s, my father owned the Smith-Kuehl International Harvester dealership there.
I vividly remember that our family recreation in those days, during the summer months, was to go to area stock car races each week. We’d all load into Daddy’s red International pickup truck. He and our mother sat in the cab and my brother, sister and I climbed into the open truck bed. Each of us would bring along a blanket and a pillow. We used them as seat cushions as we made our way north on Highway 99 to the Salem area where our favorite races took place.
During the usually hot summer afternoons, we gloried in the feel of the wind whipping our hair into our faces and mouths whenever we tried to talk – at least my sister and I did – our brother always sported a crewcut.
By the time we made our way home after a long day of dusty car races and destruction derbies, darkness had usually descended and we’d wrap ourselves into our blankets and lay our sleepy heads on the pillows which did not do a whole lot to cushion the bumps. My older brother and I laid there singing ‘Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ at the top of our voices while our younger sister invariably fell asleep in her little cocoon between us.
We always stopped at a drive-in near Albany to get an ice cream cone before heading east towards our home in Lebanon. My brother and I were very careful not to wake our little sister who usually slept right through the stop. Then, mean kids that we were, we teased her about missing her ice cream treat the next day.
We moved away from Lebanon in about 1954, but later returned in 1958, where I graduated from Lebanon Union High School in 1960. Sometime before my sixteenth birthday, my mother would frequently take me out to practice driving so that I could get my driver’s license. Our favorite practice spot was on an unopened section of the new Interstate 5 freeway that was being built through the Albany area. I had miles of smooth pavement to drive on with no other traffic. I’m not sure that it was legal at that time, but we never got stopped or fined for doing it. It turns out that I flunked my first driving test, though… I couldn’t parallel park!”
Included in OREGON’S MAIN STREET: U.S. Highway 99 “The Stories” by Jo-Brew (2014)