Quiz Time! What does 17+57+58+77 ad up to?

1957 Pontiac Hardtop

1957 Pontiac Hardtop

If you answered 209 you’re right on the money. I must admit up front, that the older I get, the memory does seem to get a bit cloudier. But as I recall the year was 1958 and I was 17 years old trying to operate a 1957 Pontiac Hardtop when the Washington State Patrol decided I had made a few infractions on the local driving laws.

It was December and the eastern Washington snow and ice was starting to pile up. My mother (God Love Her) ran a little restaurant and after school I would offer my assistance as a handy boy helper, kind of a jack of all trades. Like any eating establishment there was always a pile or two of refuse to haul to the local dump. Well I convinced my mother that we could save that $15 per month in garbage collector expenses and I would be in charge of hauling the refuse, alias garbage, to the dump at no expense. Now all I needed was a vehicle to transport it in. We had a nice ¾  ton Dodge truck, but dad certainly had to use that in his daily work and my 1926 Model “T” Tall Coupe didn’t have any room.

So the only thing left was my brother Richard’s 1957 Pontiac Hardtop. Now it was a hard decision for Mom and me to make but as the refuge started piling up we finally decided as long as I was real careful not to spill any of that garbage in the trunk or occasionally in the back seat when room was needed. I promised Mom we would be real careful with brother’s fancy new car and it sure was nice of him to leave it in our trust as he was out wandering the world working a job in Nevada.

As I recall everything was going along fine and about three times a week I would load up the Pontiac and head towards the local dump that  just happened to be located about a mile from our favorite winter ice skating pond. Well it was a little more than a pond it was a place named Liberty Lake. She really froze over big time for several months every winter and probably froze down up to ten feet deep in certain areas, or so I was told. Well as fate would have it I got word that a bunch of the gang, boys and girls, were planning a big ice skating get together complete with bonfire and roast wienies out at the lake on just the same time and day I was planning another garbage run. If I hurried I could haul the refuse then stop by say a quick hello to the ice-skaters and get a free hot dog at the bonfire and still get back to the restaurant in good time. Everything was going as planned until I got to Liberty Lake and the ice pond.  I think more than one of my friends was impressed that I was operating a brand new Pontiac Hardtop in the dead of winter on that snow and ice with some authority. That’s about the time my head got way too big for that little brain of mine, and someone, I think it was my good buddy Larry, suggested why don’t we spin a few doughnuts out on the ice in that fancy high new Pontiac.

Well never being one to back down from a stupid dare, I hopped in that fancy hardtop and headed for the ice pond. Wow ! It was fun out there on the ice spinning those cookies and doughnuts and it even got more exciting when two of the older cheerleaders from Central Valley High jumped in alongside Larry and me and away we went. In my haste to get to the ice I neglected to witness, in plain sight for everyone to see, the sign stating it is against the law to operate a moving vehicle on Liberty Lake when or if ice skaters are performing. Well that’s when old Johnny Law came into the picture, got me for illegally being on the ice doing those cookies / doughnuts and  got me for doing an estimated 77 MPH in 1958 in a 1957 Pontiac Hardtop at 17 years of age. It was a blast and that hot dog was one of the best I ever had.

Oh by the way the fine from Johnny Law was $210. In my haste to tell this story I neglected to mention that before my brother Rich left town he had a little custom work done on the Pontiac. His goal was to do about a $500 lowering job on a $10 budget, so he and his buddies got out the cutting torch and did a number on the coil springs to lower that car down about 3–4”.  

Now everything was looking good until he decided to take it out for a spin and pulled into Ron’s Drive Inn. In doing so he had to pass over a little 2” speed bump. You guessed it, they lowered it so much, that little bump tore both mufflers loose from that Hi-Horse Power V-8 and now he had not only the lowest but also the loudest 57 Pontiac in the Spokane Valley.

He stuck to his budget and did another $10 repair. Instead of replacing the mufflers he added two three foot pieces of tail pipe where the mufflers used to be and created a set of straight pipes that could wake the dead. Now you know why I got that bigger than expected ticket from Washington’s Finest – he got me for that crazy hotrod exhaust. He said when I was out on the ice spinning doughnuts that the noise was so loud it sounded like one of the new F16 fighter jets taking off from Fairchild Air Force Base. It was so loud he thought it might break the glass on his 57 Patty Wagon. That car and myself left some memories, as ten years later at our High School reunion guys were still wondering what ever happened to that garbage hauling 57 Pontiac that left a mark in the ice and got me a big fat ticket at Liberty Lake. All and all it was a great winter to remember back in 1958.

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