I can’t remember the exact date, but I do know it was in the summer of my ninth year. I believe his name was Bill and hers was Ann, but I can’t remember their last name. I have never forgotten the time they spent with us, seeing their car for the first time, and especially getting to take a ride in the passenger’s seat.
My dad was notorious for bringing people home with him. Sometimes they were customers who happened to be in Dad’s store at lunchtime. Mama always cooked more than we needed, because she never knew how many she would be feeding. I never heard her complain about it. Bill and Ann were not customers, and they came for more than lunch. They were simply passing through our little town, or at least they had attempted to do so. I’m not sure exactly where Dad happened upon them, but their car had broken down. Back then, there were not many places in my hometown of Rainsville, Alabama, to get a car repaired, especially one like theirs. They drove a red, 1963 split-window coupe, Corvette Sting Ray. I had built a model of one that was the same make and model as theirs, but a different color. I quickly fell in love…with that car and Bill and Ann.
The problem Bill and Ann ran into was that no one had the part needed to fix their car. It would have to be ordered and that could take a few days. Overnight delivery was not as common back then. The other problem they had was there were no motels in our small town, so guess what Dad did. That’s right, he brought them to our house. The Bible talks about entertaining strangers, but honestly, these days, most of us wouldn’t think about inviting two people we had never met before to stay in our home for a few days.
I don’t know exactly how old our guests were, but I thought they were old people. They had to have been at least in their late twenties! They lived in Huntsville, and Bill worked at the space center there. They were married, but had no children. Ann honed her Monopoly, checkers, and jigsaw puzzle skills during her days with us. I also showed her my model car collection, including my own Corvette. I tried to teach her how to build a model, but building puzzles was more to her liking. After a few days and nights with us, I was sad when Bill pulled up in their Corvette. I wasn’t sad they had repaired his car, but I knew this meant they would be leaving. As I examined every inch of that beautiful machine, Bill made my day when he asked, “Would you like to take a ride?” I sat up as high in the passenger seat as possible and hoped I might see some of my school buddies…or actually, that they might see me. That ride was more thrilling to me than any ride I would ever be on at Six Flags!
I feared I might never see my new friends again, and I never did. I did, however, exchange hand-written letters with Ann for some time to come. Eventually, I guess I got too old and other interests occupied my time, but I’ve never forgotten them or those few days they spent at our house. On my next birthday, I received a package in the mail. Since I already had a model Corvette, they sent me a 1964 Buick Wildcat. That model Buick was almost as big as the real Corvette! I painted it riverside red.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Tuesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.