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This Newsletter Compliments of Harold’s Auto Service Maintenance Centre 3139 1 Avenue South Lethbridge, Ab 403-329-4664

Betsy

Barreling east on the Coaldale highway I cussed under my breath as a flashing red light approached from behind. I’d got caught up at work; late for a commitment I had no time to deal with the law! As the officer casually strolled towards my car I hurriedly lowered the window, then pushed the door open to step onto the highway. “Get back in the car” he thundered, the force of his command compelling me backwards. Reaching the door he asked, “What’s the big rush anyway?” I blathered in a hasty jumble that I was supposed to be at Kate Andrews High School in ten minutes; the small band I sang with was to play a lunch-time set. Losing my cool I sputtered “Look! I’ve got all the equipment in the back seat. If I’m not there in five minutes they’re going to kill me!” As he checked out cables, speakers, amps, microphones and stands piled in the back seat I finally lost it. “If you’re going to give me a ticket, get on with it so I can go,” I snapped at the now smirking RCMP officer. “You do know you were doing 85 mph? (135 kph these days) and I can ticket you for…” The amount escapes me now but my heart dropped to my knees realizing the effect that would have on my meager $150 per month Herald pay-cheque. Abruptly in a surreal flash he smiled; without even asking for my license and registration he sent me on my way chiding me to “keep it down”. Instantly Jerry, my brother in the passenger seat was spitting sparks. “Aw man! Not fair; you got off cause you’re a girl. He’d have charged me twice as much!” Well I have been told I have a ‘certain charm’ but only two speeding tickets; a $30 one years back and a well-deserved one 7 years ago in Golden BC. Betsy was a 1956 four-door Ford sedan. Her faded murky algae-green appearance was deceiving; if you knew how to manipulate the clutch and three-onthe tree gearshift (on the steering column for you young’uns) her excellent mechanical condition and flathead engine produced a deceiving amount of torque and power. These days restored models fetch a pretty price but in 1968 Dad picked her up for a hundred and fifty bucks. Sleep deprived from picking me up midnights from my Dairy Queen job, Dad ignored Mom’s “girl running loose” protests and Betsy, her fuel and insurance costs were all mine. Parking the old girl at high school garnered some snickers but I was deliriously happy being free to experience life uncensored by motherly oversight. When I’d turned 14 Dad taught me skid control, panic maneuvering and testing of vehicle limitations……what, they don’t teach that in Driver’s Ed? In my view, that’s a disservice. Now a confident 16 year old, I tested my own limits……racing. I was cute and had no trouble enticing young men to race the many technical, dare I say really fun roads in Lethbridge. They rarely caught me and fortune smiled on me putting Betsy though her paces….thanks Dad! I didn’t drink a drop until I was 20, so alcohol wasn’t a factor. Dad scolded me when he found out; shaking his finger in rebuke the ghost of a smile played on his lips and his blue eyes sparkled. Dad loved speed; my driving indiscretions had genetic roots and he was proud of the training he’d given me. Please understand that street racing is extremely dangerous and not something I advocate in any way, shape or form. I’ve gotten a little smarter over time……. She was disfigured by a drunk driver in Medicine Hat. Band equipment had forced Brian and Derek into the front seat; late and searching for the hall where we would later play, I pulled close to the curb to get directions from a man mowing his lawn midway down the block. Devoid of vehicles, the street was wide like downtown 4th Ave. Magnificent trees shaded manicured lawns forming a canyon of cool serenity in filtered sunlight. Locking my knees, I enjoyed stretching my legs against the clutch and brake. As Brian poked his head out the window it slammed back into the door post opening a bloody gash in his ear. With no headrests both Derek’s head and mine snapped back violently as we turned to watch Brian. Without braking, a ‘66 Chrysler had smashed Betsy’s left rear corner hard enough to displace his right headlight to the center of the engine compartment. His Chrysler didn’t stand a chance against Betsy’s superior heavy steel, especially with her brakes locked down. Comparably, Betsy’s damage was minor. Her trunk lid was dented, misaligned and wouldn’t close, her left rear quarter-panel crushed inward and her taillight viewed the stars. That the drunk driver had slammed into us, the only vehicle on a wide-open street was preposterous. He staggered about mouthing off as the passenger, his underage nephew tried his best to be invisible. Full and empty beer bottles were found by police amongst the paint cans, brushes and trays that had flown forward on impact and fallen out from the open front doors. I was mystified when informed by the officer no charges would be laid because the driver promised to pay Betsy’s damages and there was nothing to worry about. You’re the boss I thought and we hurried off to the hall. Ignorant of the lifelong implications of whiplash, we’d said nothing of our injuries. Betsy remained damaged, easily identifiable in the sparse traffic generated by only 40,000 Lethbridge residents at the time. Walking behind Exhibition buildings towards her home after visiting “The Fair” (the then-common name for Whoop-Up Days) my girlfriend and I came across two policemen, thankfully long gone now from today’s highly professional Lethbridge Regional Police. They invited us, two 15 year old girls, for a “ride in the country”, repeating the invitation with increased pressure on successive days. We declined but periodically they’d see and speak to us around town. After I got my car four months later, the two bad apples remembered us and would pull Betsy over without cause to harass or again, ‘invite’ us. Driving with friends, it was creepy; when I was alone, frightening. I didn’t know enough to complain, thought I wouldn’t be believed, that nothing would come of it. I needed to fix this; the repairs had to get done but I couldn’t afford it. It had been almost a year, the accident had not been reported to the insurer and I was sick of getting the runaround. In my new job I was learning resourcefulness, so identifying myself as a reporter for The Lethbridge Herald which by then I was, I called the Medicine Hat Chief of Police. The very next day I learned the insurer would immediately repair Betsy’s damage; quick huh?! I was devastated hearing only damaged areas would be repainted. I couldn’t live with that so I made a deal with the body shop. Receiving a short course in bodywork from the guy who’d fixed Betsy, I spent the next four months on the street in front of my parent’s house, wet and dry-sanding paint and scratches and filling Betsy’s very few minor blemishes. I had no fingerprints for months; even though Betsy looked like a brown and green Holstein cow it was so very cool to see the pride on Dad’s face as he watched through the living room window. In the end the drunk driver had totaled his Chrysler. The courts convicted him of impaired driving, dangerous driving and ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’ and prohibited him from driving in Canada for 5 years……all avoiding $175 of repairs to my vehicle. What a fool. Vindicated after delays, inconvenience and embarrassment I thought the verdict was just about perfect. It was a year before I could paint her; Betsy had needed 4 new tires, front and rear floor mats and a battery. A fuel-efficient used Toyota Corolla had caught my eye; as I’d proven myself to Dad he happily co-signed what was to me a terrifying $2000 bank loan. The day after I got my Corolla I took Betsy back to Dad; impeccably clean, her emerald green paint sparkled under two coats of wax I’d applied by hand. It was worth every penny of the 175 bucks he got for her just to see the look on Dad’s face as I handed him the keys and thanked him for the loan. Harold’s Auto Service…..where service is MORE than just part of our name Beverly Kaltenbruner

Betsy  
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