I’ve had many accidents and mishaps throughout my life. I suspect most people do… I fell out of my wheelchair more times than I’d like to remember: frontward, backward, even sideward.
However, around this time of year I remember an automobile accident which happened on snow/ice. I had only been driving for maybe two years and I lost control of my car during a freezing rain. I believe this is the only weather-related mishap I ever had during my 40+ years of driving — I’m very proud of that!
My 1st wife and I lived with my parents for a few months after we got married. When we moved out, we moved into a small 1-bedroom bungalow in Maryland, on the western side of Newark and just barely over the Delaware state-line. Our new home was about 30-40 feet from a barn & small stable — not to bad during the winter, but the flies and smell got a little tough during the summer months. I believe our proximity to the stable was one reason why the rent was so low: $50 a month — which is all we could afford at the time.
I’m sure another reason that the rent was low is because the bungalow was very loosely put together, and pretty-much open underneath: during windy-weather the window-shades and curtains blew around; if it was snowing outside we would find snow on the window-ledge at the head of our bed, brrrrrrr (we often kept the blankets over our heads on cold nights). And, as a result of the difficulty trying to keep warm, during the coldest months the propane bill became larger than the rent. Occasionally, the kitchen drain would freeze — which meant my wife had to wash the dishes in our bathtub!
Because we were in Maryland, and financially stressed, as long as we lived in the bungalow (almost 2 years) we never had a telephone. Fortunately, there was a small sandwich shop in Delaware within a short walk and it had an outdoor phone-booth, if we needed to make a quick phone-call. The whole thing was quite an experience!
The accident occurred during the Winter of 1967-68. I had been trying for many months to find work — I never realized how difficult that would be until after I quit my job in August ’67. On the day of the accident, I had taken my wife to work in Wilmington and then stopped at my parents’ house (on the eastern side of Newark) to see if they had any mail for us. Mom said she had gotten a call from a company I had applied to and they wanted me to call them back, as soon as possible. So, I got out of the car and into my wheelchair — I used Mom’s phone to return the call, and briefly chatted with her while looking through my mail.
A cold rain was falling when I left Wilmington, and now had changed to sleet and snow. As I left the driveway, I could see that the road surface had become white in places. Within 2-3 miles of my parents’ house I had to stop at a red-light, at an intersection. As I drove away, I became aware that I was losing traction and sliding (the rear tires were not in great shape). My car started to wander into the other lane and I tried to adjust the wheel to return to my lane. However, after several attempts, I began overcompensating and the car started to “fishtail” — that was not good! Another car was coming toward me, so I turned the steering-wheel hard and my car began to spin around while moving toward the right-hand side of the road.
The next thing I knew, I had hit something (the curb) and slammed my head on the driver’s side window. After regaining some composure, I surveyed my situation as best I could from inside the car: I was now facing east into the traffic going west (west was my original direction) and the traffic had to avoid my car; I was not seriously injured; the only object I could see that was damaged was a wooden post, holding a mailbox, which was close to the driver’s door — I later learned that I had broken the post and creased my door during the accident.
It wasn’t long before someone stopped to see if I was alright and whether I needed help. He said my back tire had hit the curb and was now flat — the rim was also bent. (Unseen, additional, damage was a bent axle on the side with the twisted rim.) I asked him to please call the police and report the accident, which he said he would do. I could see the driving conditions deteriorate as I waited about 45 minutes for the police. In fact, I watched 2 additional accidents occur, and an officer stop at one of them, as I sat there.
When an officer finally arrived to see me, he checked to make sure I was ok and then said I could report the accident by appearing at the office within the next 48hrs, because things were a mess on the roads.
I cautiously drove back to my parents’ home with my flat tire, called my wife and explained the situation. That night, I slept in my old room at my parents’ house and my wife stayed in Wilmington with our friends Peggy and Louie.
I can’t recall much else about this event. Although, I think I can be sure that I was glad to get back to my bride in our little bungalow! 😎