It was either the summer of 1974 or the summer of 1975. I can’t remember if I had just completed Kindergarten or the first grade. However, I can vividly remember the day I became really interested in Mother Nature’s severe weather tendencies.
I grew up along Lake Ontario’s Eastern Shore. Famous for its record breaking snowfall, the area also features beautiful sand dunes, and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. On this day in ’74 or ’75 it was a hot, summer day. At the time, my Dad’s cousin and his family lived down the street from us. During the summer vacation days my mom would pal around with the cousin’s wife, resulting in five kids being blended together for summer day activities. Our ages interspersed nicely and because we were so young at the time, four kids could fit in the backseat and the youngest would go up front between my mom and the wife.
My mom had not yes taught herself to drive my Dad’s muscle car, which doubled as the family car. It was a snazzy green 1971 Chevelle Heavy Chevy. Three speed on the floor. I loved riding in the back seat of that car, especially driving home from visiting my grandparents in Syracuse. The 45 minute drive home on a Sunday night was magical to me. The family together. The darkness of the car. Everyone sitting where they should be: dad driving, mom in the passenger seat, my sister sitting behind my dad. It’s where we sat. I loved it. I still love being in a car on a dark night, the lights of the dash down to their lowest setting. Today’s 21st century cars have too much interior lighting. I miss the days of incandescent.
Back to the summer day. The five kids and two adults were in the wife’s 1968 Chevy Impala. If anyone offered me a brand new car of my choice, no matter the year, it would be a 1968 Chevy Impala two door coupe with either the 350 or the bigger 427 under the hood. Lead in the gas, vent windows up front, and only three speeds on the floor. Pull down the license plate to fuel it up.
The wife didn’t know how awesome her car was, but the lot of us had been “downtown” at the Department Store in the small town I grew up in. No chain stores had arrived yet, the “Department STore” was literally called just that and it was locally owned. Fun fact, there is no Main Street in the village. The business district was bisected by a river and the businesses flanked two streets, “Jefferson Street” and “Salina Street”. There is no Main Street.
Lake Ontario is three miles to the west of the village, but we could see the skies getting very dark as all of us piled into the Impala. The sky had been flashing and rumbling. It was just lunch time. We’d be going home to the trailer for peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches.
The wife (it’s weird that I’m referring to her as that) needed to put gas in the car; we stopped at a Seaway Gas Station on Rome Street. The sky was menacing. As I looked around, it was as dark as night. The street lights were coming on. The Rexall Kinney’s Drugs neon sign had just lit up like it was after sunset, even though we still hadn’t had lunch. The sky was loud, the clouds were flashing on and off and I thought it was one of the most awesome things I had ever seen.
We had just pulled out of the Seaway Gas Station when the skies let loose. The wife couldn’t see to navigate Rome Road. She pulled over as the wind rocked the 1968 Chevy Impala back and forth in front of a florist shop opened by a man named Jay.
The others were scared. The wife and my mother were just watching it rain. I was wide eyed, looking at the buckets of water falling everywhere. Mother Nature was incredibly feisty that day and I was lving every minute of it. I knew I wanted to see all Mother Nature had to offer, whenever and wherever Mother Nature wanted to offer it.
Eventually the storm passed and we went home and had peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Had it been the 21st century instead of 1974 or 1975, I would have photos to share.
I hoped I painted you a picture instead.