The Swamp Road Chronicles


Mr. Editor,


I'm writing to tell you about what happened to a dear friend of mine. His name was Calvin, he and I were seniors at Lakewood High School. He was my best friend.

Calvin was a great guy, friendly, honest, a great athlete and a good, dependable guy. Another thing that Calvin excelled in was auto mechanics.


I haven't been able to talk about what happened to Calvin for nearly 40 years, now. Since I can't talk about it without choking up, I will try to type about what happened to him on Swamp Road.


Calvin, as I said, was a real responsible teenager, but he had an absolute obsession with auto racing and cars. Especially Corvettes. We both lived just outside of Hebron, Ohio which is just a few miles from what was called, back then, 'National Trails Motor Speedway'. Every spring you could hear the 'Spring Nationals' drag racing competition all of the way to our house. You could hear the Sunday open stock car races too. There was something about hearing the roar of those engines that fired Calvin's blood. He would become so excited, he would talk your arm off and talk so fast you could hardly understand him.


The only other thing that excited Calvin to that level was Corvettes. He knew more about them than anyone I have ever met. He could see one a mile away and tell you what model year it was, what size engine it might have, and how many were manufactured.


Calvin's dream was to own a 1963, black, split rear window Stingray with a 327 V8 Small Block Engine. All '63s came with the 327, but he said he could work on it and get up to 380 horsepower out of it. Of course, that car was way beyond the financial reach of working class kids like Calvin and myself. But, his dream never faltered. Calvin worked at the Hebron IGA grocery store and he worked at Big Hoss's auto salvage yard where he removed parts from wrecked cars for Big Hoss to sell. Calvin saved darn near every cent he made toward his dream car.


One day Calvin called me up and he was nearly delirious; it seems that Big Hoss had bought a '63, black, split rear window Corvette from an insurance company and he was going to sell it to Calvin for what he had in it. Big Hoss liked Calvin, but then, everyone did.


That Corvette had been in a minor accident with a tree and the front bumper was bent in, but the impact caused an electrical fire too, and the windshield and dashboard had to be replaced. Apparently the driver was an older man who had a heart attack and died.


The wreck was at a fairly low speed, so the damage was light and the repairs were things that Calvin could do himself. It took 2 months and all of his savings, plus $500 I loaned him from my savings, but, Calvin got his dream car. His greatest expense was having to buy a new instrument panel with all of the gauges from a dealership. When the car was all repaired, polished and waxed, his face gleamed like the morning sun, he was so happy and proud and I was happy and proud for him.


About 4 weeks after he started driving his car he called me up to see if I would like to take a drive with him in his 'Vette; I had to say "no"; I had my Physics final exam the next day and I was not ready.


Cal said he was in the mood for a little adventure and he thought he would go over to Swamp Road. I asked him what he would do if he saw Sally and he said he didn't believe in her and if he did see her, he could out run her in his car. We both laughed.


I'll never forget the date, it was June 6th, about 3 a.m. when my Dad awakened me to say there was a phone call for me. There were no cell phones back then, and most homes only had one phone and it hung on the kitchen wall. I answered it and it was Calvin's dad. He wanted to know if I might know where Cal was, he had not come home and his parents were very worried about him. I told them about my earlier phone conversation with Cal and related the part about Swamp Road. He thanked me and hung up. I went back to bed, concerned too, but certain Cal would be OK.


The next morning I got a call from my girlfriend Bonnie and she told me that the radio was reporting that Cal had been killed in a car wreck during the night on Swamp Road. I could not believe it or accept it. My world became a much darker, somber place for a very long time.


The news said that excessive speed was believed to be the cause of his loss of control. He went into one of the deep ditches on Swamp Road. He had a seatbelt and always wore it, but it broke and he was thrown through the windshield.


Bonnie and I went together to Big Hoss's place where Calvin's car had been towed. I looked at it all over and was noticing how nice and new the dashboard looked when I saw the odometer. The odometer read 000666.0 exactly. 666-"The Mark of the Beast!"


As submitted by Kit Livesay 9-28-22 Whitehall, Ohio


Copyright 1992-2023 All rights reserved. Randal Lenn Hall.