There were four of us guys that hung out together after school when I was a sophomore in high school: John W, Mark S, Alan H, and me. Alan’s dad Reese owned a downtown drugstore. We would gather there on occasion to read magazines and swap stories of how great we were. It was a little store, mostly a pharmacy. They also sold paintings by James Kirkpatrick, a well-known North Dakota painter from Jamestown, and books by Louis L’Amour, the famous Jamestown author. Reese promoted Jamestown around the state, often highlighting the success stories of his friends Kirkpatrick and L’Amour.
The event that sticks in my mind when I think of that drug store was the day we talked about our favorite cars. Mine was a ’58 Chevy. It was my favorite that week because my grandmother was looking for a car. The one she had looked at the day before was a ’58 Chevy. I liked the looks of that car! My buddy John would drive a 1957 Chevy Nomad station wagon that looked ancient by comparison.
The other guys didn’t know what it looked like, as we had not started the hobby of visiting used car lots for entertainment and dreaming purposes. By the next year we discovered that it was OK for a couple of teen-aged boys to wander around the used car lots looking into the cars. Another friend (David H) and I spent many Saturdays sitting in fancy cars. The salesmen occasionally asked us to leave, but usually they just watched us from the office.
As the four of us sat on the drug store bench enjoying a treat, I boasted that there were hundreds of ’58 Chevys on the street. You couldn’t go for over a minute without seeing one, I told them. To prove it, I asked them to just look out the big front window of Hawkins Drug Store. We looked. And waited.
You guessed it, not one in sight. It was about twenty minutes later when the first one passed. Then they were as thick as worms on the sidewalk after a spring rain. It seemed that every other car on main street was a ’58 Chevy of some sort. From then on it was a major joke between us guys that ’58 Chevys followed us around. The number 58 became my lucky number, having all sorts of what felt like important coincidences. That afternoon of childish fascination with cars and numbers has followed me ever since.
Two examples of the number 58 following me throughout life: Jamestown is on Intestate 94. Exit 258. That one happens to be the 58th exit on I-94 in North Dakota, counting from the west. About ten years ago MnDOT rebuilt highway 52 through Rochester. As part of the upgrade they built it to Interstate standards, including exit numbers. I worked at IBM for my entire career. Exit 58. The last time I went to the health club my locker number was 85, close enough for this little boy.
The numbers eight and fifty-eight and the ’58 Chevy still have a warm spot in my memory. They really are a ghastly looking car. An example of late fifties’ extravagance, beautiful in a way.
In case you were wondering, my grandmother didn’t get the Chevy. There was a Buick that satisfied her needs.
Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1958_Chevrolet-Impala.jpg