Here’s a Jimmy Holthaus story:

In the summer of 1977, or thereabouts, Jimmy Holthaus used to drive from his parents’ house on Arizona Ave. to Big Dan Golombowski’s house in a classic Dodge Roadrunner. It was, I think, around a 1970-ish bright orange “muscle car.” Well, I don’t remember exactly how I did it, or why…but I ended up straddling the beast up on the roof of his car on Roselawn Ave. I think what took place was, I expressed to him my strong desire to go for a ride in his way-cool car, (notice I said “in” it, and not “on” it). But he must’ve told me that if I was going to go for a ride with him on that particular day, it would have to be on top of the roof…not on the inside. I accepted his not-so-generous offer.

It was summertime in Hamilton, Baltimore, Maryland in 1977. Before me was one of the coolest cars ever produced by Mopar…the Roadrunner. I wanted so much to go for a cruise in it. But as I stated above, the invitation was only good for the roof. I proceeded to “gingerly” slither up to the roof. In those days, I weighed about 175 lbs. You see, the previous year I had spent about 8 months in Flintstone, MD in a Maryland institution called, “Boys’ Forestry Camp #1. Having gotten in all sorts of trouble with the law, I owed a debt to “society,” whatever that means. I suppose if my parents had had the money, and were willing to pay my “debt,” they could have substituted cash money for 8 months of my life. Anyway, back to the Roadrunner…

I believe we had to wait for Big Dan to get into the car where Jimmy, Big Al Hasselbarth, Angelo Torrie, and a guy named John (I think), were squeezed in already. I didn’t mind the prospect of riding on top. And we hadn’t talked about how far we were going, either. I had nothing else pressing upon my schedule that particular day. Finally, Big Dan came swaggering out of his house and got into the car. He didn’t seem to think my lying face down and spread-eagled on the roof of Jim’s Roadrunner was all that unusual. We were heading west on Roselawn Ave., starting near the top of the 2800 block (in front of Dan’s house), and proceeded down the hill towards the Triangle. Now, the Triangle in not called that on maps or Google Maps. It was a nickname given to a 3-way intersection at the meeting of Roselawn, White, and Hamlet Avenues. It didn’t take long for me to realize I hadn’t thought this idea through very thoroughly…

It didn’t take too long to learn first-hand why they called them muscle cars. By the time we had traveled 3 houses down the street, we must’ve been doing 50 mph. Then something happened that I was not ready for…or hadn’t entered my mind…Jimmy slammed on the brakes! Apparently he thought it would be a good idea, or maybe just funny, if he could use the inertia of my moving body to propel me from the roof of his car…over the rather large hood (I think he was packin’ a 440 cubic inch monster under there) and into the street. Well, I was young. My reflexes were fast and my instincts were sharp. Also, I had a lot of surface area to hold on to. Since it was warm outside, all the windows were down. So I had a firm grip on the side edges of the roof with my fingers wrapped around to the under-side of the roof. Back then the cars were more substantial. I think this model Roadrunner had a small gutter running along the side edges of the roof…you know…so rainwater would not drip on your head when you had the door open, sitting sideways…and it was raining.

Although I had been quite satisfied with my ride thus far, the boys inside were not happy yet. I could’ve easily been persuaded to dismount the big orange beast with very little resistance. After all, I had not been informed of the driver’s intentions regarding his putting on a rodeo, with me starring as the lead bull rider! But Jim wasn’t done with me yet…round 2 was fast approaching. Once again, we were accelerating rapidly down Roselawn Avenue. But to my displeasure, they must’ve thought I had a little too much to hold onto. Because, around the time we reached 60 mph, I felt the windows on both sides of the car beginning to crush my fingers. Now I had a decision to make: do I leave my fingers in place letting my “friends” decide how hard to crank down on them and be relatively sure I wouldn’t be thrown onto the hot pavement for a “tuck’n’roll” scenario. Or do I withdraw my fingers from harm’s way, hoping I can still find enough to grip onto so as not to be thrown the next time the beast bucks…I chose the latter…

I don’t know exactly how fast I was flying…at least twice as fast as those 2 screwballs on the Titanic flew…at least…When we reached the Triangle, he slammed on the brakes again. I’d like to say I remember the car skidding xx number of feet. But, honestly, it took every bit of strength, concentration and faith at my command to NOT take off like one of those toy planes that comes with the big rubber band attached to the little stick! I think if he had just gotten that car going a couple miles per hour faster, I’d have spent some time in the hospital that summer. All I had to hold on to was that little half-inch tall gutter. My knuckles weren’t white. The only bodily members engaged in this gargantuan effort were the tips of my thumbs and the first 2 fingers on both hands.

I am certain that we decelerated faster this time than we did the first time. Not only because going much faster would be the logical thing to expect from a teenager. But, even more indicative, is the way my cigarettes and lighter (that were in my front shirt pocket) shot straight out and flew about 20 feet. Well, they didn’t even become dislodged during the first attempt to throw me. When the car finally came to rest…and my measly digits withstood the incredible forces involved…all I could think about was, “I better get my cigarettes before they get run over…” And that’s what I did. I kinda needed one by that time, anyway. There were no conversations… no harsh words. What had just occurred was understood by all parties concerned for just what it was…a stupid stunt that turned out alright for all involved. I’m pretty sure they were all going to meet Dan’s “guy” for something green. Meanwhile, I walked up that long sloping hill that was (and still is) Roselawn Ave., waited at Dan’s house for them to get back, and the rest is, as they say…history.

The End

Advertisements