Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Strange Believe-It-Or-Not Story

Somebody recently asked me, "What's the strangest thing that ever happened to you?"

My first thought was that a lot of strange things have happened to me. Then an experience from nearly 25 years ago popped into my mind. What happened to me was so bizarre that I still get dizzy thinking about it. It was like walking into a time-warp - whatever that is - a candidate for "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

It was 1988 and my '78 Volkswagen Rabbit was on its last legs. But instead of trading it in, I asked my oldest son, who was a math major at Arizona State at the time, if he'd like to have it. Being without wheels, he quickly said yes.

And so I began a memorable road trip from Williamsburg, Virginia to Tempe, Arizona. I didn't want to take forever getting there, so one of the mind-boggling aspects of the trip was that I made it all the way, including side-trips, without getting a speeding ticket. But I was in for much more shocking surprises. Three of them, in fact.

Since I had to drive all the way to Arizona, it occurred to me that I ought to make a stop at Waynesville, Missouri, where I spent the most intense and memorable days of my youth. My father was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, and I was one of the Army brats that bussed into the small town each day for school. I was there for four years, and I left my footprints all over that small town. I began my own teen journey there.

After freshman year, I left all my friends behind to go with my family to Germany, where my father had a new assignment. That transition in 1959 was a turning point in my life. But now I was returning to my old stomping grounds. After nearly 30 years, a lot of water had flowed under the bridge. I expected big changes.

But as I slowly drove the winding road down into the town square, I was in for a surprise. It appeared that nothing had changed. I parked the car a block from my old elementary school. It was closed for the summer, but I walked around the grounds. The old backboards on the dirt playground where I shot hoops during recess were still there. The hedge where I used to make out with Sherilyn Devin was still there. How could this be?

Waynesville town square
I left the school to wander around the town square. The soda fountain where I thought it was cool to get a hot dog and a cherry coke instead of the cafeteria lunch was still there. The booths inside appeared to be the same old booths.

In the middle of the square was the tiny old jail house. The front door still had bars on it, open to the elements. I wondered if it was still in use.

I continued walking counter-clockwise around the square until I got to the old record shop. I looked into the door and the same wooden bins still held 45 rpm records. This seemed impossible. 45 rpm records were no longer in use. Even 8-track tapes had come and gone. Why were these old wooden bins still here, and what were 45s doing in them?

I was 43 years old, and I remembered that when I was a boy rock and roll was being born. I used to browse the bins for bargains. I once bought a Jack Scott record there. His "My True Love" was a top hit at the time. I wondered what the bins held that day, so I went up to one and started browsing.

And that's when it got really strange. There in the bin, oh my brothers and sisters, was a Jack Scott 45 rpm record. It was "My True Love." I'm not making this up. This was beyond improbable. It was impossible, but this wasn't an hallucination. I picked the record up and held it in my hands. Maybe this place wasn't a record shop at all, but some kind of weird, small town museum. But there was no one in the shop but me. Before it occurred to me to find someone to explain, I felt a kind of panic and a strong urge to leave, so that's what i did.

I told my friend about this experience, and he agreed that it was pretty strange, all right. He was grinning, so I'm not sure he believed me. But this really happened.

Not only that, but I was in for another shock of strangeness later that afternoon, when I went to visit where I used to live at the Army base, Fort Leonard Wood. But that's another story, and this one is already longer than most, so I'll tell you about that in my next post...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Photo credit -

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

That was a total trip, Denny. How cool is that--that nothing had changed--and they say you can't go home again.

And who could ever forget good old Sherilyn Devin? Laugh.