The 1956 Pontiac SkiWagon – Albany, Georgia – My Hometown

For Johann Bleicher and Vic Miller.

56 Pontiac 3

The magnificent 1956 Pontiac Star Chief that pulled our feckless friends on skis through water filled ditches in Dougherty County, Georgia after heavy rains.

Pontiac-4

This looks much like the same station wagon we used. Friends who skied had lost at least three of their five senses. That would be touch, hearing and sight.

Ever aware of the old axiom ”Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, Vic Miller, Johann Bleicher and I constantly struggled with our collective conscience to come up with different ideas and new efforts to entertain ourselves and to stay as far away from the devil’s workshop as possible.

Johann lived with his family adjacent to the Merck Chemical Plant south of Albany. There were great expanses of constantly trimmed and mowed acres all around and we sometimes flew kites there. Kite flying was getting pretty close to the devil’s workshop because it was so boring. We didn’t know how to fight with the air born kites so tiring of constantly looking up at them I got my old 410 Savage shotgun out of the car and blew Vic’s kite out of the air.

The most fun we had out there was the day we got some wine, cheese and crackers and invited a high school counselor to go to Johann’s with us. He was a fanciful lad and giggled nervously a lot. Did I mention the bows and arrows? Well, we also had three bows and a box full of arrows.

We got out in the middle of one of those large grassy areas and we began to fire the arrows heavenward. We pretty much knew the wind would take the arrows from directly over us and drop them a few feet downwind. we didn’t know beans about downdrafts and wind shear but the Lord was with us that particular day.

The counselor knew less about the wind than we knew. He would stand as straight up as possible to make himself a smaller target after we shot the arrows straight up. At that point all three of us would start to yell, “Do you hear that, do you hear that? It’s coming, Do you hear it? It’s coming.” Then we would make whooooshing noises and thooomping noises. This guy was a city boy and he didn’t realize we were making all that noise with our mouths. He thought the arrows were swooshing all about us and thudding deeply into the ground.

He got pretty shaky and I wish I could reproduce his giggle for you. That nervous giggle was a thing of beauty to us. We needed fearful reactions from him to keep our adrenaline pumping at high levels. A few weeks later I heard he had quit his job and was doing a stint in a North Georgia nursing home.

And so that’s partly how we passed a couple of the summer months and then it began to rain. It rained and it rained and I thought it would never stop. The ditches around Albany were filling and overflowing and I think it was Vic Miller I caught staring at the trailer hitch on my mother’s station wagon and when he said, “You know I have an old slalom ski and we can tie a ski rope to the trailer hitch on your Mother’s station wagon and we can pull a skier down those water filled ditches with her car pulling the skier from the road side.

When Miller had a brilliant idea (to him) Johann and I would say even more brilliant things to dissuade him from following through with it. We would say things like, “Duh, snarfle, snarfle, snarfle, duh, duh.” That was our way of buying time in an attempt to tell him that his idea was the craziest, stupidest, lamest thought he had ever had. We never won because to win would make you chicken and nobody was going to be called a chicken.

So we did it. I did not tempt fate. I knew I could refuse to let anybody else drive Mother’s car so that automatically made me a non-skier and it proved to me at an early age that I was not suicidal. Vic and Johann were the main skiers. There were others who skied but I only recall Vic and Johann because they became major players in the game.

At first we tried the ditches along the route that is now known as GA300. We were at the interchange on the Moultrie Road and GA300 right by Procter and Gamble. The road back then was still under construction and the ditches were wide and fairly safe because the water was also deep. If a skier fell the deep mud would soften the fall. Fortunately there was no paving at the time. Paving would have been destroyed by an impact from Vic or Johann’s head and we would have been liable for damaging the roadway.

The Eastside ditches turned out to be too easy. Now Victor had to ski the ditches of the Gillionville Road just a few miles out of town. These ditches were not only extremely narrow but there were high patches a few inches to a few feet long where there was no water at all.

The first time we hit a dry patch old Vic skied through the mud. The next little dry spot he came through equally well but the third was a little too much for him and I saw him in the rear view mirror when he tossed the ski rope up in the air and then he almost planted a full lip lock on a road sign.

Vic was through for the day but he coerced Johann into giving it a try. Johann made it through the first two spots okay but that third stretch of dry dirt threw him like he had been on the back of a wild horse. That wouldn’t have been too bad for Johann but he didn’t turn loose of the ski rope. We dragged him for a couple of hundred yards on his belly before I wisely hit the brake pedal and stopped the car.

Even all these years later I can still see deep scars from the unforgiving briars and brambles that raked his shirt off and tore his chest up like he had been whipped unmercifully with a cat-of-nine-tails.

Most people might not see it but now, almost 55 years later, I can still clearly make out the scars on his stomach that read, “AHS 1961.” The loop at the top of the number nine perfectly encircles his belly button.

It was a great summer.

water skiing in ditch

Water skiing in a ditch.

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