Fro-Back Friday! When Dad got Stuck in our Driveway

Norman with pennies on his head
My father could make almost anything stick to his forehead. It was one of his many talents.

The kids and I were in our usual positions; kneeling on the blue pleather-covered, retro sofa in the living room with our behinds facing the middle of the room and our noses pressed against the bay window, waiting for my parents to arrive.

Lucas and Veronica were always excited when they knew Grandma and Papa were coming over. My parents would often come to the house to visit before we’d all go out for dinner.

As soon as my father’s Lincoln Town Car pulled into the driveway, both kids bounced up and down on the sofa, causing me to bounce, albeit involuntarily. Physics. Can’t live with it; can’t live without it.1978_Lincoln_Town_Car





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Our driveway was wide enough for one car only, and as steep as a double-black diamond ski-run. At the bottom of the slope sat a one-car garage.

My Dad let my Mom out of the car and then decided to pull further up, which was, in reality, down  (oh, so down) the driveway. The only plausible reason for this was that my sister, brother-in-law, and their son, Joey, were coming over, too, and he wanted to leave room for them to pull up behind him.

It was so cold that year the Canadian geese, that usually hung out across the street at the golf course for the winter, completely bypassed Illinois and headed straight to Arkansas. Even though he’d placed the car in “Park,” Dad’s rear-wheel-drive car continued to slide down the icy driveway, inching itself closer and closer to the closed garage door.

Richard, my mom, the kids, and I watched through the front window of the house as my Dad’s car disappeared between the embankments on either side of the bottom of the driveway. We could see the back end of his car, but no Norman.

Richard ran outside and watched as Norman’s car stopped just short of the garage door. Richard came inside to tell us the good news. But the good news was short-lived.

Because of the embankments, my Dad couldn’t open his door more than an inch. If he had tried to slide over to the passenger’s side, he wouldn’t have had any better luck there. Even if he could physically climb over the back seat, those doors wouldn’t have been able to be opened either.

As soon as we realized what was happening, little four-year-old Veronica asked, “Will we ever see Papa again?”

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“Good question,” I thought to myself. How is he going to get out of the car? But before we could figure that out, he began trying to back up, only to spin his wheels which had the reverse effect, sliding him closer to the garage door.

I ran downstairs and opened the garage door to see if he would be able to slide in, get a smidge of traction, and then back out. But Richard’s car was parked in the garage, leaving Dad shipwrecked.

Time for some quick thinking. Richard and I sprang into action to rescue Papa from the Town Car. We placed floor mats behind Dad’s back wheels, as we tried not to slalom down the driveway ourselves. He put the car back into reverse but his wheels only spun and spun. They spun so much, in fact, that the smell of burning rubber triggered the smoke detector in the garage.

Ok. It was time for some more quick thinking. Richard and I tried to push the car back up the hill as Dad’s wheels spun in reverse. That may have been quick thinking, but it was also stupid thinking. There was no  way the two of us could have pushed that Titanic of a car back up and over the death-drop steepness of our driveway.

Finally, The Voice of Reason, also known as my Mother, said we should call a tow truck, which we did. However, it was going to be about two hours before the tow truck could get to our house due to the inordinate volume of calls the company had received about cars stuck on steep, double-black diamond ski-run-worthy driveways. Dad would just have to sit and wait in his car while we waited inside the house for the tow truck to arrive.


I called Dad on his cell phone to see if he was thirsty and wanted a Diet Coke, or need an old coffee can in which to pee. He she was fine and was even laughing about the situation.

Back in the house, we all just stood there waiting for the tow truck. If Dad was stuck in the driveway, we were going to be stuck watching him be stuck in the driveway because that’s what our family does. It made no sense, and makes even less sense when I think about it now, but we all stood there glued to the floor, as if we were trapped, too.

Finally, the tow truck arrived. A giant flatbed tow truck. In my driveway. had no idea what the guy was going to do or how he planned to get my Dad’s car out of the driveway, but he did. He somehow got these big metal things under the wheels of my Dad’s car and magically began to lift the car up — with my dad in it — using metal chains, and a hook that looked like it could support a prize-winning Marlin.


As we all stood there watching, Dad’s car was eventually dragged onto the flatbed. The tow truck driver returned to the cab of his truck and pushed a button that elevated the flatbed, the car, and my Dad as high as the 50-year-old Arborvitae trees that flanked either side of the embankments. As the driver pulled his truck out of the driveway, there was Norman sitting in his car waving at us as if he were in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I never would have believed it, but it worked. The driver lowered the flatbed, and then unhitched the Titanic so my Dad could drive off of it. He moored the car on the street, and got out to tip the tow truck driver as we all watched and cheered. He was a little stiff from sitting in his car motionless for two hours and he had to pee, but other than that he was fine.

We snapped out of our stupors of disbelief and did what we had planned all along. We went out to dinner. Nothing, not even a perilous mountain of ice, could keep this family from going out for dinner, because that’s what Chases have always done and always will.


Dedicated in loving memory of Norman. M. Chase

June 17, 1931-June 6, 2014

“FRO-BACK FRIDAY!” My New Camera was Smokin’!

If you received the Cup ‘O Jo Newsletter earlier today, you’re probably wondering, “Where’s the newest blog? Where are the fros?”

Everything is right here, my friends!

Enjoy! And thanks for subscribing and leaving great comments on this website, and for  following me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.


A look back at some of the best ‘fros around.

Today, we feature Paul Chase, and his hair.

Paul's biggest fro 001

My Papa Tom with my brother Paul Chase.My Papa Tom with my brother, Paul Chase.
Thanksgiving with, from left to right: Robert Roth, Paul Chase, Barbara Roth Cohn, Beth Chase Avraham, Susan Roth Stricker, and me!
Thanksgiving with, from left to right, Robert Roth, Paul Chase, Barbara Roth Cohn, Beth Chase Avraham, Susan Roth Stricker, and me! 









Back in the 1970’s, my parents gave me a Pentax K1000 camera after 8th grade graduation. It was, and still is, the coolest gift I’ve ever received. Because it was completely mechanical, I had to learn how to manually set everything, including film speed, shutter speed, aperture/ f-stop, and focus. Luckily, my father knew his way around camera settings, or I would have been as stymied about that camera as I have been about every computer I’ve innocently caused to implode.

I experimented with black and white film, and color film in a range of speeds. My Pentax had several interchangeable lens attachments and a removable flash the size of a football. In order to remove the camera case or put it back on, I had to screw it to the bottom with a button the size of a half-dollar. I only needed to remove the case to load or use the hand-crank to rewind the film, so I usually kept it on, even though it flapped and flopped as I walked around; I decided I looked cooler that way, anyway.

I fancied myself quite the photographer after getting that camera. All I was missing was a burgundy tam. I remember taking a photography class in high school where we were assigned to tell a photographic story of ourselves. I artfully arranged my toe shoes on my parents’ slate entryway floor, along with my tap and jazz shoes. I took a self-portrait using a mirror. I took photos of my Standard Poodle, Fred. I felt like an artiste. I was ready to head to Santa Fe or Taos in a vintage Volkswagen bus, and sleep in a tent with Hippies. One problem: I wasn’t old enough to drive.

VW bus and tent

The best part about that class was that we got to develop our own photos in a darkroom. I loved the chemical smells and watching a piece of blank paper blossom into a black and white masterpiece. I’m sure all of the toxic fumes from those chemicals — that are probably now banned — permeated my brain, leading me to believe that all of my photos were of professional grade.

That summer my parents had a party, as they often did. It was a beautiful evening and I decided to take pictures of their friends and relatives as they milled about in the backyard sipping wine and being fabulous; the men in lilac, and powder blue Leisure Suits, with open collars revealing thick gold chains that lay upon chests of thick hair, and the women in multi-colored caftans, with lilac or powder blue eye-shadow to complement their husband’s attire, and, as it was the shade of that decade, orange lipstick.

I loaded my camera with 400-speed film which was, at that time, the fastest film available. It always took several attempts to load the camera because I had a hard time lining up the slits on the sides of the film with the cogs on the loading device of the camera. I chose the lens I wanted to use and attached the flash. It took some time to set up my cherished Pentax K1000, but it was worth it because I was a P.I. T. M. (professional in the making.)

With that camera in my hands, I was Victor Skrebneski, Irving Penn, and Annie Leibovitz, all rolled into one. I was capturing moments in history in whichever way my creative mind thought would make for a good shot. I was so excited and so proud.

With a huge smile on my face, I walked over to my Aunt Aldeene, who was talking with another woman, to show her my new camera. “Oh, that’s nice, Dear,” she said, not even looking at me or the camera in my hands. And then, to my absolute and complete horror, she took her cigarette and snuffed it out in the open camera case. In her defense, I guess she thought I was bringing her an ashtray. But I was 14 years old, and we were at my house! Why would I be bringing her an ashtray? Even if it had been a catered affair, why on earth would I, the daughter of the hosts, bring her an ashtray? And why would anyone bring anyone an ashtray? This was our backyard; not Hugh Hefner’s.

There I was, standing there waiting for my Aunt to admire my pride and joy. Instead, she scarred my prized possession for life.

When I think back to that frozen moment in time, I see myself looking down as if floating above, watching the carnage. I remember exactly what I was wearing. I remember having used empty frozen orange juice cans in my hair the night before so my hair would be straight for the party. I remember the psychedelic headband I wore with my bell-bottom jeans and un-tucked white button down shirt.

I remember feeling over-exposed.

At the time, I was mortified. I was stunned. I was angry. But, there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t say anything to her or to my parents. In fact, I didn’t tell my parents about it until about 20 years later.

When I can get the film to load properly I still use the camera every once in a while. I recently took it to a camera shop to try to find a replacement case because the leather has worn off and what’s left of it barely resembles a camera case anymore.

The shop owner admonished me for not taking better care of it and said it’s the kind of camera that gets better with age and needs to be used often.

Then, he spotted the burn mark.

He examined it and then slowly looked up at me. I thought he was going to call DCFS.

“I swear I didn’t do it,” I said.

He disappeared behind a curtain that must have led to “the back” of the shop, leaving me there to wonder what he was going to do. I didn’t leave because I thought he might watch to see which car was mine and write down my license plate number.

He finally emerged from behind the curtain. Had he tucked in his shirt and combed his hair? Maybe it was his way of pacifying himself before being able to meet my gaze again.

“Look,” he said. Was his chin quivering? “This is a really good camera. You take good care of it and use it as much as possible. If you don’t, it will be useless.” I think he wanted to say, “It will die,” but knew he’d burst into tears if he used that word.

I assured him I would take the best care of it and use it often. I bought four rolls of film with different speeds. I smiled. I held the camera like a swaddled baby. I kept smiling and swaddling as I paid and backed out of the store.

And, because I was afraid he was going to send a camera-retrieving swat team to my house, I paid with cash.