A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.
One maneuver I participated in surely takes the cake.
In the early nineteen-fifties various delivery trucks, plus all parcel-post trucks, were battery powered. Many of the old battery powered vehicles had wooden-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires. A big chain, powered by huge batteries, led to the rear drive wheels. The operator sat up front like in any other motor vehicle.
Many Gasthauses, close to the brewery, had their beer delivered in wooden barrels on a wagon drawn by a pair of Clydesdale horses. The battery powered trucks served the more distant establishments.
On level ground these electric trucks easily outran the horse drawn ones. However, going up an incline, the battery powered vehicles really labored. They slowed down to a point where our walking home from school would be considered fast.
My buddy and I had long observed that the battery powered postal trucks had a pullout step in the rear of the truck. The postman used it to step up and back down to retrieve the parcels. We figured if we could run out into traffic, while the cars behind were held to a crawl, we could pull out that step and get a ride home.
Oh boy! As a kid, things always make so much sense. After all, how in the world could an inquisitive kid think things through if he never partook in any such wonderful experiences?
Then, guess what? The day came when everything fell into place. As we moseyed up an incline heading home from school, we noticed a postal truck holding up traffic as it slowed to master the slight hill. “The postman cometh!” We ran out into traffic, pulled out the step, sat down on it, and grinned. Just the perfect size for two boys with school satchels on their backs. We sat there looking kind of proud and worthy of praise as we faced the cars that followed behind the truck. If the postman knew he had stowaways, we could not tell, nor did we even pondered the risk.
After the hill leveled out the postal truck gained considerable speed, but still slowed down traffic. The road was wide enough for cars to pass, if one wanted to fight the trolley tracks in the middle of the road.
We were doing so good that in no time my pal realized he had to get off. We had zipped past his road. With no time to contemplate, he just jumped off the moving truck. I did not know a twelve-year old could be so acrobatic. When his feet touched the pavement, he immediately went tumbling like a frantic rag doll, as the cars that followed blew their horn.
Well, I still sat there. The vehicle kept gaining speed. Soon I too had to get off. To stay on for the duration, only the Lord knew how many miles to the next stop.
The word inertia was never explained to me. Even if it had, what could I have done about it then . . . looking at the cars following.
I was in the process of moving backward. I’ve seen people jump off still moving trolley cars, but they faced in the right direction when they jumped off.
Well, “There I go.” I also made the jump. A good thing the cars that followed kept considerably more distance since the first chap’s sprawl. I hit the pavement so hard that every bone in me rattled. Flopping around and rolling with the traffic, I came to rest at the edge of the bicycle path. I am sure the cars that followed blew their horns and hollered at me. I did not hear a thing. I crawled up onto the sidewalk, my head in a whirl. After a sobering resting spell I got up, pulled my shirt around so the buttons were again in the front, straightened out my breeches, gathered up my satchel, and slowly dragged myself home.