Once Upon a Time in Kingsbridge
by John Delach
This is the replacement for my previous blog post sent earlier today that was incomplete.
By Geoff Jones as told to John Delach
After Judy and I married in 1964, we moved from Westchester to a rental apartment on Webb Avenue in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. Judy’s prize possession, her 1962 Corvette, accompanied us to our new digs. I understood that my new wife was an ardent automobile aficionado and remains so today.
We were young and naïve about city living and gave little thought to protecting her Vette from theft or damage. It became my job to deal with alternate side parking by seeking out safe spots. I can’t recall how long I did it, but I remember being frustrated after only a few weeks.
The apartment we rented had a driveway and garage. The building owners were real city people who didn’t have a car, but they had rented their garage to a couple who lived next door. We were free to use the driveway but only when we were home, so we didn’t block their access. I can’t recall that we ever had an issue with the couple who seemed nice and who liked Judy’s car.
One summer Sunday, we drove out to Jones Beach for the day. That evening we arrived home exhausted by the sun, surf and the long drive in crappy traffic. Even so, that was a lucky night as we found a spot in front of our home. We grabbed it making unloading the umbrella, cooler, blankets etc. easier. We sat down after bringing our stuff inside and fell asleep, forgetting we’d left the Corvette’s convertible top down. Sometime before sunrise, I awoke and remembered what I had failed to do. My dread that the car had been stolen was lessened when I saw the keys on the table, but what if it had been vandalized? Fortunately, there it was completely untouched.
You can imagine my relief! I’m not sure if the crime rate in our neighborhood was better than I’d imagined, or if the Vette looked like a setup to catch car thieves. Whatever, this event may have been my motivation to find a garage. The primary impediment to securing garage space was that we didn’t feel we could afford to rent a spot.
One day, though, we noticed a “parking space for rent” sign on a house only a hundred or so feet away. I checked with the building owner who showed me the spot. The garage was an odd space located beneath their house. It only had one door and already had a car in it. However, it was a long enough to accommodate two cars, one behind the other.
I felt that could only be a problem, but the lady said the spot for rent was not behind that car. There was an open space on the left just inside the garage door that had been her husband’s workshop that he no longer used. The woman believed a car could be parked there. It was a tight squeeze, but our Vette was shorter and slightly narrower than many normal vehicles. I asked for a tryout and Judy and I found we could maneuver our car in and out without damages. So, we took it.
This strapped our spending but made life bearable as we could stop worrying about leaving our attractive car alone on streets for so many hours at a time.
A year or so later we attended a New Years’ Eve party somewhere we had to travel to by car. We returned to Webb Ave. long after midnight and found a car parked in the street blocking our driveway to the garage. I suppose I could have used our apartment driveway and left a sign on the car telling the couple next door to awaken us regardless of time. But you can guess how loopy I might have been after a New Year’s Eve party. Also, it had snowed leaving a blanket of ankle-deep wet snow to negotiate. I looked in the car, which was one step up from being labeled a “jalopy” and figured it was too old for power steering. I found a brick, hammered a hole in the driver’s side window, unlocked the door and got in. I put the stick shift into neutral, turned the wheels toward the curb, stepped out and, with Judy help, pushed the car back until rear wheels were against the curb. I got back in, turned the wheels out and we got behind the car and pushed it out into the street and a car length past the driveway. I unlocked the garage, put the “Vette” to bed and we walked home.
Webb was a narrow street and parking was allowed on both sides. Since I had left the vehicle pretty much in the middle of the street, no one could get by. By the time I woke up late on the morning of New Year’s Day, the street had been plowed, and the car was gone. No repercussions and, since the statute of limitations ran out 50 years ago, I guess it’s okay to write about it now.
Still, if that happened today, even the oldest cars on the road are equipped with power steering, power brakes and alarms guaranteeing my plan would not have worked.