Monday, July 29, 2013

The Jon Bloom Story 1957, Also My Missed Opportunity

                                                         The Jon Bloom Story
                                                   Also My Missed Opportunity
                                      Written 10/2011 and rewritten 02/2016 unedited
                                                              Howard Yasgar

      I met Jon Bloom in 1956, Jon was a tall lanky handsome guy with wavy hair who wore horned rim glasses.
      Jon lived about 20 miles up the road from me in Bethany and I lived in Westville which was a suburb of New Haven Connecticut.
      For me to drive to Jon’s house, I would drive up Amity Road past the Bethany Airport. It was about a mile after, that you took a left and drove up a hill to Jon’s house.
      I remember Jon parked his car in front of a big barn that was behind his house. That’s where the family kept their Model “A” Ford.
      Back then in 1956, which was around the same time I met Jon, I had just gotten my driver’s license and I had bought a green 1940 ford convertible. It was a pretty sharp car back then, and I sure wish I had that car today.
      Back then, I wanted to make that 1940 Ford into a hotrod. My problem was that I didn’t know anything about hotrods.
      In New Haven, we had a local auto parts store called, Henry’s Auto Parts, it was located on Whalley Avenue. Henry who was a nice guy sold every kind of junk and knickknack that you could bolt on a car.
      I don’t think Henry had any mechanical knowledge about cars, he just sold the stuff, but his store was always a good place to meet other kids.
     One day my muffler fell off my Ford, and Henry, said for me to go down into  the stores cellar and find a muffler I liked, he said, “My mufflers are called Hollywood Mufflers and will cost you $2.00, each so take any one you like”. I had a feeling they were all the mufflers Henry couldn’t sell.
      That was my big start, when I bought Henry’s muffler, and installed it on my car. I thought I had built a hotrod.
      A Hollywood muffler made a high pitched staccato sound when you accelerated and a louder staccato sound as you decelerated. It made so much noise that everyone in town looked at you as you raced around. The noise of the muffler was louder than the noises made by the worn out bearings in my engine.   
      Now the reason I remember buying that muffler, was because that $2.00 muffler ended up costing me about $20.00. It was because they had just installed parking meters on the street besides Henry’s Auto Parts, and when I came out with the muffler in my hands, a big fat Irish cop with a big red nose, was already writing me an overtime parking ticket.
       I caught him as he was putting it under my wiper. I told him I had put a nickel and was just going to put in another 5 cents, that very moment. The nice cop took pity on me and wadded up my ticket and threw it down the gutter. About two weeks later I received a $20.00 parking fine in the mail. The cop had thrown my half of the ticket away but turned his half in. I really started appreciating the New Haven police force after that.
     After I installed the Hollywood muffler, I then joined the “Road Barons Hot Rod Club, it was a pretty good club, and I attended their weekly meetings where the Club’s president and all his friends, yelled and screamed about anyone owning a foreign car. They wouldn’t foreign car owners join the club. They said you could only join if you owned an American car. That was the law until the president of the club bought a Triumph sport car, then the rules suddenly changed.   
     It was sometimes around the time that I joined the Road Barons that somehow I met Jon Bloom.
     Jon had a penchant for owning very fast Connecticut State Police cars.
     I learned from Jon that every few years, the Connecticut State Police, bought a limited amount of factory hotrods. They were State Police cars that were built to catch speeders on the new Connecticut turnpikes. Most people knew absolutely nothing about these special cars, but Jon was an expert on the subject.
     Jon told me that when the Connecticut State police auctioned off their old cars, he knew which one had the hot engine and beefed up chassis, and that was what he bought.
      The first police car I saw Jon in, was a 1955 Ford. It had an overhead valve V8 engine, a four barrel carburetor, and a heavy duty three speed transmission, the car also had a heavy duty suspension system installed. With that car, Jon was ready to street race with anyone that would pull up beside him.
       By the middle of 1956, Jon had built up quite a reputation, as he was known to have the fastest Ford around but by then the Connecticut State Police also had their eye out for him, he just became too well known in our part of Connecticut.
      That’s when Jon started to drive to upstate New York, looking for new guys to race, he needed to find people that didn’t already know about him, or his car.
      When I went with Jon, he showed me that the interstate highways in upstate New York were perfect for street racing. They were all wide and smooth and appeared not to have much traffic or any Police patrols.
      Jon also said that in upstate New York, there was no shortage of guys with hot cars
That were wanting to race.
      Jon said that he would drive up a New York Highway until he spotted a Roadhouse with some hotrods parked in front of it, he would then pull up in front and rev up his engine three or four times, in a few minutes he had several guys outside, wanting to race.
      I think the name Roadhouse in upstate New York were left over’s from prohibition days when they were country restaurants that had illegal liquor bars hidden in the back.
      New York was famous for serving alcohol to most anyone. When we were 16, the drinking age in New York was 18 while it was 21 in Connecticut, so whenever we guys had a chance, we would stop in New York and have a beer there. We were only 16 but they never checked our age.
      One evening in 1958, we were returning from Canada and I was driving my father’s 1955 Oldsmobile. Jon was in the passenger seat and my cousin Allen was in the back seat, we had decided to stop at a roadhouse in New York State to have a few beers. At the time in 1958 we were just 18 years old and we could legally drink in New York.
     Well, by about 10 in the evening we all had a few too many beers, and we hit finally hit the road for New Haven.
     By the time we crossed into Connecticut, I was only following the yellow line in the middle of the road, and I’m sure I was driving a little erratically.  
       We were driving through some small town in Connecticut, not far from New Haven when a policeman pulled me over. I rolled down my window, and it was pretty obvious to the cop that I was a little drunk.  He said, “Do you know you were doing 60 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone?”  I didn’t reply, I was already resigned to the fact that I was getting a ticket.
       Jon, who was as drunk as can be was sitting on the passenger side of the car, so Jon leaned over my lap in front of me to look directly into the cops face. I could see that Jon’s horned rim glasses were crooked and had slid down to the end of his nose.  Jon looked up at the cop, pushed his glasses up with one finger and said, in slurred speech, “Officer I can absolutely verify that he was only driving 45 miles per hour and I’m, willing to testify to that.
      I just listened as Jon spoke and I watched, as he again pushed his horned rim glasses back up as they had again slid down his nose. I could see Jon had the most earnest drunken expression on his face that I had ever seen.
      The police officer who already had his ticket book out, was speechless, and for what seemed like an eternity he stood there just staring at Jon. Then he said, “And who the hell are you, his roommate?”       
       The cop asked where we were going and I said, Westville and he said, “Slow down and drive carefully” and he let us go. I believe Jon has long since forgotten that incident but I didn’t and neither did my cousin Allen.    
       It was back in July of 1957, and it was about 5 in afternoon. I was sitting at the supper table in the second floor kitchen of our, two family house in Westville.
      All of a sudden we all heard what sounded like thunder coming up from our alley-way which ran alongside our house downstairs.
       Because of the closeness of the two family houses in our neighborhood, the sounds of thunder were amplified beyond belief, so I immediately I rushed out to our back porch to look down and see what the loud thundering noise was.
      There was my buddie Jon Bloom getting out of a brand new shiny 1957 Ford 2 door Coupe automobile. By the time I got downstairs, Jon already had the hood open and I could see a big shiny new Ford V8 engine with two four barreled carburetors on it.
       Jon was just beaming, his smile was from ear to ear. He said, “Factory brand new”, he also said “This car has the same latest model jumbo V8 Ford engine that the Connecticut Highway Patrol had just ordered from Ford, it’s a bear”.
      If I remember correctly, Jon said, that his father knew someone at the Ford agency who pulled a few strings, and Jon was able to order the same hot rod 1957 Ford police car that the State Troopers had ordered.
       Jon said, “This car was designed with a special 3 speed manual transmission, as well as a heavy duty suspension, all stuff that was made only for the Connecticut State Police, and Jon was so happy, he had ordered the same thing absolutely brand new.
      The car was painted a beautiful glossy black. Jon, had gotten the car before the State Police had a chance to paint any insignias on it, or put their decal on the doors.
       Jon said, “How much money you got on you,” I checked my wallet and I had a little over $20.00. John said, “I got $18.00. That means we have enough money for gasoline, lets hit the road for upstate New York.”
      What a thrill that was, a brand new, hot looking, shining black beauty, Here I was sitting in a new car that had less than 100 miles on it, it even had that intoxicating new car upholstery smell.
      Once we were well on the road that’s, when John took out his wallet and had me look for a folded piece of paper with the telephone number on it. It was the number of a fellow we had met a while back in an upstate New York Roadhouse. Jon said, “If we called him, he could set up a few races for us that very evening while we were still driving up there.
     We stopped at a phone booth and I called the fellow, who gave me directions to get to his home, he said it was in the town of Oniota New York.
      Jon drove straight all the way to Oniota, and it was about 9 or 10 in the evening by the time we were sitting in front of the address the fellow had given me.
     As Jon and I sat there, the engine, running we thought I had made a mistake. We were standing in front of a wooden porch of a hardware store, and the place was pitch black with no sign of life.
     Irritated, Jon blew his horn a few times, and we were just thinking about leaving when I heard a second floor window bottom open up, and out climbed this guy. He didn’t even close the window, but jumped on to the wooden hardware store porch roof, ran crouched along it and towards us. He then jumped from the end of the roof to the ground and got in Jon’s car as if it was the most normal thing.
     “Yes, he said that he was the right guy, the one that I had called, and he directed us to pick up his buddy who lived a few blocks away in a small white one family bungalow, also in Oniota.
      He said it was his buddy that had the all the racing contacts.
      When they both were in the car, they said that they had called everyone that they knew wanted to race and we would all meet at a popular roadhouse on the highway in the same town of Oniota New York.
      We got to the roadhouse in just a few minutes, and inside it was fairly crowded, so we all sat down at the only vacant table.
      The two guys with us ordered beers for all of us and said they were hungry. I looked at Jon and he looked at me, we only had $38.00 between us and we needed money for gas.
     We knew we needed the gas in order to race with and then to make it back home to Westville and Bethany Connecticut.
     After we ordered hamburgers and several more rounds of beer, it became obvious that these two guys weren’t going to produce any money to pay for anything. The bill was over $20.00, leaving Jon and me with less than $18.00 left.
      By about 11 in the evening, we noticed that the roadhouse was filling up with girls.
      So we were beginning to think our friends hadn’t really called anyone to come to race with us.
      We asked them who all the girls were and they said that there was a college nearby, and the girls were all students there.
     After a few minutes our two friends got up and went over to talk to some of the girls, leaving us with two empty chairs at our table, and it didn’t take long before two girls asked if they could sit there.
     We were shocked, how exciting for us, they were really good looking girls. So in the beginning we made some small talk telling them we were from Connecticut. One of the girls next to me, asked if we would buy them a drink.
     Wow, what a stroke of luck, what could be better than a good looking girl that was intoxicated, so when the waitress came over Jon ordered four beers. The girl sitting next to me said she didn’t drink beer, she wanted vodka on the rocks, so I ordered her one, it
Would cost me $1.50, but then she caught the waitress and said to make it a double.  I started to sweat, as I knew Jon and I were going to run out of money.
     The girl looked at me and said that her father had taught her how to drink Vodka.
     Well, I thought, after this girl drank a double shot of vodka, luck would be on my side. I felt that after the double drink she would be pretty drunk.
      I nursed my beer, but I was mentally calculated how little money we had left, as I watched her sip her double vodka. I felt it wouldn’t take long before the vodka would take effect on her, but nothing seemed to happen.
      We made some more small talk and then the girl sitting next to me got the waitresses attention, and she ordered another double vodka.
     We then paid for our first tab and Jon and I saw we only had about $12.00 left, and I knew we needed gas for the car, so I nudged Jon, and then I asked if we could be excused to go to the restroom.
     The restroom was in a hallway right near the back door of the roadhouse, so Jon and I ducked out the back door and we made it around the rear of the building to his car out front, and we drove all the way back to Connecticut.
    We thanked god we were safe from the girls who could have drank us into bankruptcy.
     It wasn’t many weeks after that, when Jon came to my house one evening. He caught me while I was working in my garage.
      I could see in Jon’s face that he was nervous, “I’m getting married,” He said.
      Several months later, I went to visit Jon, He was living in a home in East Hartford, and the 1957 Ford was gone. He said he was working at Pratt and Whitney as a machinist, and that was the last time I ever saw Jon.
      Over the years, whenever I had a free moment, I would look on the internet for Jon Bloom, I even called and spoke to a current Pratt and Whitney employee named Jon Bloom, but no one knew what had happen to my dear friend.
       On January 11, 2015, it was 55 years since I had last spoken to Jon, I received a message on face book, it was from Helena Babe Bergeron in Canada, Babe said she knew me and my mom, and that she had been to both my and Jon’s house when visiting in Connecticut, and then to my surprise she said, she knew Jon. Babe gave us the clues we needed, Jon had moved to Texas and had five sons and his middle name was Maxwell. My wife Katherine went to work on Google and found Jon’s first wife Maxine. I called, and her present husband Tom answered. No he didn’t know how to contact Jon but he had the phone of someone that did. So I called and I called and left a message. Two hours passed and I received a call. It was Jon Bloom in Texas. Now I hadn’t spoken to John in 55 years, nor had he spoken to me. You will never believe what he said.       
     It was 2 pm Sunday January 11, 2015. Jon said that  very morning he had said a prayer, and in the prayer he mentioned the name of two of his friends, and he had also for whatever reason had mentioned my name, This had happened after we had not heard from or spoken to each other in over 55 years.     



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