Friday, June 23, 2017

Things That Happened Before They Invented Instagram

image: Flickr Almaraz

Algernon “Al” will be 90 next month.  Algernon spent his entire working life as a fireman.  I saw him on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, because he was the right age I asked him if he had ever served in the military...that's how I learned about a few amazing things that happened before they invented Instagram.

Al never served in the armed forces.  Al was a firefighter.  

Al has a halting way of speaking, due to his age and a few health issues, and it seemed difficult for him to talk today, like he had to force the words out of his mouth.

I considered Al for a moment. I was unsure if I should press him for details but he seemed so eager, looking right at me for the first time, his eyes wider and clearer than I was used to seeing.  So, I plunged right in and asked him a question that transported him back nearly 80 years. "What made you want to be a fireman, Al?"

Al thought about my question for a minute and said it was because he “cared too much” and "couldn’t stand to not help at accidents".  He said it started when he was a 12.    

Scrawny, by his own admission, 12 year old Algernon's life saving career started on a snowy night in 1939.  

(Photo: Pexels Free Images)

He was with his mom and 5 sisters on a car trip in the Adirondack mountains. It was, indeed, snowing. Algernon said they saw a car fly by them in the “suicide lane.”  Just a ways up the road they watched as the driver of this car crashed into a parked car.  The driver was ejected and somehow, in the wreck, the front tire had flown off the car and the driver's head ended up under his vehicle’s front brake drum, with the full weight of the car's front end pressing down on him. 

Algernon said his mother stopped the car, unsure what she could do but told her children to stay in the car and not get out for any reason. He said she didn't want them to see the carnage.  Al could see the wrecked car had started smoking, threatening to catch fire.  Another motorist stopped seconds later. This other motorist, a man who was an interior decorator (not the strongest of men by Al's assessment), ran to their car and told Al to get out, he needed his help.  He jumped out without hesitation.  

The other motorist told Al he was going to lift the front of the car up (the average weight of a car at that time was more than 3,200 pounds) and he wanted Al to drag the man free by pulling him by the legs.  

So that is what they did on that snowy night.  

Algernon told me the snow fell in slow motion as the other motorist counted to three.  The car smoked and Al looked up just as the other motorist shouted "Three!" the signal for him to drag the man's body free of the 1.6 ton vehicle. 

The man was taken to Glenn Falls Hospital. He lived.  Al and his mom and sisters resided in Hudson Falls, NY.  He said his mother went over to check on the man and was happy to report to them that he had survived the crash and was on the mend.  

In a simple twist of fate the other motorist became Al’s step dad.  Al said on some Saturday nights you could find his dad alone in the garage. He would jack their car up and put blocks under the front end and try to lift the car (it was the same model as the wrecked man's car had been).  

Al said his step dad was never once able to lift it.  

But he had lifted it that snowy night.  

(Photo: Pexels Free Images)

Al served as a fireman for 54 years and helped countless people along his way. 

Everyone has a story to tell.  What's yours?

{All the stories shared in "Things That Happened Before They Invented Instagram" come from the lives of real people that I am privileged to meet each day. They have led exceptional lives and I feel honored to hear the stories that they tell.} 

1 comment:

Mo-Reen said...

Amazing story! People lead such interesting lives.