A Friday night road trip long ago


Jeff Gilliland


I was standing in The Times-Gazette’s back parking lot last Friday, looking down over Richards Memorial Field a few blocks away, where Hillsboro was playing its first football game of the 2015 season. As I hopped in my car and headed toward those lights my thoughts drifted back to a Friday night 37 football seasons ago.

I’m not sure why this particular night crept into my consciousness. Maybe it was because as I hopped in my car I was recalling all those nights as a sports reporter that I jumped into my car and headed toward a ball game somewhere. Maybe it was sight of the lights, and the familiar sounds and smells in the air. But whatever the reason, that’s where my mind went.

The whole episode actually flashes through my mind in the blink of eye. But as it lingered a bit, it brought a smile, even a little chuckle, and reminded me how carefree we often are in our younger years.

I was a senior in high school. I did not play football after junior high, but I did play basketball. It was late in football season and preseason basketball practice had started, at least for those of us who didn’t play football.

After practice this particular evening one of my teammates and I – I won’t name him, but he’s a cop in Greenfield now and runs a restaurant in uptown Hillsboro – decided to drive to Madison-Plains to watch our peers play a football game.

It was a pretty uneventful drive to the game, but that was about the only uneventful part of the evening.

Anyway, when we got to Madison-Plains we were a little late for the start of the game and the open parking places were few. But, I managed to squeeze into a tight spot between a utility pole that was laying flat on the ground, and a couple other vehicles.

The game was kind of ho hum. Hillsboro usually beat Madison-Plains back in those days, but on this night the Indians suffered a 7-6 set back (they went on to finish the season 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the South Central Ohio League).

My buddy and I were heading back to my car after the game, wearing our Hillsboro Varsity H jackets, of course, (I think the only time we didn’t wear them was if it was 70 or above) when this group of girls from Madison-Plains started teasing us about the outcome of the game. Being boys, we couldn’t just flirt a little and let the comments pass, but instead started bragging about how things would be different in basketball season. The conversation went back and forth until we came to my car and my buddy and I climbed in.

Still feeling a little fired up from the conversation and, I suppose, you know, trying to prove how cool I was, I threw my car in reverse and hit the gas pedal pretty hard. But, I forgot about the pole I’d parked in front of. It was more narrow on the end that was pointing directly under the back of my car, and before I knew it my car slid right over it until we were stuck atop it. I tried to go forward, but that didn’t work. We got out of the car, looked around, and saw that my rear tires weren’t even touching the ground. So, seeing few other options, we had to ask the girls to help push us off the pole.

They got a pretty laugh out of the request, but kindly obliged, and on our way we went.

Still more than a little embarrassed, a couple miles down the road we noticed we were pretty low on gas. Back in those days there weren’t a lot of gas stations open around 10 p.m. between Madison-Plains High School and Hillsboro. And besides, we probably didn’t have much money.

Somewhere along the line we came across a filling station and saw some guys inside. They were closed, but we tried to talk them into letting us have some gas. They said they couldn’t help us, so on we drove.

We must have passed through Washington C.H., but either we were completely broke or I decided to take the chance and see if we could make it home. Somewhere between Samantha and Hillsboro I found I made the wrong the decision when my car sputtered to a stop.

There were no cell phones in those days, and I can’t remember exactly how it happened. But, I think my buddy finally flagged someone down and hitched a ride into Hillsboro to find some gas. I know for sure that after I’d been sitting in my car alongside U.S. Route 62 for what seemed like a really long time, one of my buddy’s older brothers finally showed up with some gas.

I must have been late getting home that night, although I don’t remember the conversation with my mother, who was always up when I got home. But I do remember this – our basketball team lost to Madison-Plains and the late Downtown Dickey Brown both times that year, 67-61 and 69-66.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland
http://timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_1-Jeff-1.jpgJeff Gilliland
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