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Parking Bumpers...Stopping the Hard Way

Story ID:9136
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Parking Bumpers…Stopping the Hard Way
By Chuck Dishno
August 2013

In 1956 I was stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. Fort Lee was a Quartermaster training base near Petersburg.

I had attended and graduated from the Army School of Photography at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and my first duty assignment was at Fort Lee.

When I got there I found that they had no openings in the photo department but since I had been a projectionist for several years before being drafted, I was put in the entertainment branch and assigned to the Post Theaters. My job was to oversee the three theaters on post and keep the equipment running and supplied with projectionists.

What a cushy job! The theatres were under the entertainment branch and I had virtually no supervision as long as I did my job. I lived off base in Petersburg and would drive the 10 miles each way about once or twice a day. The main theater was a large 1000 seat building with a large parking lot with rows and rows of parking bumpers. These bumpers were called pin-downs, they were about 4 feet long and 6 inches high, not unlike the ones you see today.

My mode of transportation was a 1953 Volkswagen and one day when I returned to the theater I wondered if I could straddle those bumpers. I drove slowly the entire length, a distance of about 100 feet. There was no problem and I soon learned to hit that row of bumpers at about 30 miles per hour and exit at the far end. This became a daily routine for me but as I had no audience I soon grew tired of my trick and began to taper off.

One day I met three of my friends at the PX and we drove over to the theater. Upon entering the parking lot, I said, “Hey guys, look what I can do.” Without slowing down, I proceeded to straddle the line of bumpers. All of a sudden a terrible screeching came from under my VW and sparks were flying out like sparks from a welding torch. I apparently had forgotten the extra weight of three well-fed G.I.s, and my poor old VW came to a sudden stop after traveling about 30 feet.

As soon as it stopped we all piled out to see what damage had been done to the VW but because of the way those early Bugs were built with a solid belly pan underneath the only thing hurt was my pride. I soon became the laughing stock of the post. Even the MP’ on the gates would ask as I entered, “Hey Charlie, what kind of trick do you have planned for today?”