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Friday, July 8, 2011


I am stealing this story from my wife’s Aunt Catherine who is my landlady for two weeks at the Jersey Shore and is fast becoming one of my favorite ladies.

We were discussing how we hate new technology when she admitted that sometimes a cell phone can be handy.  That led to the following story.

In the late sixties when Aunt Catherine was a younger woman she worked at a bakery.  Actually she and her husband, my wife’s uncle Vinnie, owned and ran a very successful bakery in central New Jersey.  The bakery business starts very early in the morning, and it was often open until nine PM.  Uncle Vinnie apparently opened early in the morning, Aunt Catherine often closed up in the evening.

One evening Aunt Catherine closed up around 9:30 and left for her home in Elizabeth N.J.  Several miles from home her car broke down.  Probably a broken belt to the generator as the car just stopped and the starter would not crank a single crank.  Aunt Catherine said this was a time when a cell phone would have come in very handy.

Stalled out after dark in an undesirable section of Elizabeth with a shoebox full of that day’s receipts (apparently a considerable sum) Aunt Catherine was more than a little nervous.

As she left the car to seek help she was approached by two young black men.  “Need some help?”  They asked.  Aunt Catherine admits that it was politically incorrect to be nervous.  A young Italian girl with a shoebox of cash being approached by two black youths in the undesirable side of town should not make a person nervous.  Aunt Catherine admits to being not nervous, but very scared. 

She explained her car problem, and the young men tried to push her car to jump start the engine.  That did not work.  They then used their car to give her an accelerated push start.  That also did not work.  Finally they asked, “Where do you live, we’ll give you a ride home.”

In the sixties race relations in this country were very tenuous at best.  Black Panthers were a growing racist group.  The KKK clan was still active.  Martin Luther King had been assassinated.  There had been riots in nearby Newark and Plainfield where shops were looted and burned to the ground.  A young Italian girl being driven home by two young black strangers was unheard of.  Aunt Catherine was now really nervous, but she related, “What was I going to do?” 

The young men gave her a ride home.  Aunt Catherine clutched the shoebox full of cash and thanked them for the ride.  She did not want to let on that she owned a bakery and was loaded with that day’s receipts, so she told them, “I have no money to offer you, but I work at the bakery in Clark.  Any time you want, just drop on by and I will fix you up with some free goods.”

“Oh that’s OK” they responded, “Just tell your men friends that if they see a young black girl on the side of the road having car problems to help her out!”

Aunt Catherine never saw these young men again.

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  1. Joe

    This story just goes to prove that you should never make snap judgements on people, but make your own decisions and go with your instinct.

    It's a lovely tale and thank you to you and Aunt Catherine for showing some faith in genuine human kindness - it's a pity there aren't more people who do the same.

    Lou :-) x

  2. Thank you so much for sharing such a great story! You are such a valuable contributor to my "Crowning Moments!" hop.

    Wouldn't the world be so much more wonderful to live in if you could trust anyone who pulled over to "help" and that everyone would be so willing to help others. Good for Aunt Catherine for putting her faith in natural human goodness.

  3. Sadly, in today's society, you really have to be careful about offering help to random strangers, especially at night. Sad, but true.