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Posted: October 25, 2011 7:06 p.m.

Travis: The story of the sidewalk steps

Directly across the street from my driveway is a short flight of steps that leads to the sidewalk. They appear rather innocuous, but they have been a part of some strange events.

The first occurred probably more than 30 years ago. Mrs. King lived in the house just east of those steps. She was a widow. When her family deemed that she should no longer drive, they hired someone to stay with her. That someone was Joan Crawford. (After introducing herself, she would immediately tell you that she had the name first. That fact alone should alert you to the fact that Joan Crawford was not that much younger than Mrs. King).

Joan Crawford had never had a driver's license and was not that comfortable driving a car. But obviously she needed a car and a driver's license if she was going to help Mrs. King, who was no longer allowed to drive. She took the test and received her license and purchased a car, not a fancy one, but a serviceable one.

She gradually became more competent in her driving and usually just had to run several errands a day to places that were not more than four or five blocks away.

Then one day she was coming down the driveway and preparing to make a right turn to go towards the square when a car came past her faster than normal and frightened her. Intending to stop, she pressed what she thought was the brake. However, she was flustered and hit the gas instead. Her car took a right out of the driveway, continued right up the steps and across the sidewalk, continued right through what was then a magnolia tree with branches to the ground and then went right back into the driveway where she had originally started. At that point she stopped. She thought no one had seen her, and after composing herself, she made a proper turn out of the driveway and completed her errand.

Someone did see her, however. But I don't think Mr. Patterson, the owner of the magnolia tree, ever figured out what happened to his tree.

The other event involved my husband and happened about 10 years after the original one. It was about 8 a.m. and he was leaving the driveway going to work and carefully balancing a cup of coffee in his right hand. At the time, he drove a copper-colored jeep.

When he got to the end of the driveway, he saw the morning paper and decided to stop and pick it up before he left the house. He opened the door and leaned over. Remember a jeep is higher off the ground than a car, and I think that fact did not enter into his calculations. Also he was trying to balance his coffee and not spill it while retrieving the paper. And he did not have his seat belt on. So as he leaned over to pick up the paper, he just continued down until he lost his balance and rolled out of the Jeep, still trying not to spill his coffee.

Unfortunately, he had not put the Jeep in park so as he left the car and his foot was no longer on the brake, the car slowly crossed the street and climbed the steps. My daughter was in the driveway preparing to leave for school and watched in amazement as the scene unfolded.

He got up and began to chase the Jeep across the street. At this time of day the street was full of traffic as Ficquett and Sharp were just beginning the school day. It was a wonder that the Jeep did nothing more than climb and steps and stall and that no cars hit him or the Jeep as he chased it across the street.

He did get the paper, but he spilled his coffee. One of the tires ran over his hand. To this day he says it is not funny because he could have had more than his hand run over. He's right. But it's funny.

Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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