Back in the '70s, a friend of mine (Gary) had a 1964 Chevy Impala Super Sport. It was maroon with a silver interior and lots of chrome. A two speed tranny and, I think, a 327 under the hood. It was his pride and joy, and we did a lot of cruising around town.
A few of us back then, while in high school, held jobs. I worked at Safeway as a bagger. I was paid $1.65 a hour, which was minimum wage back then. It paid for gas for my Chevelle and beer for whenever, as well as putting some money aside for going out to have fun.
Well, my friend Gary came by our house one afternoon and parked in our driveway. He asked if I had any tools. He said that his car was running a little rough, and wanted to see about adjusting the carb a little. 'Course I didn't have any tools, but my Dad did, so I asked him if it was alright to borrow some of them. He said go ahead, but to make sure that they are put back where they belong.
So Gary had the hood up, and he was leaning under the hood. I was leaning on the front fender, and was looking on as he worked on the carburetor. Gary had some carburetor cleaner, and he sprayed a little on it and was wiping off some grime when my Dad came out to see what we were doing.
Now, back in the '70s, guys had long hair and some of us had even managed to grow what was supposed to be a beard or mustache or both. Gary was one of those who could. I, on the other hand, hadn't started to shave yet -- nothing but peach fuzz from ear to ear.
So, my Dad came out to see what was going on. Gary and I were under the hood. My Dad walked up to the car with a lit cigarette and WHOOSH -- fire ball under the hood! We jumped back. My Dad let out a few of his choice words as he hit the ground. The fire ball lasted maybe 5 to 10 seconds.
I swatted at my arms at the hair that was burning off of them. Gary, on the other hand, was slapping his face, none to gently. His beard, mustache, eyebrows, and about half his hair went POOF! Gone! He had all of these little black things all over his face as well as a very funny look.
My Dad picked himself up off the ground, and asked what the heck just happened?! I was looking at Gary and Gary was looking at me. Have you ever seen someone without eyebrows make a face of bewilderment? Now, that is something everyone should see at least once in your life time!
I don't know who started to giggle first, me or Gary, as we were pointing at each other. My Dad was kind of bent over, looking under the hood, and had not really looked at us yet. We started to laugh and my Dad finally looked at us. First at me, then at Gary. The color left my Dad's face, and Gary felt his face.
He let out a holler and put his hands where his beard used to be. Boy, howdy, he hollered again, and looked in the side view mirror. I thought that he was going to cry. He had started that beard back in junior high. And now it was gone. Well, and a lot of his hair also.
Then he pointed at me. Besides having all the hair on my arms gone, I was minus half an eyebrow and some hair from the side of my head. I looked in the mirror.
The color came back to my Dad's face and he asked again what had happened. He said he thought that the car had blown up and said that he may have to go and put on some clean underwear. He then proceeded to say how sorry he was, over and over. Gary and I did not really hear him much, 'cause we were still laughing and pointing at each other.
We finally calmed down enough, then wiped tears from our faces. My Dad kept on saying how sorry he was. It was then that Gary thought of his car. He jumped up on the bumper and inspected the engine. All seemed okay. As we stood there, my Dad offered to help. Gary told him to see if the car would start and he would watch to see if we had another fire, not realizing that it was from the cleaner and Dad's lit cigarette that caused the flash fire.
I couldn't help myself. As Dad hit the starter and Gary was looking under the hood, I hollered WHOOSH! Gary jumped about 10 feet off the ground. I got a punch in the arm for that, but I thought it was funny at the time.
We got Gary's car running better than it was when he got there and Dad offered to go to Gary's house to explain what had happened.
I went and got a haircut.
Gary should have taken my Dad's offer. Monday at school Gary was a no-show. Same on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday morning he showed up at school, clean shaven and wearing a wool ski cap on his head. He had it pulled down low enough that you could not see that his eyebrows were gone. He wore that ski cap for several weeks and it wasn't even winter time.
His hair grew out, and he grew a new beard and mustache. I think that it looked a lot better than the first one. Maybe that flash fire was a good thing! 'Course, when he would come to our house after that he gave my Dad a wide berth. Dad told him that if he ever wanted to work on his car at our house that he would just watch from the front porch.
Gary still has his beard and long hair. I wonder if he has ever thinks about that day. I will ask him the next time I talk to him!