The Big K Parking Lot.
Once upon a time, that was the place to be if you were a teen and wanted to meet up with friends and just hang out. On Friday and Saturday nights, teenagers (and some older) flocked to that spot like geese migrating south for the winter.
I was a young greenhorn of eighteen when I first got wind of this magical place. One weekend I’d been cruising and decided to see what all the hubbub was about. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw rows of cars/trucks parked in the middle, and a line of cars/trucks circling them. Over and over. Just driving around in circles. Occasionally someone would yell out their window to someone else, or someone would hop out of a car and jump into another one. Mainly they just drove in circles.
I soon found myself amongst the teenage hordes, circling the parking lot with no destination in mind. It was like NASCAR, except much, much slower, and there were no checkered flags and no prize. I was back the next weekend, still driving around and around. And around.
After two weekends of that, I calculated I’d burned enough gasoline to drive the distance of the moon and back. Twice. Since I was employed, and since I was a young, minimum wage earner, and since I was buying my own gas, it didn’t seem smart to continue doing this. So, I pulled my car out of the line and parked it in the middle of the lot. I sat on the hood, trying not to feel silly. And a funny thing happened.
I started meeting people.
One weekend at the parking lot, my cousin Joe Winsett and I were standing by our cars, shooting the breeze with Bruce Sherer. Just being guys. Bruce’s car windows were down and the stereo was playing Quiet Riot. Loudly. Suddenly Bruce whirled around and leaped through the open window of his car. The radio’s volume instantly dropped to a whisper. He explained he’d spotted a police officer nearby and we resumed our youthful banter. About a half hour later we were engaged in witty conversation when we heard a voice call out to us. This time it was too late. A police officer materialized beside us and scolded us for playing the radio too loud.
Then he did the unthinkable.
He invited us to leave. Right then, and not politely. He also strongly implied that he didn’t want us to come back. Ever.
I was gobsmacked. What manner of new devilry was this? Ejected from the Big K parking lot against our will? And why? Because we were rowdy and starting fights? Because we were imbibing alcohol or selling illegal substances? No.
Because. The radio. Was. Too. Loud.
I’d hardly received one paddling in twelve years of school, and here I was, 18 years old, and I was being ejected from the grandest teen hangout in Jasper, the magnificent Big K parking lot. I was now a full-fledged card-carrying hoodlum.
We vacated the premises as ordered and met Bruce a few minutes later at the Parkland Shopping Center parking lot near Gabby’s. We stood around our cars for a few minutes, wondering if there was a cool place we could go and just…stand around our cars and talk. Then Bruce had a thought.
“Y’all ever been to the Fun Bump?” he said.
We looked at each other with what must have been teenage confusion, with a side order of curiosity. “The Fun Bump?” we repeated. Witty devils, we were.
“Oh, you gotta go to the Fun Bump! Come on, follow me,” Bruce grinned.
Our tour guide led us down several streets, then made a right turn onto 8thAvenue. Soon his taillights were far ahead of us. We wondered aloud where Bruce was taking us.
Then up ahead of us we saw his headlights arc upwards and then down sharply. As we approached the same spot, my stomach dropped as the car lifted off the ground for a moment and landed with a bounce. I should have been worried about damaging the car suspension, but that night I felt like Burt Reynolds jumping the bridge in Smokey and the Bandit.
The Fun Bump.
Giggling like a couple of giddy schoolgirls, we circled around the block and headed back to 8thAvenue. Of course, we had to do it again. I aimed the car down the same stretch of road, stood on the accelerator, and in seconds we were airborne again. It’s possible that someone in the neighborhood could have heard a bona fide Dukes of Hazzard “rebel yell” as we soared ever so briefly over the Fun Bump.
About a week later, we returned to the Big K parking lot and resumed our youthful shenanigans. We never saw the policeman again.
Our group gradually dwindled as we met and dated other people. Some of us married and began our own families. In time, that stretch of pavement we cruised so many weekend nights became less important in our lives than paying bills and changing diapers.
Time marches on. Joe works for U.S. Steel and is a talented singer-songwriter. The Fun Bump has been filled in and therefore lacks the thrill it once held for us. The Big K parking lot is now home to a strip mall and a Hobby Lobby.
And Bruce is now a district manager with an auto parts company. Whenever I see him, I always smile to myself and remember the night when three teenage boys were kicked out of Big K’s parking lot. And I remember when Bruce introduced us to the Fun Bump.
Witty devils, we were. 78