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- Douglas County
- City of Ava
- General Interest
By Hamlin Tallent
When I lived in Ava the best place to be was the town square and it so happens that the town square was the scene of the Great Ava Chase.
In the daytime the town square was a bustling hub of business and commerce and you could buy almost anything there from breakfast to blue jeans. I remember on the days before Christmas I would take my saved money and walk around the square shopping for my family. It was kind of like a mall but outdoors and smaller.
The town square served well as a meeting spot, and it is where the fall Glade Top Trail started and they even had an organ there in summertime.
I remember Jimmy Williams and me setting off a cherry bomb in that organ late one night. We used a cigarette for a delayed fuse and lay in wait in Jimmy’s black Camaro with baby moon hubcaps to see the thing explode. When the cherry bomb went off it went Woompf and the lid lifted a little and that was it. It was pretty disappointing and reminded me of the riddle that asks if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?
On Saturday night the square was the center of the universe! You could ride around with your date in low gear and catch up with all your friends, all night if you wanted…or at least until the movie at the Avalon or the drive-in started. After the movie you would cruise around once before heading to the bushes to try to get your date to let you kiss her.
I remember one Saturday when I was hanging out with Ron Curry and Paul Hart. My girl friend had broken up with me and Curry’s girl was off somewhere, and Hart for some reason, was by himself. That in itself is hard to believe because Hart ALWAYS had a girl friend.
Anyway, we weren’t in the hunt so we just hung out waiting to see if anything happened. Occasionally we started the car and drove up to the All Night Station and then back across the square up the hill to the Sugar Shack and then back to our parking spot on the square. There was a radio station out of Chicago we all listened to.
It was getting past ten at night and the square was pretty dead when all of a sudden Glen Mackey and a car full of guys zoomed onto the square from the wrong direction. Glen’s car made so much noise that it woke up the city marshal, Ezra Henson, who with his single, red light blinking furiously, gave chase. Going around the square in a proscribed counter rotation was absolutely forbidden!
It took Ezra a while to get going and since he was obliged to go around the square in the right direction, he soon lost Glen. Ezra eventually gave up and came back onto the square and parked by the courthouse with his lights out and engine running. All was quiet for a few minutes then Glen and the boys came roaring on again going the wrong direction and passed Ezra’s parked car nose to nose. This caused Ezra to once again have to go the long way around the square to catch him and since Glen was pretty good at driving with his lights off, he got away.
Some say there might have been beer drinking involved, but I don’t know that for a fact. Curry, Hart and I followed and tried to find Glen but he was arcing around Ava planning his next move. Instead, we went to the All Night Station and armed ourselves with cherry pie, beef jerky and cokes and waited for Robin Hood or John Dillinger or whatever Glen was supposed to be to return.
It wasn’t long when once again Glen roared onto the square going the wrong way, and this cat and mouse game went on for over an hour. I seem to recall a second deputy getting involved but I am not sure. I don’t think he had a red light though. I do know that the Highway Patrol officer stationed in town did not show up. That would have ruined the fun in a second.
It was a hoot to cheer Glen on and it reminded us of the keystone cop cartoon’s we had seen. We were a little disappointed when on one of Glen’s forbidden trips across the square, Ezra was hot on his tail. We knew the game was probably over, and followed Ezra as he was in hot pursuit, placing bets on whether or not he could get Glen to pull over. We all bet he couldn’t so there was nobody to pay when Glen sped out of the city, and away from the long arm of the law.
I don’t remember what happened to Glen, or even if Marshal Henson knew who he was chasing.
But, I am glad to say I witnessed the Great Ava Chase.
News Editor’s Note: Hamlin was featured in the Reflections column of the Douglas County Herald two weeks ago, and had submitted this story which we did not have room for at the time. Knowing that many of our readers can identify with this memory from the 1960s, we are compelled to share it with you now.
Sue Curry Jones