Tag Archives: go-carts

Kenner, Kids, and Go-Carts – Part 2

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I said in the post Kenner, Kids, and Go-Carts that another story would follow. Here is Part 2, the painful part.

I must have been about 14. It was a warm summer day in Kenner, and the “gang” was playing with roller skates and our go-carts, which, as it turned out, was a bad combination. The gang that day consisted of Manard Lagasse, Joey Giammalva, Bobby Manard, me, and several others I can’t recall just now. The skates were, of course, the old steel wheel versions you clamp onto your shoes. Kind of hard to do with Keds, but It can be done. You have to get the clamps tight enough the soles of your Keds are folded in half lengthways and your little toe is almost kissing your big toe.

In one of my more “brilliant” moments, I thought it would be a good idea to roller skate behind the go-cart, kind of like water skiing, albeit on a much less forgiving surface, concrete. This took place on Sixth Street between Williams and Compromise, and the concrete was the kind with lots of aggregate in it, meaning rough—very rough. Joey was elected to do the pulling with his go-cart, and I volunteered to do the skate/skiing. Seemed logical, since it was my idea. Actually, I think the others were smart enough to wait and see if I died before they tried it.

Disclaimer: Kids don’t try this at home. Dangerous stunts like this should only be attempted by professional idiots.

It began badly and ended worse.

With me holding onto the back of his seat, Joey headed down Sixth towards Compromise and soon reached maximum velocity, probably around 20mph. The rough concrete was taking its toll on my skates. With the ball bearings screaming, the steel wheels were heating up, and sparks started flying. Those steel wheels on that rough concrete were vibrating so much, I was sure the fillings in my teeth would rattle out. (OK, maybe all that was an exaggeration, but not by much!)

After about a hundred feet of roller skating terror, I decided I had enjoyed as much as I could stand and yelled for Joey to stop. Either he didn’t hear me, or he ignored me, because he didn’t stop. Louder yelling still got no response. With his head down low and leaning into the onrushing wind like some dog with his head out the window of the family sedan, Joey plowed ahead ignorant of my plight. My only option was to let go before the steel wheels melted and burned through the soles of my Keds. So, I did, just about when we hit the turn onto Compromise.

I thought (hoped) I could stay upright long enough to coast slowly to a stop. Didn’t quite work out like that. I managed to remain upright for, oh, maybe a second and a half before I crashed and burned, rolling down Compromise like a very large, wayward football. When I finally came to a stop, I figured something HAS to be broken and immediately took inventory. Feet and legs OK! Right hand and arm OK! Left hand—OH CRAP! NOT OK! BAD! VERY BAD!!

My bird finger was no longer straight but was zigzagged. The index finger wasn’t any straighter, but more significantly, it was not where it was supposed to be! It was on the side of my hand back near my thumb and pointing in a decidedly inappropriate direction—at me!

Manard, Bobby, and Joey stood there in awe, slack-jawed, eyes wide, and I am sure deciding not to try that themselves. One asked, “You hurt?”

I held up my mangled hand and let fly with a string of adult expletives.

“Yeah, he’s hurt!”

The still smoking skates immediately came off, and I headed home, which, fortunately, was only a block away. MB, my dad and doctor, was tinkering in the garage at the time I walked up and announced, “Look!”

He did. I guess his experience treating wounded in WWII had enabled him not to show emotion that might alarm the patient. His expression unchanged, he calmly asked, “How did you do that?”

I was thinking what difference does that make? Fix it!

Not waiting for an answer, with his left hand, he grabbed my wounded hand at the wrist and examined it. I suppose to avoid what would certainly have been my screaming protests, without a warning, he grabbed my dislocated finger and put it back where it belonged.

There, fixed.

I very nearly fainted!

MB decided the rest was beyond his bone setting skills and made me wait until he finished with patients in the office that night before he took me to a bone specialist to have everything set properly. I got to wear a cast for six weeks, which effectively ended my skating behind a go-cart career, not that I was disappointed at its loss. Both fingers healed fine, except I can bend them in directions that make some people a little queasy.

On the plus side, my finger now knows when the weather is about to change.

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Kenner, Kids, and Go-Carts

Or better known as “hell on wheels.”

We were mostly young teenagers then and before we were allowed to drive a car or even begin learning how to drive a car, but we wanted to drive something. And just in time along came the go-cart craze. Joey Giammalva was the first on the block to get one, followed by Manard Lagasse. I think I was next, followed by Bobby Manard.

We had an interesting variety of go-carts. Joey’s and mine were the same model with a two-stroke engine, which required mixing oil with the gasoline. It was low slung and fast looking, with the emphasis on the “looking” part.

Manard’s go-cart looked more like a soapbox racecar stripped down to the skeleton without the outer body. It was long and not as wide as the ones Joey and I ran. Manard’s “soapbox” go-cart was powered by a four-stroke engine, and this resulted in long heated discussions on the merits of two-stroke verses a four-stroke engines, the precursor of later heated discussions on the merits of Chevy verses Ford engines when we graduated to cars.

My cousin Bobby’s go-cart was a two-seater, which I suppose was so he and his older sister, Melanie, could ride at the same time, although I don’t recall Melanie ever showing up with the “go-cart gang.” And Boo, my uncle and Bobby and Melanie’s dad, generally restricted Bobby’s go-cart activity with us older kids. When Bobby got the “keys” to the go-cart and joined us, he was just as bad as the rest of us, confirming his father’s suspicions.

Several other neighborhood kids also acquired go-carts, and one was Al LeBlanc who lived way over on Compromise Street. Getting together required someone traveling across Kenner and subsequently getting the unwanted attention of the Kenner police, since we usually used streets to get around when sidewalks were not available or inconvenient, and they were rarely convenient. They harassed us for a while but eventually gave up; I suppose resigned to the “fact” one of us would eventually get run over by a car and scare the rest into staying off the streets. Fortunately, that never happened, although we did have a few close calls.

Real helmets were non-existent then. We improvised with Army surplus helmet liners from WWII, which offered the barest minimum of protection. We used them mainly because they looked cool. Most of us painted them white, which did make us a bit more visible to motorists, and Ralph Marino painted clever names and logos on the front for us. I was “The Cheetah,” and my logo was a hand of cards comprised of five aces. Wish I still had that helmet!

As red-blooded American boys are wont to do, we pushed our go-carts to the limits. How fast can we go was the first question to find an answer for? We soon discovered they had two speeds: full-speed-peddle-to-the-metal and stop. If we weren’t stopped and jaw-boning, we were going full-speed-peddle-to-the-metal somewhere, which was around 20-25 mph. That was a guess, since none of us never actually clocked our go-carts to find out. Races were a common occurrence in the beginning, but since we were not modifying them to go faster, the results were always the same unless someone cheated. Racing soon got boring.

So instead of racing, we challenged each other to do stupid stuff with our go-carts. When we got older, this would be characterized by the phrase “hold my beer and watch this.” If we could find anything even remotely resembling a hill from which we could launch ourselves, we would see if the go-carts could jump. Actually, they do though not very well and landing was hard on the spine since they were not sprung. We discovered if we got up to full speed then jerked the steering wheel to one side or the other while we locked up the breaks, which were only on the rear wheels, we could do a 180 spinning turn, kind of hard on the tires but fun.

Unfortunately, this trick sometimes had unintended results. Once I led the pack doing this in the middle of Minor Street with Manard in his soapbox go-cart behind me. I stopped after accelerating out of my 180 turn and looked to my right just as Manard’s go-cart puttered past me—minus Manard. He was sprawled out on his back in the middle of Minor Street where he fell off while doing the 180 turn.

Another “fun” thing we did was mix go-carts with roller skates, but that is another (painful) story that will follow soon.

When I got older, and the go-cart craze wore off, MB removed the engine from mine and modified it with bicycle peddles for my two younger sisters to use. MB got the gearing wrong. The girls had to peddle like crazy to get the thing to even move at a snail’s pace. They were exhausted just going twenty feet, but maybe that was his intention. And thus was the ignoble end of my beautiful go-cart.

But that was OK with me; I had graduated to cars! Did you know you can do with cars a lot of the things you can do with go-carts? A lot, but not all.

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