A Car Crashes into Taylor and Virginia

Taylor and Virginia, 1963, courtesy of Colin DuncanJimmy [Wally’s son] came to our house and said that he was going to go to a camp to just visit. So he came to the house. Now Daddy [Taylor] was still living. He said, “Tell me how to get the . . . .”—see those days, people used trolley cars a lot, you know. Where did he get the trolley car to take him up to Lexington, that’s where it was.

And so Daddy told him where to get the trolley car. But he says, “Better than that, you get in the car and your grandmother and I’ll take you up to Lexington. That isn’t so far and it’s round about to go by trolley.” He got in the car and we took him up to someone’s house. I guess it was the counselor’s house. He was well-received.

We got in our car to come back home again. When we got to the next corner—this was in Lexington, I tell you. We—I take an awful lot of blame for this. He said, “I wonder whether we were to go up this street or whether we’re to go up further on this avenue?”

I said, “I don’t know but I think we were to go up the avenue.” Then we got to the corner, I said, “Oh no, I guess we it was the street.” See I didn’t know anything about that location. So we started around to go up that street.

As we did—it was sort of on a hill—along comes a car and runs right into us. Ran right into the side where Daddy was sitting. He was pinned to the car and I was right alongside of him, you know. It was just awful because the car ran into his left-hand side and broke this left leg, right here, you know, and also the right leg down farther. Both legs were broken.

[Barb]: Oh.

We attracted enough attention. One man called out. He said, “I saw the whole thing. You didn’t know which way you were going. You were uncertain.” I said, I said to myself, it really was my fault because I wasn’t too sure which street to go up. And anyway we had that awful accident.

So we stayed there for a little while, and first thing you know the police and the fire department came along. They were afraid the car was going to get on fire. Daddy was pinned in the seat there. I couldn’t, we couldn’t get him out anyway. So when the fire department came along, they had to cut the car all around to get him out of it.

When the car ran into it, I didn’t know what to do. I jumped out of the car and jumped it back in it again because I didn’t want to leave him. I could see I couldn’t get him out. Then when the fire department came, they cut all around and got him out of it. And the ambulance took he and myself to the hospital.

‘Course, I was hurt a little bit. My back, I thought it was broken because that’s the first thing that you feel is the impact in your back, you know. I was so confused I didn’t know what to do. Whether to get out or sit there. You know, I was in and out of that car two or three times.

The windshield was so badly broken that it sifted in my mouth. I said to a lady, “Could you get me a piece of bread, please? My mouth is full of glass. I’m afraid of swallowing it for fear it’ll cause damage in my system with all this broken glass.” She went in and got me a slice of bread, soft bread, so as to see if I could see if I could get that glass out of my mouth. And I know it was in Daddy’s, too, you know. It was awful.

When they took me to the hospital, the first thing I kept saying was, “Take care of him, but oh how my back hurts. Oh, how my back hurts.” I was sure that they had broken my back, too, you know, except that I could get out, get out and in. I guess I went in and out three or four times.

Then they took Daddy to the hospital. He was there for a month, I guess, and then it was so terribly expensive and he, being a veteran, I said, “Why shouldn’t I take him over to the veterans’ hospital?” They took us both in the ambulance over to the veteran’s hospital, which was not too terribly far away.

When I got to the veteran’s hospital, they examined me well and told me that there was nothing broken. ‘Course they gave me all kinds of X-rays, as well as Daddy, of course. He was badly injured. Both of his legs broken and one arm. Three things. He really was in a bad way.

They took us both into the hospital, but I didn’t have to stay. They didn’t think I was seriously hurt at all. But I know for a long time my back ached. However, he never got up on his feet again. That was in, I would say, that was September and he died in December. He never really got up on his feet again.

Every time I’d go to the hospital, he would say, “Take me home.”

I’d say, “What would I do with you at home with all these broken?” You know, his arm broken.

[Barb]: Did they put a pin in it? Did they operate?

They operated! No, it was absolutely severed! It wasn’t something that was just cracked. It was absolutely broken off! I said, “I could not take care of you.” I don’t know how I could, I’d have to have a . . . .

[Barb]: No I mean did they operate on the broken bones?

Oh, they tried to, but it was so badly broken they had an awful time. They had all kinds of doctors come up and look at this one leg, thinking if they could take care of the one leg, maybe, you know, he could get by with one limb.

He kept saying, “No, don’t take my leg away. I’m sure that it will go back together.” But his arm or his leg never did heal. Never did heal.

I’d go down there every single day. It was an awful long trip. As Wally told you last night, that’s when I started to think I ought to be able to drive, you know. And so I took lessons. I used to go up and down Commonwealth Avenue. I don’t know whether you know anything about it. I tried awful hard to learn, but I was in such an upset condition myself, knowing my husband was in the hospital, you know, and I had to go down there. I was really afraid, myself, to get in my car and go beyond 69th Street.

Oh, I never became a good driver because I had too much fear in my heart, you know. I remember paying them $48 for the lessons, which killed me because there was no other income but my own.

partial transcription of Virginia’s life story as told to Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Do you recall the names of the hospitals to which they were taken, either first or the veteran’s hospital?
  • Which children were called when this happened? Can Lee, Betty or Steve tell us the story from their perspective?
  • What do the grandchildren remember about this: Jimmy or anyone else? Did you visit Grandpa in the hospital?
  • Grandpa died in 1969. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) Grandma remembers the car crash in September followed directly by his death in December. Are these the dates you recall?
  • What else should we know about this story?
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3 thoughts on “A Car Crashes into Taylor and Virginia

  1. Jim Duncan

    Pretty accurate. They gave me a ride to the home of a girl I had met the previous summer at Camp Squanto in NH. Shortly after they dropped me off, her parents were driving us somewhere and we encountered the accident scene. It was quite horrid, and he was pinned in while they used circular saws to cut out the sides (pre- Jaws of Life days). I went with them to to hospital.
    Pretty clearly Grandpa’s fault, and the folks who hit them were absolutely mortified and apologetic nonetheless.

    I also remember visiting him in the hospital sometime later (recalling it as the first time I saw someone so sick), and I got dizzy and nearly blacked out.

    His death was the first of a person in this then-16-yr old’s family or circle of friends, and it impacted me significantly. But the most enduring memory – to which I have referred on many subsequent occasions – was the overwhelming joy and esprit de corps of the family as we all gathered for the funeral and then afterward at Grandma’s house. So much laughing, so warm, just so invigorating and full of life! I marveled as it as much as I enjoyed it. It was my first exposure to the truth that the death style of a Christian and the grieving style of Christians who loved him is as powerful a testimony as is their lifestyles. So when Dallas Willard would pray that we would live a radiant life and have a radiant death, I had a picture of what that looks like.

  2. vgorman63

    Thank you, Dawn! It is good to read the details of that. How horrible it must have been for Grandma, struggling with grandpa wanting to come home, but knowing she could not care for him; having to travel the distance to see him and wanting to learn to drive but not being able to; having financial hardships at the same time. Jim, thanks for your contribution to the story! I wish I could have been part of the funeral and gathering afterward! I love all the fun the Duncan family had at gatherings!

  3. Bertrand Stevens Duncan (STEVE)

    In 1966, Marcia and I #8 were Married and in August of 1967 I left for Italy to prepare for Marcia’s arrival, study more Italian, start school at the Universitá de Padova. When Christmas time came we joined with Harley and Betty in an idyllic chateau on Mont Solei in Switzerland. It was at that time when we received an indirect phone call that Dad TAD sr. had died, now months after the car crash which also occurred while I was in Italy in preparation for studying. So I didn’t have much information except via Marcia that Dad had had the accident and the physical results thereof. It was a few days after the death that we received word of his death. Because of financial restraints we made no trip back to the States for any funeral or viewing. We both had said our “goodbyes” earlier recognizing that it might well be for the last time.
    In quietness of the chalet room that the emotion of his passing finally hit us. Dad was 52 years older than I when I was born and Mom D. was 40 at my cesarian section. I remember it just like it was yesterday…the irregular birth and life start.

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