Remembrance of Things Past: When strangers, political foes helped each other out

It was a Saturday in the summer of 1971 when my father, Alvah Welt, as was his biweekly custom, drove his ‘62 Pontiac to Wally’s Gulf for a fill-up. He left his car, keys, and Gulf credit card with the owner, Gordon Wallace, and walked up West Main Street to Frank Sisco’s second floor barbershop.

After getting his usual crew cut, and quite likely buying a ticket to the Stonington Democratic Town Committee chicken barbeque, he headed back to Wally’s. (It should be noted, by the way, that my father was a Republican who lived on the Groton side of Mystic.) Returning to the gas station to retrieve his car, which Mr. Wallace had parked in the Groton Savings Bank lot across the street (banks weren’t open on Saturdays in those days), my father found Wally in conversation with a young sailor who had pulled in because his car wasn’t running right. Wally was explaining to the young man that the problem was a faulty fuel pump, which was an easy repair. However, the auto parts store in Groton, which had a pump, didn’t deliver on Saturdays, and Wally obviously couldn’t shut down the station to go get it.

Hearing this, my father told the sailor that he would be happy to give him a ride over to Groton to get the part. The young man was a little surprised at the offer and asked why my father would be willing to do that. The answer was simple. My dad said, “I have a son in the Navy stationed in Charleston. I hope that if he were ever in a similar situation, someone would be willing help him out.”

Robert F. Welt is a retired public school teacher in Groton.

Editor's note: Remembrance of Things Past is a feature in the Times in which we ask readers to submit snippets from their lives that are humorous or instructive. To submit, email l.howard@theday.com.

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