When my daughter ran into a burning car: to save her doll

When my daughter ran into a burning car: to save her doll
A legless Kissin' Cousins. Still lives with my daughter.

The year 1962 was a year that is not difficult for me to remember. I remember the year since my wife was pregnant with our third child. We had recently purchased a used car and decided to take it up to South Haven, MI and show our children the area where their parents met, take them for ice cream to Sherman’s Dairy, a landmark, for a treat and other memorable places.

Each of our daughters had a favorite doll to accompany them.  One was a circus clown named Clownie. The other was Kissin’ Cousins, one of the favorites in that time period.  That one belonged to our daughter, Teppi Dachman Jacobsen, all of 4 years old. (She is the author of the Chicagonow.com blog When You Put it That Way).

On the way back to Chicago we noticed some smoke coming out of the car and decided to get off at the next exit and find a gas station with a repair department.  I was urged to pull over but as a stubborn man I stayed with the plan of getting off at the next exit.  Yep you guessed it; the Car went from smoke to fire.  So we pulled off the road with the car in flames, hurried out and ran up a hill until we thought we were out of danger.

Now, this is the scary part. It’s no wonder my wife didn’t deliver the baby right there and then. There should have been 4 of us. My wife, I and our two daughters but there were only three and then we saw and realized Teppi, our youngest daughter was running down the hill into the burning car. We started to yell and scream for her to stop and get away from the car.

I began running downhill to stop her. But, it was too late. She had entered the car to rescue Kissin’ Cousins from being burned. She made it.  Now what is a parent to do, yell at her? That was our first instinct but instead we wrapped our arms around her and asked why she ran away to the car.

At that point we didn’t realize how important it was to her to rescue her doll! ( Now, in the year 2013, the doll is safe in her home.  After all, look what she did to rescue her.)

Then a miracle occurred.  A van with their own family saw the fire and pulled over to help.  The man managed to open the hood, grab sand off the side of the road and douse the fire.   As it turned out he was in the Army stationed in Iron Mountain, Michigan and was on way home to Chicago on furlough.

He explained that was the better way of putting out the fire rather than water.  Then it dawned on all of us we were stranded without a car and in 1962 there were no cell phones, no car phone, no way to call for help.

Then the second miracle occurred. The soldier (Sgt. U S Army) said he would drive us home and reassured us that all will be well. He had to take some luggage out of his van and secure it to the top. Then he had his own children sit so their backs were facing the opposite direction and took my wife by the hand and placed her in the comfortable van along with me and our daughters. It turned out he was visiting family at 56th and LaSalle on the South side and we lived in W. Rogers Park, quite a distance away. He insisted that he drive to our place first and then go to his family to enjoy his furlough. Needless to say we thanked him profusely and asked for his address so my wife could send him a thank you note.

So, my daughter was a fireman at 4 years old and rescued her doll. My wife would deliver our third child, our first son, several months later. And, our oldest daughter still has her Clownie safely tucked away in her home. The doll was battered as a result of the fire but my wife gave it first aid and replaced some parts to make her whole again.

Clownie, post repair.

Clownie, post repair.

We did send the Sgt a well deserved thank you card along with a gift for his wife.  We never saw them again but they were a family we would never forget for their kindness and generosity of spirit.

In 2013 I am happy my younger Daughter survived the fire and now is married for 26 years with two daughters of her own. My oldest daughter has two adult children and she three grandchildren, my great grandchildren.

So thanks to a family who didn’t drive by but saved us.  Our family thanks you again.

This was and is a memory that lights the corner of my mind and I hope yours too.

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