|Hwy 49 south at Deadman's Curve|
Hwy 49 was only a two lane road in 1963 and the trip into town took 20 minutes at 65 mph. The few cars you met going the opposite direction, well, you always waved because that's just what you did whether you knew them or not. In those days, it certainly was not strange to see cars and trucks barreling down the road at what we now think of as breakneck speeds packed full of adults and kids and dogs without a single seatbelt among the whole bunch; it was a dangerous and beautiful time, but that's just what you did and no one thought much about it. Today, I live only three miles from town just off Hwy 49 and the trip to town takes 20 minutes at 45 mph with a half dozen stop lights in between. Most cars have one or two passengers to whom you never wave and you damned well better be wearing your seatbelt. That's just what we do now. Besides, it's the law.
|Hwy 49 south and Lone Star Rd|
In 1963, a car crash at Deadman's Curve became personal and over the years it became even more personal as I grew up and learned of the people involved. The Anderson family lived on Lone Star, but on the other side of 49. The Anderson kids and I rode the same school bus driven by Toma, a man who looked a lot like Frank McGrath who played the cook, Charlie B. Wooster, on the TV program "Wagon Train." Every school day, the bus would stop to pick-up or drop-off kids just before Deadman's Curve at the horse ranch driveway of James Drury, who played "The Virginian" on the TV show of the same name. But, I digress.
|Hwy 49 north at Deadman's Curve|
The local paper, The Auburn Journal, came out only on Thursdays in those days and Thursday was July 4. This is the story of Sunday's crash -
Auburn Journal, July 4, 1963
Two local children die in crash; highway patrolman turns in badge
Ten-year-old Nathan (Eddie) Anderson Jr.and his kid sister, Susan, 5, will be buried here tomorrow – victims of a violent mixture of liquor and speed.It is an ordinary hot summer day this Thursday in July 2013. Auburn, CA is, as always, hot under blindingly clear blue skies and every summer's day looks and feels pretty much like every other summer day with nothing to distinguish one from another. In six days, I will have my 59th birthday and somewhere across this great land we call America another drunken driver will destroy another family and more Eddies and Susans will not survive to see the fireworks of Independence Day or anything else.
It’s doubtful, at this writing, that their parents, Nathan and Lorraine Anderson, will be at the cemetery. And chances are that their sister, Nancy, 12, and their brothers, Daniel, 9, and Theodore, 8, will not be there, either.
All five were still at Highland Hospital [Auburn] early yesterday, recovering from injuries suffered in the explosive collision which killed Eddie and little Susan as the family rode to church Sunday morning.
It’s doubtful, too, that Stan Perkins, the “tough” cop who oddly enough witnessed the tragedy, will be at the graveside services.
Perkins, an eight year veteran of seeing slaughter on the roads, turned in his highway patrolman’s star Monday after completing his investigation of the frightening case.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” said the 33-year-old former officer. “What shakes you the worst is seeing little kids staring at their bleeding brothers and sisters and just screaming. I had to get out of the business …”
Perkins was driving ahead of the Andersons on Highway 49 about six miles north of Auburn when a speeding pickup truck came careening around a curve on the wrong side, forcing him off the road.
After regaining control of his patrol car, Perkins glanced in the rear view mirror in time to see the pickup sideswipe the Andersons’ heavy sedan and shove it through a barbed wire fence.
“In a flash second there were eight people lying around on the road,” Perkins recalled with a lump in his throat. “The boy (Eddie) must have been killed instantly. And I had that odd feeling that the little girl would soon die.”
The driver of the pickup, Raymond Robison, 41, of Roseville, was seriously injured in the blinding crash. While the surviving Andersons were taken to Highland here, Robison was brought to Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento.Police said he would be charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony drunk driving. A blood test showed Robison had a .22 reading. A man is legally considered too drunk to drive when the test shows .15.
Happy Independence Day. Be safe to celebrate again next year.