How childhood’s memories impact today’s decisions

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety now says that fatal red light-running crashes have increased 30 percent in cities that have turned off the technology.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety now says that fatal red light-running crashes have increased 30 percent in cities that have turned off the technology.
George Rizer / The Boston Globe

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It’s amazing how events that happened 50 years ago—in this case 1966-67—stay with you.

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When I was a kid growing up in Melrose, one of my neighbors was a fellow named Harold Rines.

By night, Harold was a carpenter for General Electric. By day, he was a builder and can-do-anything handyman. (Side note: He’s still the only person I’ve met who truly had Popeye forearms).

To me, the kid next door, he was a superman. He could build or fix anything. Even better, he’d tell me how to accomplish my little projects without making me feeling stupid.

He’d built his house with wood from an abandoned World War II government building and constructed the home so solidly that it exceeded the local building codes. Then he moved a two-car garage from another lot by pulleys and rollers to the end of his driveway.

He and his wife, Mary, raised two great sons, Harry and Donald.

Dad and lads all became role models to me. The sons went to Northeastern University, did military service through ROTC, and showed me the path to my future.

When Don came home from a hitch in Vietnam, he bought a first-year Pontiac GTO. I remember Harold waxing the inside door jambs.

When I asked why he was doing that, he replied, “Do it when the car’s new and don’t worry about it again.”

When Harold retired a year or so later, he and Mary took their dream trip back to Ireland. While there, Harold was hit by a drunk driver and hospitalized for what seemed like months, slowly recovering from a split liver. It was the type of injury that would have been a death-knell for a lesser man. Our whole neighborhood was beyond upset.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, even after all these years, I was able to track down sons Harry, in Massachusetts, and Don, in Wisconsin, to make sure my memory of those events were correct.

What, you may ask, is the point of this story? Harold Rines’ accident left an indelible impression on me, and, as a result, I grew up exceedingly leery of going overseas and driving “on the wrong side of the road.”

However, Ireland beckons. I have second cousins there, and Mrs. G and I finally booked our own trip of a lifetime.

I wasn’t ready to get off the plane and behind the wheel, so we signed on with a small folk-music-loving group traveling on a bus.

I have many hopes for the trip, which will be under way by the time this column runs. Yes, we want to see the sights. And we want to enjoy lots of great music.

But there are other motivations.

First, always, is to meet family. I’ve apparently got many second cousins on Inishbofin island and in Galway City, including John O’Halloran, a “box-player,” and his dancing partner, Emma O’Sullivan. They reached the semifinals of the All-Ireland Talent Show. Check them out on YouTube and you’ll see why I want to meet these folks who’ve made the island of Inishbofin proud.

Second, is to find an Irish car show. Facebook folks already have told me to locate a magazine called Irish Vintage Scene. The goal is to find a show that fits our itinerary and, either there or elsewhere, actually experience driving on the wrong side of the road.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of newsy items worth mentioning this week so let’s play some catch-up….

Best Places to Work: One of my go-to guys for industry commentary is Brian Heney, director of operations for the Kelly Auto Group. He writes that “the Automotive News has chosen three of our dealerships as Best Dealerships To Work For in 2016: Kelly Honda, Kelly Infiniti, and Kelly Volkswagen. We are the only dealer group in Mass., Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut chosen.” Kudos to all.

Something New Under the Sun: Just when you think the combustion engine had reached its limits, someone comes up with something new. Infiniti has developed a “variable compression ratio” 4-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engine. Yup, it’s high tech, expanding on the now-common 2.0-liter turbo engine’s possibilities. This has the potential to be a major breakthrough, providing a 20 percent increase in fuel economy with negligible loss of performance. Promising? Yes.

Red-Light Cameras: I loathed them as did many others, figuring they were revenue-generators for local communities. However, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) now says that fatal red light-running crashes have increased 30 percent in cities that have turned off the technology. A lot of us will push a yellow light, but running a red? Maybe it’s time to turn them on again … with the caveat that it’s to catch the flagrant violators.

Etc.

Today is Ford-Lincoln-Mercury Day at Larz Anderson Auto Museum from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. … Also today, the Mass. Cruisers have a big show at the Wrentham Fairgrounds from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. … Next Saturday, the Cape Cod Classics host their 23rd Blast from the Past show in South Dennis from 2-6 p.m. … And next Sunday features two big shows: Swedish Car Day at Larz Anderson and the Aleppo Shriners 2nd annual show in Wilmington from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. See alepposhriners.com.