Hi. I’m Betty Virgin.
When I lived at 19 Mountain Road, my bedroom was on the bottom floor of the house, facing the street. One Sunday in 1969, when I was 14, a tractor-trailer came barreling through my neighborhood at 4 a.m. and woke me up, but not because of a loud exhaust or an air horn or a Jake brake. No, it woke me up because it bashed right into my bedroom. The tractor tore through my corner of the house and slammed me and my bed against the wall.
They say teenagers are hard to wake up. This method worked.
I had no idea what had happened. Remember, it was four in the morning. It was dark. I couldn’t see anything. I ran across all kinds of debris and pulled at my bedroom door, but I couldn’t get it open. I yelled for my father. He kicked the door open, thank goodness. We hugged and ran upstairs to the living room. My mother and sister, Jane, were already huddling up there, every bit as shocked and confused. We had no electricity. Something must have exploded, we thought. Maybe the water heater? Then my father looked out into the dark front yard and saw a gigantic thing out there. What was it?
Oh. So that’s what it was. The driver was trapped behind the wheel. He told the cops the clutch failed, so he couldn’t shift the truck or something. He probably just fell asleep but didn’t want to admit it. It took forever for the fire department to get him out. His name was Charles T. White, from Creston Avenue in Woburn. He went to Choate Hospital but left soon afterward. I never heard from him, and I don’t think anyone else in my family ever heard from him. The truck belonged to Wakefield Moving & Storage Company. But right now, it basically belonged to me, since it was in my room.
Then my ankle started to hurt. My adrenaline was wearing off. Something was definitely wrong with my ankle. My father took me to the hospital. Sure enough, it was fractured. But how? It must have happened when I ran across the top of some furniture and slipped off the end. I would need a cast. My summer was ruined. No swimming. The house would need to be fixed. This was too much. The hospital put me on sedatives to keep me calm.
But the worst part was when I got back home and saw my house in full sunlight.
My room! It was ripped open and naked for everyone to see. A teenager’s room is supposed to be a private sanctuary. But everyone could look right in at my personal things: my Beatles poster, my cork board with my album inserts, my Alice Cooper, Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath. And my furniture was trashed. That’s my dresser in the side yard. This was horrible.
But I was alive. And things got back together pretty fast. The trucking company’s insurance paid for everything. The first step was carefully removing the truck. Here it is, getting towed away.
One problem: The truck was holding up a whole corner of the house, since it had demolished the walls. The fire department made a T-shaped brace to hold up the house.
Next step was to box in the corner, so at least the heat and the bugs would stay out. We were still living in the house.
Then things actually became kind of fun. It was time to design my new and improved bedroom. I chose orange paint for the walls and orange carpet because it was a cool hippie thing at the time. And my father got me a new desk with a hutch, which I loved. But what about my smashed-up stereo system and album collection? My parents were super-motivated to get my new room together for me, but were not motivated to replace my albums. They weren’t too keen on my music in the first place, so this truck disaster gave them a nice period of silence. Well, not for long. I saved my allowance and my babysitting money and replaced most of my records, thanks to the record department at Zayre in Woburn. That store gave me my first job later on.
We stayed in that house for three more years, and I slept fine! No nightmares or anything. After all, what were the chances of this ever happening again? Zero. But my dad built a rock wall in front of the house, just in case. It would at least slow ’em down. The wall is still there today.
Betty Virgin is now Betty Hawkins, the director of datacenter operations at the University of South Carolina. Her father, Charles, worked for Polaroid when this happened. That explains the copious photos in this article. Betty’s ordeal was a wake-up call for the town. Something had to be done about Mountain Road, which was not a dead end at the time. It connected to Cambridge Street at a truck-heavy area including Donahue Furniture and Winn Street Service. The truck in this incident didn’t originate down there (it approached from Burlington Street) but it prompted fear of trucks in general. Burlington selectmen banned heavy trucking from this section of Mountain Road in December, 1970 and finally capped off Mountain Road as a dead end in the mid-1980s.