By Junior Johnson
I met a remarkable and courageous young man soon after I became a student at Northwestern State in 1965. A college education is a wonderful thing to achieve, but there’s another aspect of an education that can’t be taught in a classroom, even by the best professor. What I refer to is the mix of people you meet, the thoughts and aspirations they have, and the dreams for a future that can’t be learned from a textbook.
My friend Marvin E was from a small town in South Louisiana similar to the community I grew up in and we had similar values and goals in life.
When Marvin was a small child he was stricken with Polio, which left him with a badly deformed arm, limiting his physical activities. Unable to participate in most activities, he was inspired by his Business Math teacher and became fascinated with the Stock Market.
With small amounts of money earned from odd jobs in high school, Marvin invested very wisely. Soon he was making huge sums of money.
By the time he enrolled at NSU he’d made enough to pay for his education. He wisely chose to pursue a degree in Business.
One day Marvin came to my dorm room with a proposition. He had an adventure in mind, but couldn’t do it alone. He’d always wanted to do something outrageous, but was held back his physical limitations.
There was an automobile dealership in Shreveport looking for people to drive cars to a dealership that they partnered with in Compton, Cali. Used vehicles could be sold for more money in California and it cost less to transport them if they had drivers to deliver them.
Marvin thought we could drive a car out and take a bus back home. He could easily afford the expenses and so I eagerly agreed. When we arrived to pick up the car, it was a yellow 1966 Mustang Convertible.
The first thing Marvin did was put the top down. Can you imagine the joy of two teenage boys as we began our journey?
The weather was beautiful as we made our way to California. After returning the car, Marvin came up with the idea to hitchhike back home. We had an Atlas and so we planned a route that would take us through Las Vegas and cross-country to St. Louis where we’d take a bus home.
After a rough start and a night spent in a roadside culvert, our luck changed and a big white Cadillac stopped. The driver dropped us off at the Strip in Las Vegas and we spent a few hours sightseeing and playing slot machines. After a night’s rest we took our stance on the side of the road.
An elderly couple picked us up. They dropped us off at the bus station in Salt Lake City. The next morning we took our positions again with our thumbs in the air.
A car stopped with two young boys in the front seat. The boys were twins and had just graduated from high school. They were driving out to see their Dad in Virginia before enlisting in the Marines.
Marvin suggested riding to Virginia with our new found friends. We stayed with their Dad visiting for a couple of days. He took us to visit Washington, D.C. The most impressive sight of all was Arlington Cemetery where we visited President John Kennedy’s grave and saw the Eternal Flame.
We continued our adventure up to New York City. In the late 60s Greenwich Village in New York was the place to be for the young crowd. It seemed like a city of its own with coffee houses, gift shops, and cafes with tables along the sidewalk. We took in a show at a place called The Eighth Wonder, appropriately located on Eighth Street. There was a group called The Youngbloods performing who went on to become a very popular act.
Eventually we boarded a shuttle bus to Arlington. We then took another taxi to the Interstate to hitch-hike our way back home. Less than an hour with our outstretched thumbs a man stopped to pick us up.
We rode all the way from Virginia to Shreveport with this kind man. He even dropped us off where Marvin’s Grandmother lived. He had left his vehicle there before we began our trip.
Marvin and I remained close friends through college and kept up with each other for a few years after graduation but lost touch after a while. I haven’t seen or heard from him for over 40 years. Perhaps he may read my little story of his kindness and our adventure and we will reunite.
GOD BLESS you Marvin E wherever you are.