The Newsroom At 55 Park Place – Chapter 6 – ‘It Was Johnny’s Dream Car’

The Newsroom At 55 Park Place

By Don Storch


Books By Don Storch

The Newsroom At 55 Park Place
Snakes in the Swamp
If a Passive-Progressive Leads from behind he is a Double Oxymoron



            This book is dedicated to my Mom and Dad, mentors of an only child, with daily memories of loving gratefulness, Viola Pauline (Helmstatt) Storch (1910 – 1969) and George John Storch (1903-1969)

                                                                       And To:

Norman B. Tomlinson Jr


    Chapter 6

                                                    It Was Johnny’s Dream Car

            Death never stopped the news from flowing, and Norman would have wanted the story to go on.  So, I will continue from where he became the news to the past of my ‘war stories’ because he always told his reporters, “That journalists should tell the story, not be the story.” 

            However, death makes everyone part of the story at some point in their life.

            One night in Morristown four HS teens were having a good time when they all got into Johnny’s Dream Car, sped down a road in town and slammed into a tree at 80 MPH – all were dead.

            It was Tommy Koyce’s beat, a native of the town, a Seton Hall graduate, a good old Irish boy, a news hound of professional quality, and one who loved the fire house and those that in-habited them.

            It was his story and he wrote it with compassion as the readers would expect.

            The next day I was asked to write the sidebar, the think piece, the follow-up story and here’s what I wrote:

             “It was John J. Clarke’s ‘dream car.”

            Yesterday thousands viewed the remains of the mangled 1954 red Mercury convertible that had been the pride and joy of 17-year-old Johnny.

            “He wouldn’t settle for anything else,” said Bill Caporaso of Cap’s Shell Service on Speedwell Ave., who sold Johnny the car.  “He told me months ahead what he wanted, he wasn’t particular about the color but it had to be a convertible.

            Johnny waited a long time to get the car, but in a short time on clear Wednesday night four teenagers were killed in the twisted steel of Johnny’s “dream car.”

            Johnny, who lived at 335 South St. Morris Twp., was a careful kid said Caporaso. “I never saw him go fast, he told me when he got his license back – never again not me, I’ve had my warning.”

            Riding in Johnny’s “dream car” to a rendezvous with death were: John Bingham of 440 South St; David Coudoux, 16, of 103 Woodland Ave; and Joseph Papreka Jr., 16 of Fox Hollow Rd., all of Morris Twp.

            Crowds flocked to the parking lot of Wiss Brothers Inc., yesterday to see the remains of the death car. “Did you ever see steel bend like that,” said an onlooker.

            The front of the car had the impression of the two-and-a-half-foot diameter tree that took the impact.

            Parts of the pine tree were embedded in the front of the car.  It hit dead center.  The motor was in the front seat.  The brake pedal was shoved chest high through the steering wheel.

            The drive shaft buckled and tore loose.  The two rear wheels pitched inward setting the rear end higher than the front end.

            Although the tires on the front of the car were in good condition, the rear tires were practically bald.

            Viewers gasped at the sight, one said: “nice kids but get-em in a car and they go crazy.”  Another said, “they can’t go fast enough – what a way to die.”

            A teacher at Morristown HS figured the car hit with 88,300-foot pounds of force. His figure was based on a speed of 80-miles-per-hour.

            When the high school let out yesterday afternoon hundreds of students made a visit to the scene of the crash and to see the car that carried four of their classmates to a tragic death.

            A Girl, shaken at the sight said, “If my boyfriend ever goes over 50, I’m going to stop going steady with him.”

            “Man, am I going to slow down,” said one youth.

            Gary Moskowitz, 16, of 50 Western Ave. recalled a statement made only a week ago by John Clarke: “He told us,” he said, “that he was going to turn over a new leaf and stop speeding.”

            Gary added, “all I can say is – this is a good example for others.”  At the high school where most of the student body was in a state of shock and disbelief, several students expressed a desire to put the wrecked car in the middle of the park or on Memorial Field as an example for all of the student body.

            “Everybody felt awful,” said one boy, “most of the girl students cried thought out the day.” “We’ll all remember the accident,” said one student, “but few of us will profit by it.”

            A girl took one quick look at the car, and quickly stepped back.  Turning toward her girlfriends, she said “let’s get out of here.”  She stepped into her red convertible and slowly drove away.  What she had seen obviously had an effect.

            A mother and her two children approached the wrecked vehicle with hesitancy.  The boys, about six-years-old, were afraid to go too close.  Their mother said, “See that.”  One boy looked at his mother and said, “a pole mommy?”

            “Yes dear,” the mother said. “That’s what speed does.”

            What strikes me about this piece and the one before on LeMoyne Goodman, they adhere to the facts, report the truth and follow the tenants and the good principles of journalism.

            There was a fidelity to the truth in the 50’s and 60’s by journalists in our newsroom that doesn’t seem to exist with the journalism of today.

            It is that simple and unfortunately the lack of truth has trancended from politicians to the media and the latest of posts in our social media on the web. 

            The pendulum has swung too far to the left, but I have faith it will swing back to the middle for both the sake of journalism and society.

To Be Continued . . . 

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