Cop Or Otherwise?

By Bernie Suttle

car police

“Get into the car, Son. Hitchhiking is against the law in Pasadena.” He leaned over and opened the passenger door.

I had to get through the town to get to the freeway entrance and hoped to get a ride with a car headed for LA on that same route.

This was a first. Stopped by a cop. I don’t remember him showing any ID but this was right in front of the Pasadena City Hall and his car was a four-door, black sedan. He was dressed in a sport coat, tan slacks, white shirt and knit tie. He sure acted like a plain-clothes cop.

All I cared about was that this was causing a delay in my trip. What was going to happen? Would I be jailed? Would my mother be called? She’d be mad. When could I resume my journey?

I was thirteen-years old in 1947 and I could roam without limits, particularly the LA area by my newly discovered means of exploration - thumbing.

My buddies had talked about their run-ins while hitchhiking with those they called, “Queers” - single guys, very friendly, driving slow moving cars. Was this one?

He had a serious look on his face, then smiling slightly, he asked my name and where I was headed. I responded, “Bernie, and I was going to my aunt Ruth’s in Highland Park.” (Not true.)

The cop nodded in approval.

I was glad he could see I wasn’t a vagrant or a miscreant.

He addressed me as Bernie before each sentence and commenced a horrific tale of young boys hitchhiking and the tragic ends they had come to.

I tried to look interested and concerned while thinking, “How long is this going to take? Am I responding in a manner that will lead to my early release? Am I going to be jailed or subject to God knows what?”

He continued for what seemed like forever relating horror stories of boys like me found after taking a ride with a stranger, murdered and their bodies mutilated.

I kept a serious and interested face throughout, nodding in affirmation where I thought appropriate, intermittently responding, “Gosh” and “Really.”

I said, “My aunt Ruth will be wondering where I am.”

I promised that after his talk with me I would never hitchhike again and I was going to call my mother to come pick me up. (Also not true. My mother was at work and she didn’t drive.)

Then he reached in front of me. “Is he going to lay his hand on my thigh?”

“Oh, Oh, here it comes, the smile and fondle.”

His hand continued past my legs as he reached to open my door while saying,

“Bernie, you look like a good boy and I think our talk has helped you. Make that call to your mother and remember what I told you.” Then he drove off.

I walked around the block watching for the man and the car then continued hitchhiking to the SC Football game at the LA Coliseum.

The lesson I learned was, “Never hitchhike in front of a City Hall.”

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