Bradley Justice, 1954

Buck Camp has been kind enough to allow me to pass on his reminiscences of getting a traffic ticket in Bradley when he was only 14 years old.  Incredible as it may seem, at that time it was possible in Arkansas for a 14–year-old to obtain a completely unrestricted driver’s license.

Buck writes:

“[The first ticket] I got, I was fourteen years old.  Dad had started letting me use the Jeep regularly [ …I got my full driver’s license at age fourteen in Arkansas, and the jeep was an Army surplus 1943 Ford], and I had gotten pretty good as I learned to drive that ‘mean machine’ on gravel and in the mud as well as on ‘blacktop’ (asphalt).  I learned that in loose gravel, for instance, that I could, at slow to moderate speeds, downshift, turn the wheels slightly, apply the brakes, correct the steering forward, and go into what I called a ‘four-wheel drift.’ Well, one night right after dark on the gravel road outside Bradley, I approached a stop sign at a ‘tee’ intersection where the old gravel road met the new blacktop highway coming from Bradley.  I could see both ways, and the only car in sight was about a half mile away coming from Bradley on the blacktop towards the intersection.  Applying the cool ‘four wheel drift’ tactics I had just learned, I simply ‘slud’ in the gravel sideways and through the stop sign at probably ten miles per hour, screeched and lurched onto the blacktop, and headed toward Bradley and the oncoming car.  Sure enough, as I got closer to the approaching car, he turned on his red light (they were red, not blue ‘in the old days’) and with my luck it was the only State Trooper in Lafayette County — he stopped me right in the middle of the highway and asked what in the heck I thought I was doing.  I got a stern lecture, my very first traffic ticket, and was told that I had to appear before the local ‘magistrate’ in Bradley.   The magistrate (a part-time job) just happened to be George Bell, who also happened to be my Scoutmaster and the owner of Bell’s General Store at Walnut Hill two miles from Bradley (small towns are small worlds!).  Needless to say, my Dad was not pleased, but, being my Dad (and he was also the Mayor who appointed George Bell to his post as Magistrate!), he went with me to “court,” which was in a room at Tyler’s Gulf gasoline station to appear  before “Magistrate Bell.”  I was shaking like a leaf, afraid I’d have to go to the ‘Bradley jail;’ but no, my fine was five dollars, which was a lot of money in those days for a fourteen year old (hamburgers were a quarter and cokes were a nickel!), and I didn’t have it … my Dad (thank goodness) paid it for me [I didn’t want to go to the infamous Bradley jail] … but he got it out of me later, and a lot more….!!!!

By way of explanation, the ‘Bradley jail’ was a wooden structure built on the east side of the railroad tracks near the water tower.  It was basically a wooden building about 10 by 15 feet square with a concrete floor.  The walls and ceiling were 2×4’s nailed together to make a “wall” four inches thick (lumber was cheap in those days), and it had a tin roof that got really hot in the summer time.  There was no ‘office’ or ‘jailer’ nearby; the constable simply took people there, locked them up with (literally!) a bucket of drinking water and an empty pail for “excretion,” and they just  had to stay there till someone from the Sheriff’s office in Lewisville 23 miles away came to pick them up.  And if they were forgotten at meal time, well … they just shouldn’t have done something bad in the first place.  It was not the kind of place you wanted to go for even a short stay!!!!”

– – – – – – – – – –

The ‘Bradley jail’ of which Buck writes is one and the same as the Bradley ‘Calaboose’ referred to in the 11/7/07 post on this site.  The new blacktop highway to which Buck refers is Highway 29, which underwent some minor rerouting and was paved in 1954.

Many thanks to Buck for his generosity in sharing this piece with the readers of this site.

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