The year was 1957 and it was another quiet night in Newnan, Ga. I was 16-years-old at the time, out cruising on a hot, summer night with a buddy listening to some good 1950s music on the radio.
My car was a 1955 Chevy and most of my friends and I knew what kind of car each other had, so as we met and passed we would blow the horn and wave.
I remember in the 1950s we did not have a lot of traffic in Newnan, so it was easy to spot a friend and their car cruising. I could always spot my buddies and cars at the Newnan drive-in movie on Highway 29 during the summer months.
Well, on one of those hot, summer nights as we were cruising toward Moreland, going down to Steve’s Restaurant for a great hamburger steak, we saw a car in front of us weaving back and forth. I told my buddy, “Whoever is driving that car is either drunk or having a medical problem. What do we do?”
So, we made a decision to try and pull the car over and check things out. I pulled up beside the car, and I remember it was a black Ford and a lady behind the wheel. We began to make a motion with our hands for her to pull over and stop. I hit the horn a few times and she pulled over and stopped as I parked my car behind hers.
I got out and walked up to her car. The smell of alcohol was very strong as she rolled down the window. I said, “Lady, let me see your driver’s license. Have you been drinking?”
She found her license after dumping everything out of her bag and said, “Yes, I had a few drinks this evening.” I said, “Lady, we are going to take you in and charge you with DUI,” so I opened the car door so she could get in the back seat of the Ford. I got behind the wheel of the car and told my buddy to drive my car, because we had just made a citizen’s arrest.
We turned around and headed back to the Newnan Police Station with our lady doing a lot of talking — some words I can’t use in this article, if you know what I mean.
When we arrived at the police station, we got the lady out and walked in, and Mr. Jim Wilson was behind the desk. I knew him and he knew me. Remember, in the 1950s Newnan was a small town, and everyone knew everyone.
I said, “Mr. Jim, we just made a citizen’s arrest.” He said, “You did what?”
He called for the other police officers in the back to come see and hear this. They started to laugh and Officer Wilson said, “Joe, you can’t do this. Does Earl know where you are?”
I said, “I thought we were doing a good deed getting this person off the road. She was all over the place.”
Mr. Jim said, “We will take it from here. Boys, go home and stay out of trouble, if possible.”
As we were walking out I said, “Oh, Mr. Jim, please don’t tell my Dad.” Well, this was some night, and we did not go home but met up with some friends at Robert’s and Alf’s drive-in to tell them about our citizen’s arrest. This was one for the history books, but thank God, it never made the front page of The Newnan Times-Herald.
Sgt. Joe Friday, badge 712, would have been proud of us. Oh, for those of you that don’t know, Joe Friday was a cop on the TV program, Dragnet in the 1950s and 1960s.
That was my first and last citizen’s arrest. I remember that night well, and to my knowledge, Dad never knew, but every time I saw Mr. Jim Wilson, Newnan Police, he would start laughing.
Oh, to be 16 again and know what I know now. For one night only I was a crime fighter, and it was exciting.