This story of this drag-racing accident, which happened so many decades ago, has haunted me in the year since I first read it. So I tracked Mike Mennen down.
“That was the first time I’d ever heard that song,” he told me over the phone, after I’d located him using some quick internet detective work. It was 1962, the year of the song’s release, and Mennen was then 13 years old, living in Burlington, Iowa. His mother was playing bridge at his aunt’s house when, out of boredom, he decided to go to a convenience store across the street from a bar called Joe’s Inn.
“There was a big main street called Harrison, and the kids used to drag race there,” he said. “Back then, the kids all used CB radios — they’d use them to get together and tell everybody that there were no cops or traffic around. So, they