At 6P Sunday in September of 1971, I heard “Rothermel” from the jailer and knew my bail money had arrived. It had been 30 hours since the Yellins, our family friends, had sent it. What had taken so long? No matter, I was now just glad being out of this hellhole.
Taken to the booking desk down the hall from the drunk tank where I had spent the afternoon, I was given back my belt and my $7. I was told that an officer would drive me to Western Union to pick up the bail money. I asked what happened since I was told the money would arrive early Saturday afternoon?
Sheepishly, the booking officer said there was a call early Saturday afternoon for a “Rothermel” from Western Union. The officer on duty checked the list of inmates and seeing no “Rothermel,” refused the $100. They money sat at Western Union until Sunday morning.
Come Sunday morning, Western Union called the Yellins and said they were returning their money as there was no “Rothermel” at the Knoxville Jail. Thankfully the Yellins knew better. They contacted a judge they knew in the eastern part of Tennessee who made some calls, which determined that I was indeed incarcerated in the Knoxville Jail.
Driven to Western Union, I got my $100. Once back at the police station, I paid the $60 bail for hitchhiking! I rented a $10 room (It was 1971!) at a five story hotel across the street. At this point I called Hannah with my story. I opened with I just got out of jail here in Knoxville, TN (for she had no idea where I was). And to that (get ready for this) she laughed. Really? I thought. It did sound unbelievable I know, but I was looking for a little more sympathy.
I told her I didn’t want to take a bus to Ohio and asked if she would drive south to get me. Immediately she made plans to do so the next morning; she would pick up my brother Richard at Kenyon College, and drive the 500 miles from Ohio through Kentucky to Tennessee.
Having slept soundly in a bed with a mattress, pillows, sheets, and blankets, I arrived at court Monday morning at 8A. An hour later I was called before the judge. I explained the situation. He nodded and said you got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Earlier this year two hitchhikers were killed in Knoxville when a car stopped to pick them up.
The judge cited me for “Walking on the Interstate” and fined me $25. I paid the fine, got my $35 back, which was a ton of money for someone who was hitchhiking with $7 from Arizona.
By early afternoon Hannah, who was not laughing, and my brother Richard arrived to whisk me back to civilization in Ohio.
While in jail, I never felt threatened or in danger. I was just so scared of the unknown. I had less faith and was less trusting than I am now.
I never hitchhiked again.
Was it worth it?
Please, it was Hannah!