No, I told a gape-jawed lady in a red Lincoln Town Car who asked as she stopped in traffic, "What the heck is going on here?" Heckle Boulevard wasn't the scene of Rock Hill's worst wreck Wednesday. But ma'am, you did see an even 20 tow trucks lined up in the center lane. All truck lights were flashing.
Burly arms stuck out driver's windows, many emerging from short-sleeved, gray shirts -- shirts with company names on one side and covered with fluorescent stripes that other drivers can see in the deep dark night, when that shirt is the uniform of the cavalry. A few shirts were tucked in.
Then, all trucks pulled out slow, as quiet as diesel trucks can, making up the tail end of a funeral procession that came out of Bass-Cauthen Funeral Home.
It was all because Calvin "Pop" Allen went to the forever Wednesday, in the only way that fit the tough man. A processional of tow trucks, or wreckers as those rigs are called, and all were waxed and shining, helped take one of Rock Hill's legendary wrecker drivers on his last call.
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Pop, owner of Allen's Wrecker Service in the purple trucks ever since he bought his first used purple Ford, died Sunday at age 70. Quick as a call to AAA, the people who knew him in his business for so many decades -- which is everybody who ever has loaded up a crashed Chevy coupe at 3 a.m. on an icy York County morning or needed some chain or a truck -- decided that hearses and Cadillac limousines weren't enough to get Pop buried.
"Had to do it right," said Christine Shaner, who along with her husband, Chris, runs Interstate Towing & Recovery. She organized the procession and cleared it with the city.
Allen's trucks -- two in the procession and two more of purple at the front that carried family -- have the phrase "23 1/2 hours a day" on them.
"We had a half-hour for lunch," Chris Shaner said. "I drove for him. Everybody here probably drove for him, or got a start with him, or got a helping hand from him to start their own."
Stan Hammond of Stan's Wrecker Service wears a crew cut straight out of central casting for wrecker drivers. His forearms look like anacondas coming out of his short sleeves. He wears a tow truck medallion around his neck on a gold chain. His company motto is, "We doze but never close." Says so right on his shirt and business cards. He knows tow trucks.
"Only way to honor a guy good as Pop is in a wrecker," Hammond said.
Joe Allen, son of Pop and now head of the business, described the scene on the road as "touching." You don't hear tow- truck drivers use that word every day, but he was right.
"Daddy would have appreciated his buddies doing this for him," Joe Allen said. "He didn't like attention, but he's smiling down on us right now."
Pop's tow truck in front of the 20, a flatbed, carried a dirt track car that he sponsored. Behind it was another truck from Allen's Wrecker Service, purple, of course. Mike Nunn drove it.
"Knew Pop all my life, and that's long time," Nunn said. "None better than Pop."
Then, two from Interstate -- Christine Shaner emerged from the driver's seat of one before the funeral in long dress, full makeup and heels. Southern Star and Hunter out of Charlotte. Interstate with another two trucks.
Stan's Wrecker, then Patterson's, a Bobo's wrecker, then Croft's. Lakeside Collision.
"Me and Pop go so far back, I used to run calls with his son Joe, and Joe was so young he didn't have a license," wrecker driver Randy Turner said. "The old days, drivers would race to the scene to try and get the haul. Sometimes, there were fistfights at the crash, drivers getting into it over who took the car out."
Those racin' and fistfightin' days are gone, like so many of the characters are gone, too, replaced by a rotation system that decides who gets what tow calls.
"We all knew Pop, proud to be here today," said Tony Pannell of Tony's Garage, next in line.
Then City Wrecker, B&B, Rock Hill Collision Center and Workman's. Last in line was a Bobo's truck. A guy wearing a gray suit hustled back from the funeral and slid behind the wheel.
After going as far as the cemetery up Cherry Road, the trucks made a pass around the city. Cherry Road north to Anderson Road east, south on Albright Road back to Heckle.
No, lady, nobody wrecked on Heckle Boulevard on Thursday just before noon.
But the wreckers and lights meant something special was going on.