Stories I Was Told as a Child

By Jeff Salter

Gosh, I’m sure I was told MANY stories as a child, but when I thought about this topic, these two jumped right to the forefront.

First, let me say that I remember first hearing these WAY back in the 1950s… and both were often repeated thereafter. The source for both was my Mom, who (at that time, anyway) was a reliable and objective reporter.

Both stories involved her paternal grandfather, Dr. Amos Robinson, a country doctor who practiced in Clarke County, Alabama, during a period which included the turn of the century and (I believe) the Great Depression.


Dr. Robinson traveled everywhere (on his rounds) by horse and carriage and was often out late into the night. On one such night, he spotted a man on the unpaved road and stopped to offer him a lift.

The man – looking disheveled and exhausted – eagerly accepted the ride and got into the back of the doctor’s carriage. [I’m not acquainted with the layout of my great-grandfather’s carriage, but he had a large family, so let’s assume it had a front and back seat.]

The hitchhiker was not much of a conversationalist, but Dr. Robinson evidently kept up more than his share of the chatter. After a while, possibly when there had been no reply to one of his comments or questions, the good doctor turned around to ask the rider if everything was okay.

But there was nobody there!

The man had vanished.

Without a sound — and carriages made plenty of noise when people got on or off — the man had disappeared.

I know what some of you are thinking: the story of the vanishing hitchhiker has been a staple of urban legends for the past 30 years. True. But my great-grandfather’s story had its origins around 1900 or so (if not sooner) — many years before the earliest known origins cited by urban legend trackers.

Is it possible my ancestor was the original source of this tale?

I’m assuming it’s true and happened exactly as my Mom recalled it being told.


That same great-grandfather frequently told of having seen an enormous “cigar-shaped” flying object crossing in the sky above him. No timeframe was given (to me), but it was obviously in the era when no known man-made objects were flying… i.e., before the Wright Brothers event of 1903.

“What was the object?” I would always ask my Mom.

She never knew because her grandfather never knew. But, as a physician, Dr. Robinson was certainly trained to be observant and had to be objective in how he assessed what he experienced.

From my perspective, as a kid in the 1950s, I already knew there had been zeppelins at some point prior to my birth, but all the checking my Mom and I did, suggested that powered flight of rigid or semi-rigid airships had originated in Europe with the first successful flights occurring around 1900. Non-rigid airships, or blimps, apparently were several years AFTERwards.

Had my ancestor’s sighting occurred at some point after those flights had made international news, then he would surely have realized he was seeing something which had already even spotted – and was well documented – elsewhere. So we have always concluded that Dr. Robinson saw whatever he saw BEFORE any of these Zeppelin flights in Europe.

It was decades later – in the 1980s, in fact – before I came across detailed scholarship in the form of a published book (which I read and possibly purchased, though I can’t find it now) which carefully documented an entire wave of airship sightings in America during a period of many months during 1896-1897 — three years or more before the first recorded flight in Germany.

The technology had been known – in theory – since the 1880s, but nobody seemed to be aware that airships were already flying in the U.S. in 1896-97. Though most of these U.S. sightings were in the West and Midwest, this book (which I cannot recall the title of) also cited some which crossed the Mississippi River and at least one perhaps even as far as Florida (I think).

Surely what my ancestor saw was one of those experimental airships, and therefore he likely saw it during that wave of 1896-97 when they were still supposedly top secret.

This blog seems to refer to the same book I read, though the title did not ring a bell.

The second link refers to the wave of sightings:

Anyway, these were two of the exciting childhood stories which intrigued me as a child — and still do.

What stories to YOU recall from childhood?




About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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26 Responses to Stories I Was Told as a Child

  1. Iris B says:

    Holy macaroni, that’s a bit creepy. I wonder whether the poor man simply fell off the carriage? Or whether he was “real” in the first place?
    Loved the stories, and again, it absolutely amazes me how much you remember from you childhood. Great stuff!


  2. jbrayweber says:

    I’ve many stories my grandfather and dad told over the years. Many had to do with my dad’s antics as a kid – all hilarious. Much of the hilarity is in HOW the stories are told. Telling them via post won’t do them justice. But I’ll give a short example of one such thing my dad did.

    He was probably around 9 or 10 when he suggested to his younger brother that he couldn’t climb a certain tree all the way to the top. Boys being boys, climbing a tree is hardly a challenge. But this tree was wrapped in briar vines. Well, his brother took the dare. As the poor boy was carefully, and slowly, making his way up the trunk, my dad was scooping up dried sticks, brush, and pine needles and piling at the base on the tree. I should probably mention that my dad was known far and wide as a little pryomaniac. You can see where this is heading. My dad lit the kindling, stood back, and watched as his brothere did, indeed, climb the tree to the top.


    • jeff7salter says:

      Jenn, I’d love to have HEARD it, told by your granddad. My wife’s father had many tales of his childhood, during the Great Depression … and a lot of them involved younger brothers and trees. Must have been a common theme.


      • jbrayweber says:

        It’s near impossible for me to retell some of the stories without laughing.


      • jeff7salter says:

        it’s a shame that there weren’t more of these portable recording devices around many years ago. We’ve lost a lot of oral history.


      • That is one of my biggest peeves…people are not telling their family stories any more.It is so sad. We should all write down what we remember hearing, whether we can substantiate it or not.There may be kernels of truth.My cousin and I were talking a couple of years ago and she told me a family story that her mother told her involving an older uncle. I did not know the story but she had it in her mind that a girl involved’s name was “Fifi”, but she thought that could not possibly be right, but I said, “Oh,I know about Fifi!” and told her a story that SHE had not heard that my mother told me! The two stories together, plus one the uncle told 40 years before about himself and my grandfather,(his stepfather), all made sense; the three were connected.(That uncle was a scoundrel!)


      • jeff7salter says:

        LOL, Tonette. So tell us the Fifi story!


      • Oh,I don’t think so, Jeff….that uncle was the black sheep of the family by far; all the other brothers were practically saints and this guy…well.Suffice it to say he was the only one who was acted like the kind of Italian from which the rest of the family strove to disassociate themselves.(I’ll add that I understand all the characters in “The Godfather”.)
        Maybe one day I’ll sneak him as a character into a story.


      • jeff7salter says:

        sounds like a very interesting uncle, Tonette


  3. jeff7salter says:

    I should note that my older brother, who heard these same tales, considers one likely explanation (for the hitchhiker story) that the exhausted doctor simply fell asleep “at the wheel” (so to speak) of his carriage … and/or that he was so tired, perhaps he hallucinated.
    I should also note that my brother was the first in the family to commit this story to paper — writing the episode for a school assignment when I was in about 6th grade. So he would have been in about 9th grade.


  4. dang it Jeff, I have chills!!! What amazing stories!!


  5. [My comment didn’t post! I was here hour ago.]
    I have heard first-hand stories that were were close to happenings told in so-called ‘urban legends’. Just because no one can pin down when/where something happened, doesn’t mean that it didn’t…or something like it happened, since facts get scrambled in retelling.Either people tend to embellish with their imaginations or sometimes they just remember badly. Either way, strange things happen all the time, not only more than many people are aware of but many people simply refuse to acknowledge supernatural out of fear of the unknown, or being though of as weird. It is too bad that we aren’t more open to all that is around us, because there is plenty.
    My brother and two of his friends were frightened by a cigar-shaped flying thing i the 1960’s and there is a famous account of a well thought-of minister and his congregation seeing one a long time ago.That tale may be in the link you posted that I have not gotten to. For the record,I have only seen round UFO’s.
    (I wish I could remember what I said the first time.I think I was more articulate, but you’ll have to take my word for it!)
    Great post! I almost went with true tales for tomorrow’s post but decided to ask for help with a bit of a troublesome story for me.


    • jeff7salter says:

      Correct. Just because other similar incidents have allegedly established a “trail” that urban legend researchers can loosely string together doesn’t mean any one (or more) of them didn’t actually occur.
      Sorry your first comment didn’t post. Did you check the spam folder?


  6. Wow. Scary stories. And I agree with Iris – it amazes me how much detail you remember. I really don’t remember family stories – just short anecdotes. Once while I was walking home from school (we lived four blocks from my elementary school), I got hooked into a great book and didn’t want to stop – so I read while I walked. And then I stopped suddenly because I’d walked into a parked car! I got home and my mom asked me where I got the bruise on my arm and I told her. She just nodded and said, “Yes, I did that when I was your age, but I walked into a telephone pole.” My grandmother was sitting there too, and she said, “I walked into a cow.”


  7. pjharjo says:

    How Cool! Ghost Stories! It had to have been a ghost rider and ghost ships your grandpa saw!! 🙂 Great article!!


  8. Pingback: A New Batch of Tales | Four Foxes, One Hound

  9. Great stories! I think he may have been the origin of the vanishing hitchhiker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      that’s exactly what I thought when I read — in the 1980s — a study of urban myths (incl. the vanishing hitchhiker). That study took the “myth” back to the Depression years, but I had known (in the early 1960s) that my great-grandfather’s account pre-dated that by decades.


  10. trishafaye says:

    I’m so glad you shared the link to this post from before. Very, very interesting!! Don’t you wish there were truly a time machine, so we could go back and sit down with the people we’ve never met and go…..”So, Grandpa….”
    And get the story ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ as my Grandma would have said.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeff Salter says:

      absolutely! And not only wishing I could speak directly with those ancestors, but sometimes asking my mom (or dad), “why did you ask him a few more questions?” LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Back in Time | Four Foxes, One Hound

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