Tommy Beatty

Elvie Lee Beatty Jr
“The One Arm Bandit”
by Tommy Beatty
Olde Meck Writers Group
My father, Elvie Lee Beatty Jr was born November 24, 1923 and died July 10, 1995 the fourth of seven children. By the time of his sixth birthday, the country was cast into the Great Depression that led to WWII, times that challenged everyone to survive. It's likely that he observed his father doing everything he could to house and feed the family.
By the time he was thirteen, Elvie was delivering newspapers for the Charlotte News and by sixteen was a bicycle messenger for Western Union, both while attending school.
“Mommy, what happened to Daddy's arm?” I asked. “He was delivering telegrams for Western Union and was hit by a taxicab and his arm had to be cut off” Mom responded to a little boy's curiosity.
This would become the defining event in his life, forcing him to re-learn everything and eventually deciding that it was up to him to succeed or fail.
My first images of his will to succeed were of Dad working on his car but to me that wasn't unusual. Didn't everyone's dad work on their cars. About that time, Dad had started working at a service station back when the attendant pumped the customer’s gas, washed their cars and performed most of the maintenance work.
When I was a little older, he built and drove a race car at the local dragstrip. I wasn't allowed to go except for the one time, when a friend and I rode our bicycles through the woods to get to the road that would take us to a hill that overlooked the dragstrip. We managed to watch him race one time before we had to leave to get home before dark. It was only a short time until Dad sold the car, probably at Mom's urging.
Then he decided to do something that most folks in his position would never have attempted, he started playing golf, eventually becoming a nine-handicap golfer winning frequent amateur tournaments in the Carolina Golf Association. It never crossed my mind that a one-armed man shouldn't have been able to play golf. Years later, we occasionally played but I never won.
When I was sixteen, Dad decided it was time to return to drag racing, teaching me to build and maintain cars and drive the race car. It wasn't long until Dad turned over the driving duties to me, making me think his renewed interest was at least in part to spend time with me. After I got married, Dad picked up the driving duties for the race car, “The One Arm Bandit”.
Dad continued working on cars, playing golf and racing until the mid-1980s when he tore a tendon in his one good arm requiring it to be repaired.
It wasn't until I started working on my family tree that I learned what had driven Dad to expect perfection of himself and me, after all if “it's worth doing, it's worth doing right”. The accident that could have prompted self-pity had forced him to adopt a sense of confidence. He could do anything. It wasn't until his health declined that he gave up and eventually stopped fighting to live.
In case you're wondering, he played golf right-handed, swinging the club backhanded. The race car was a manual shift four speed but he still managed to steer and shift the gears frequently driving it to 120 MPH in an eight mile. Imagine how this was done.