Bleach Burnout

When I was a kid in high school I worked at Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken. This was long before it was known as KFC and before it was owned by Pepsi. It was owned by a 1970's business conglomerate called Heublein. I mean, Colonel Harlan Sanders was still alive. He didn't own it but he still made personal appearances for the company.

We had an assistant manager called Ernie Biggs. Ernie was a couple of years older than me, which means he was still only about 17 or 18 years old. Ernie was a pretty cool guy. He was about 6 feet tall and smiled a lot. He had a face like a clown with a big nose, a big mouth, and a big head of curly hair that stuck out from under his paper hat. He wasn't mean, he didn't yell, and he would work as hard as us kitchen slaves would.

Ernie had a beautiful, blue 1968 Dodge Charger. It had front bucket seats and a center console. I think it had the Chrysler 383 cubic inch engine, which would have made it less powerful and sexy than the 440. It was still plenty powerful though. The only drawback was it had an automatic transmission. Real hot rods all had stick shifts (four on the floor).

Friday and Saturday nights at "the Colonel" were particularly fun. Usually, there were two or three guys in the kitchen, frying chicken, making mashed potatoes and trying to keep things clean. There would be two or three girls working the front, packing chicken and running the cash register. The manager or assistant manager would help out wherever they were needed. We were open until 9pm Friday and Saturday nights which means we didn't get the place cleaned up and closed until about 10 or 10:30. Back then staying out until 10:30 was a big deal to someone who was only 15 years old.

Because keeping the store clean was important we always had plenty of bleach and detergent around. In fact, our store won an award for being the cleanest in our district. I won a duffel bag. I was surprised to win a prize for doing what should be done anyway.

It was a hot summer night, Friday or Saturday, after all the work was done. The girls had gone home and a few of us guys were hanging around the back of the store talking. Ernie Biggs got the big idea that he wanted to do a bleach burnout with his Charger, just like at the dragstrip.

He gets in his car, starts it up, and pulls around the back of the store. One of the guys takes a bottle of bleach and liberally pours it under the front of both back tires. Ernie brake-jacks the Charger, holds the brake while working the accelerator to get the back tires spinning. The torque of the engine causes the car to lift up and to the right a little bit. The engine strains and emits a low roar while the brakes hold the car from lurching forward. The back tires begin spinning faster and faster.

Great, billowing clouds of white smoke fill the rear wheel wells and flow from the back of the car. It looks just like cars at the strip. The smoke fills the whole area. It slowly rises up and fills the air at the back of the store. We all laugh and clap and cheer.

No one called the cops. No one got in trouble. We just had a good time. A little later we all went home.