Beetle Baby Feted

When Vickie Wynn Owens Bauer of Wheeling observes her 50th birthday on Thursday, she may have a grand celebration, but it’s unlikely that the festivities will top the excitement of her actual arrival — in a Volkswagen Beetle!

Vickie, of course, doesn’t remember the specifics of her delivery, but the events are seared in the memory of her father, Ted Owens of Wheeling. While the Beetle birth was nerve-wracking at the time, the proud papa can laugh about the circumstances now.

He and his wife, Lillian Louise Johnson Owens, and their two sons, Theodore Scott Owens and Randall James Owens, had spent the last weeks of Lillian’s pregnancy dressed as pioneers and dancing to the sound of Indian drums and dancing waters at Wheeling Island Stadium for the celebration of Wheeling’s 200th anniversary.

“It was fun and was enjoyed by all who played any part in the celebration,” he said. “It was also very strenuous on my wife and I am sure it precipitated what can only be described as a comedy of errors that would be taking place on that fateful morning of Aug. 1, 1969.”

Mrs. Owens had had a doctor’s appointment on July 31, when she was told that the baby was fine and she was on track to deliver on or about Aug. 21. The couple celebrated the good news by playing bridge with their neighbors, Dick and Carla Deever.

Early the next morning, Mrs. Owens awakened her husband at about 3 a.m., complaining of gas pains. but told him to go back to sleep.

He related, “She was the nurse in the family, so I did, and at about 5 a.m., she woke me again, saying, ‘Up and at ‘um, the baby is on the way!’ The following events happened so fast that my description of them may sound as if I panicked, but believe me, I was in full control. I HAD a LIST, no problem!”

Of course, Owens couldn’t find his list, so he decided to follow his wife’s orders. He helped her to the nearest of their two Volkswagens, her 1967 model. They left their home on Kelly Drive in the Oglebay Park area and headed for the hospital.

He drove as fast as the Beetle would go, but the baby was born — in the car — at approximately 5:30 a.m.

Looking back, Owens said, “Not slowing down as we sped past the old Woodsdale School and running the red light, probably on two wheels, at Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church, I calmly asked, ‘Now how much time do you think we have?’ I will never forget her answer. She said, ‘None, the baby is here,’ holding her up for me to see.”

They intended to go to Ohio Valley General Hospital (now Ohio Valley Medical Center), where Mrs. Owens worked. However, the baby’s breathing seemed irregular, so they decided to go to Wheeling Hospital — then located in North Wheeling — because it was closer.

Owens recalled, “A Wheeling police car was stopped at a red light at Seventh and Main streets, so I went around it in my rush to get the baby to a place where she could be attended to quicker. The police car’s lights brightened the early morning light as they immediately followed me with sirens blaring and lights flashing,

“As I turned down into the emergency entrance of the hospital, the police turned off the lights and sirens, and pulled up beside me and asked what our emergency was. I said that our baby was born in the VW and we needed help. His answer was, ‘Well, you came to the right place,’ and drove off.”

Telling his wife to stay in the car with the baby, Owens ran into the emergency room to get help. He babbled incoherently to a nurse. He commandeered a wheelchair as the nurse held the emergency room door open.

“I promptly ran right over her foot,” he said, adding, “I know we resembled Laurel and Hardy in our haste to get to the red VW. Soon, all was again right with the world.”

After signing insurance papers, Owens was sent to the waiting room, where two men were asleep.

Owens said, “The more I rested, the more the events of the morning passed through my mind. As my mind conjured up each event. it became funny to me. The more I thought, the funnier it got, until I began to chuckle, giggle and then started to laugh out loud. In doing so, and by now, in a full-blown belly laugh, I woke the two sleeping men. And, of course, they wanted to know what was so funny.”

Later, he learned that Volkswagen of America was going to present the baby with a $100 bond for being the first baby born in a Volkswagen in West Virginia. There had been more than 300 births in Volkswagens, he was told.

“It was at this time that I decided to change the baby’s name from Beth Ann to Vickie Wynn Owens, completing the iconic symbol of the VW inside of the letter O, for her initials,” Owens said.

Mrs. Owens died in 1989 as a result of multiple sclerosis. Vickie’s brother, Scott, died of cancer in 1980.

Vickie and her husband, Todd A. Bauer, live in Airy Estates in Wheeling. They have four children, Allison, 23, Sydney, 20, and twin boys, Brock and Brady, 13. Vickie’s brother, Randy, has a daughter, Jasmine; they live in Springfield, Ohio.

Their proud father remarked, “Through all of this, Vickie and her brother, Randy, have remained the best of friends and they continue to be a constant source of joy to me.”

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net


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