Caroline Hartman knows exactly how her twin sons, Carter and Noah Atterson, will likely respond when they are surprised this Saturday for their 21st birthday.
Regardless, she can’t wait to see that moment when they look out over the south parking lot of Jasper High School and see all the cars on display.
The special day Caroline calls “Twinners’ 21st” is a three-hour car show for the brothers who share a passion for anything automobile related.
According to Caroline, a couple of t-shirts seem to be the catalyst that sent them down the road to being gearheads. “Well, their grandpa (Grandpa Big Dog, AKA Tim Atterson) gave them a couple Good Guys t-shirts,” she said. “I think that was when they were in about the fifth grade, and they just really started liking old cars, especially Volkswagens, a lot.”
From there, the Twinners — a nickname that seems to have originated from their older brother Kyler Kuhn — began collecting models, souvenirs, books and magazines and anything they could get their hands on related to classic cars.
For Carter, that passion gave him access to a friend of the family’s who is a local mechanic. “Carter used to go work with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Caroline explained. “He (the mechanic) said he could just show Carter how to do something one time, and he knew how to do it.”
Eventually, though, Carter got nervous about the work and decided to stop.
Carter and Noah both have excellent memories and huge hearts, according to their mom. Diagnosed with Autism after starting kindergarten, the pair completed school, graduating from Jasper High School in 2021.
Unfortunately, about six years ago they became non-verbal though they had been able to communicate through most of their school career. Caroline took them to a neurologist and specialists at Riley Children’s Hospital. “There’s nothing in the brain that is wrong,” she said. “But for some reason, they just stopped and they’ve had quite a regression.”
Before then, she noted the boys always made the honor roll. “They are so smart, they just can’t speak,” she said, adding that they are so, so kind and loving. “I wish people could see what I see.”
These days, the Twinners use iPads or write notes to communicate.
And their passion for cars is still going strong. Cartwheel and Nars, as they are affectionately called, bring new awesome automobile discoveries to show Caroline and her husband, Eric, daily. One of their favorite pastimes is going to flea markets and car shows, where they like to collect posters and car emblems to hang on their shared bedroom walls.
Carter still loves Volkswagens. “He has a Volkswagen t-shirt he wears about four days a week,” Caroline said.
“He does wash it,” she added.
Besides cars, they like to go to the Jasper Public Library, they are both big readers. They play video games a lot, especially games with driving. They also love Mario Brothers.
The family does a lot together. “We are very close,” Caroline said.
Though the Twinners won’t likely ever be able to drive one of these cars, their big hearts and unbridled joy have inspired plenty of local car enthusiasts to step up to give them some special experiences.
A couple of years ago, Caroline had planned a similar event that fell through because of the weather. To make up for it, a special parade of more than 200 cars ended up driving by the Twinners’ home for their next birthday.
“The community is so supportive,” she said.
Even local law enforcement officers stop by regularly to allow the boys to check out their cars — so much so that Caroline wonders if the neighbors are concerned about the family.
This Saturday, Caroline doesn’t know exactly what to expect but car clubs from Evansville and Owensboro have shown an interest in coming up and plenty of local people will be bringing their hotrods.
So many people have said they are coming that the car show has spilled over from Jasper Jaycee Park (Jasper Armory, 1409 Bartley Street) to the Jasper High School south parking lot off 15th Street.
She’s expecting it to be a pretty special day for the boys.
“Carter and Noah just, you know, the hand they’ve been dealt is just very unfair. They deserve the happiest of birthdays,” Caroline said.
“I just want them to have the best three hours that they can possibly have,” she added.
The event starts at 1 p.m. and the public is invited to attend. Food will be available. Caroline is asking anyone coming to check out the cars to park along 15th Street.