Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The First Time I Drove a Vehicle

1950s Tractor

This may be more difficult than one might anticipate.  When I was but six years old, my Uncle Murray, was driving his tractor along a dirt road, and picked up his kids, as well as my older sister and I.  We were riding along standing on a rear rail of the tractor, when suddenly, I was being picked up and landed in my Uncle's lap.  He told me to drive his tractor.  Really it was only steering, but I was so caught off guard, that I sort of panicked, and began turning the wheel more than I should have, which almost landed us in a ditch.

I had never even ridden on a tractor before, as we had previously lived in Hamilton, Ohio, and my dad was an electrical contractor there, not a farmer.

This was in a small rural community in Sumner, Georgia, and here, there were fields of corn and peanuts all around.  My Uncle grew watermelons, cotton, corn and peanuts depending on seasons and crop rotation, so he had taught his son to drive a tractor when he was only three years old.  But his kids grew up on the farm, and I was just getting adjusted to that sort of thing.

1940s Crosleys (Sedan and Wagon)
My next attempt a really driving a vehicle was under my father's guidance.  He was an excellent teacher, and I had watched him drive all my life.  I had taken note of how he managed the steering wheel, the brakes and the clutch.  When we moved across the country from Texas to California, I was the navigator, and this required reading the map and telling my dad well ahead of time which roads and towns we were approaching, as well as which way to turn to get to our desired destination.

I was about thirteen when he allowed me to move a vehicle on our property.  I learned to drive a four on the floor, in an old 1948 Crosley wagon.  This was before the VW Bug even existed, at least in the United States.  Somehow, my dad had found this little gem for sale in 1959 or maybe 1960.

1949 Dodge Coronet
1950s Dodge Coronet
Then, after I got my learner's permit to drive, my dad and I were out taking care of business here is Southern California, when he suddenly pulled off to the side of the road, and told me to drive his 1950 Dodge Coronet 2 door sedan.   Here we were in even ing traffic, and it was long before Southern California was criss-crossed with freeways that now exist.  I was driving from Long Beach to Westminster, California, all in one dose.  My heart was pounding, as I was concerned about being the cause of some horrific accident and maybe killing us both as well as innocent people in other vehicles.  He coached me in controlling how fast or slow to move out after being stopped fro traffic lights, and how to merge with oncoming traffic, as well.

This car had what was then called a semi-automatic transmission, which meant that I would start out in first gear,  and I could either shift it into second, or allow it to slip into second, and I would then change into third.  It had a button on the end of the steering column shift that you pushed to go into overdrive, for overcoming slower traffic for passing, or speeding up to merge into moving traffic.  I really loved that car.  It had a glass-packed muffler, and really roared when you gunned the engine.  I wouldn't mind having another one of those cars even today.

That was my dad's work car, which I would eventually inherit when he bought a new Turquoise long-bed 1961 Dodge 1/2 ton pickup truck.

He was nearly killed in his truck, when a women lost control of her 1948 Ford car, and careened across the center divider on a heavily driven main road in work traffic on Hwy 39 between Westminster and Hunting Beach, CA in 1962.  She was killed, and my father's truck was totaled.

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