MY FATHER’S CONCEPT OF DRIVER EDUCATION
My Father gave me my first car when I was fourteen years old. He informed me he would allow me to drive it if I could make it run. This proposal seemed to me a sure thing as my Father owned an automobile repair shop and I was eager to get started. Soon after we spoke we went to look at the car so I could see for myself what the car was like and figure out what had to be done to the car before I could drive it. The car turned out to be a 1929 De Soto coupe with a rumble seat. I particularly liked the rumble seat. My father was given the car by one of his customers. This “gift” of old cars was a common event for my Father after WW II when new cars were being sold again. It was simply the case that people were tired a driving old clunkers, as they had to do during the “duration”, and were happy get rid of them. My Father sold them for scrap.
My Father selected the DeSoto for its high-compression engine and the hydraulic brakes the car used. My first impression of the car was favorable. It was not beat-up and looked as thought a wash-job was all that stood between me and staring to drive. I am the son of a mechanics so I knew to open the engine compartment and make an effort to see the engine’s condition. My idea of a quick fix went out the window along with any idea of an early start on my driving career. It was obvious the big hole in the crankcase rendered this engine to junk status; it would never run again! I think my Father enjoyed my consternation but he quickly dropped the other shoe.
It turned out my Father had another engine to replace the broken one. All I had to do to start my driving career was change engines. I grew up in an auto shop environment; the challenge of changing engines seemed to me to be one I could meet. A little time and a little effort was all that stood in my way. This turned out the case because I made that old car run again. I was a “car owner” and I was ready to drive.
I started driving “my car” around town with my buddies to cheer me on. In a short time I got the idea of doing my paper route using my car and a friend in the rumble seat to throw the papers. Using my car worked very well and I never lacked friends who were eager to “help” me. The end of my youthful driving career came suddenly one afternoon as I was doing my paper route with the car full of friends. I was driving down a residential street toward a stop sign, at the intersection of the residential street with a main highway. Traffic was light and I went right through the stop and made a U-turn back into the residential street and kept going. As I said, traffic was light, but, unfortunately, it included a California highway Police Officer. After the stop, the Officer quickly determined my age as well as my lack of anything in the way of a permit to drive. The Officer now had a small problem. He could not let me off with a warning because of my age. He must issue a citation, but, he had to do something with the car and the small collection of teenage boys. His solution was to direct me to drive my car with my friends to my home and he would follow. It was a glum lot that led the slow parade through town.
When the parade reached home and pulled into the driveway, my Mother was concerned and not overly pleased with the situation. The Officer informed my Mother a citation would be issued and her son’s driving career was over until he turned sixteen. My Father paid the princely sum of ten dollars to the Court on my behalf and he was not very pleased either. I survived the experience and am happy to report I have yet to repeat this particular driving error. This is the way we learned in the days of my youth. We had our own form of Driver’s Education and it was effective.