When Grandpa John Was a Kid - Getting My Driverís License

In 1932, when I was four, the family car disappeared from the driveway with no explanation given. No one suspected that a young child would wonder what had happened. Three years later my daddy found regular work and bought a new 1935 Ford V8. With the spare tire covering the back of the car, access to the trunk was provided by pulling down the seatback in the back seat.

This six-passenger automobile had a gearshift knob on a two-foot rod rising from the floor in front of the middle passenger in the front seat. When I reached age fourteen, my daddy let me take my turn riding beside him where I would shift gears as he stepped on the clutch.

Soon after my fifteenth birthday, Daddy would let me drive short distances. I remember pleading to drive the two blocks from the grocery store to home. My daddy agreed, but didnít get in the car as he said, "I think Iíll walk."

My daddy died from a perforated ulcer the summer I was fifteen. With our country in the midst of World War II, my mother rode with a car full of school teachers with the same man driving every day. As a result of the war effort to conserve gasoline, the 1935 Ford V8 usually stayed in the garage.

On my sixteenth birthday in December 1943, I made my plans to drive to the tag agency downtown after school to get my driverís license. When I tried to start the car, I found that due to the cold weather, the old battery wouldnít crank the engine.

I gathered my neighborhood buddies to help me push the car into the street. When the boys were not able to push the car fast enough to start the engine, we decided to push the car to the end of the block and onto Western Avenue which always had traffic. A kind woman stopped and pushed my car with hers to get me started. Before the war, all cars had front and rear bumpers for just such emergencies. Jumper cables had not yet been discovered.

At the tag agency, I passed a written and a driving test that included parallel parking. There was no insurance requirement because most folks had none.

In May of 1945, I graduated from Classen High School at the age of seventeen. I entered summer school at the University of Oklahoma to increase my opportunities when I would face the military draft on my eighteenth birthday.

When my brother Wallace came home on leave from the navy and I was leaving for college, Mother suggested we sell the car because she couldnít afford to maintain what was becoming an old car, and so we did.

In the ensuing fifty-three years Iíve driven cars with more features, but none that gave me a thrill like driving our 1935 Ford V8.

Copyright 1998 by John C. Westervelt

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