Genealogists and family historians get a lot of satisfaction from chasing their ancestors’ stories. Finding a diary, a message on a postcard, or a photo with a name attached is like the sun coming out after a storm. One day we will be somebody’s ancestor. We need to leave our descendants a little bit of sunshine too. So here is my story told alphabetically, not chronologically: Growing Up in Cradock.
is for Driving.
Getting that driver’s license is a rite of passage that most teenagers anticipate and act on as soon as the law allows. However, that was not always true when I was growing up. I remember my grandmother getting her driver’s license and the little grey Rambler that she purchased not long afterwards. My own mother was late getting her license too, relying on other teachers to pick her up for school.
I suppose she eventually grew tired of the inconvenience of having to rely on others, so she decided to learn to drive. Daddy took her out faithfully to practice driving and parallel parking. When Momma was confident that she had mastered her driving skills, she went to the DMV to take her written test and then road test. We were all set to celebrate when she got home, but the look on her face said there would be no cheers that afternoon. She failed parallel parking.
The main DMV office in Portsmouth had a reputation for being ridiculously strict about that part of the test. Momma’s friends all said, “Go to South Norfolk. You’ll pass.” The word was out: the South Norfolk DMV was soft on the road test.
|Me and the family car 1969|
When I was in high school, only a few of my friends drove. No one had a car of their own, so I was in no hurry. Driver’s Education was not a required part of the school curriculum. As I recall, it was taught only in the summer. One summer, I decided to sign up.
Several weeks before class was to begin, it occurred to me that my car mates might already know how to drive. I did not want to be the only one with NO experience behind the wheel. Daddy would be the perfect one to help me learn.
I remember that first lesson.
Momma was at the sewing machine just sewing up a storm. Daddy came in with his favorite tennis shorts in need of repair. Before he could speak, I grabbed the opportunity to ask for a driving lesson. “What do you need a driving lesson for?” he said. “You don’t need a lesson. You just get in the car and drive.” I tried to protest, but he would not listen. He had that darn hole in his favorite shorts on his mind. He asked Momma if she would stitch it up.
My quick-witted mother replied, “Fix it yourself. Sit down here at the sewing machine. You don’t need a lesson. You just sit down and sew.”
With that, Daddy reached into his pocket and tossed me the keys. For several evenings we went for short drives through the narrow streets of Cradock and out to the highway, usually Victory Boulevard which did not have much traffic. I do not recall anything eventful about my lessons except one time pulling into the driveway. I just drew a blank. How do you stop this thing? Where is the brake? From the comfort of the passenger seat, Daddy stretched that left leg over and found the brake just in time to save our garage door (and our car!).
At least I had some experience behind the wheel when Driver’s Ed started that summer. We spent a fair amount of time driving around the school parking lot and parallel parking between cones. When it came time to hit the road, our instructor often had us drive him to various golf courses where he picked up a fresh box of golf balls. Maybe he was even booking a tee time. We went to a lot of golf courses.
When our driving course was over, I did not rush out to South Norfolk to get my license. Why? That classy Chevrolet we drove in Driver’s Ed had power steering. Our family car did not. I suppose I was too afraid that it would be difficult to adjust and I might hit a garage door.
|Barry and his Chevy Nova II|
My lessons were in a little Chevy Nova II. What a great little car. I took my driver’s test and passed with no problem. Lucky for me, by 1971 parallel parking was no longer a part of the test.
The psychology teacher added a twist to the project. We had to present our project to the class AND we had to give ourselves a grade. Was that crazy or what? I remember only two other projects. One guy learned to bake cookies. A girl made her own wedding dress. I am not sure what any of these projects taught us about psychology. As for my grade, I gave myself a “B” justifying that my new driver’s license trumped freshly baked cookies but paled next to a wedding dress.
Discover delightful displays of daydreams and discourse at the A to Z April Challenge.
© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.