Learning to Drive

I'm sure most people of my age hold memories of their youth, and one memory that many remember with fondness, or horror, is learning to drive a car.

I had no problem passing my driving test for the first time at the age of sixteen because I'd taken driver education class in school. Also, I'd been driving on occasion since I was fourteen.

My sister was two years older than me and, when she started driving, my dad helped her buy an old 1960 Ford Falcon. I'm pretty sure she hated that car. Now, at about the same time, he must've found a great deal because he also purchased a 1968 Datsun 510 bluebird.

In those days, before the gas crunch, foreign cars (as people called them) were inexpensive. Very few people seemed to want some small boxy car with an under powered engine. Nobody cared that these cars were easy on gas. What fun was that? Funny thing is that I believe my sister's Falcon had a four cylinder engine just like the Datsun my dad purchased for (tooling around) and running errands.

Anyway, my dad preferred to drive a truck so the the little Datsun mostly sat in the driveway rusting. So, home from school with my chores and homework done, that car became an enticing distraction.

The car had a stick shifter and a choke that I realized had to be manipulated just right to get the car started. It was kind of like a lawnmower, and I had plenty of experience with lawnmowers.

It started out as just a sneaky exciting experience, moving the car back and forth in our driveway. After gaining confidence and realizing that I could replace the gas I used with gas for the lawn mower, I was off to the races!

Before long, I was owning the entirety of Rocky Point road from my house to Crown Hill Elementary, and beyond. To this day, I can't help but wonder if my dad ever became suspicious about the lawnmower gas can suddenly needing to be refilled so often. I suppose, if he did, he never questioned me about it. I have a sneaking suspicion (having raised my own kids now) that my dad knew a lot more about what was going on in my life than I thought he knew.

With all this newfound experience it was no surprise that, when my friend J.T. (we'll just call him J.T.) and I later stole, I mean borrowed his mom's Ford Pinto Station Wagon to go joyriding around town, I had no problem driving it. Plus, the car had an automatic transmission so, bonus.

I know that the Ford Pinto developed a terrible reputation but this one was proven in battle. I believe we may have put a dent or two in that car that, as far as I know, remained unnoticed.

Believe me when I say that J.T.'s mom was no better steward of that car than us. I remember one time I was at his house after school. I believe, at the time, he was living off of Almira Drive in East Bremerton behind, what used to be a Kmart shopping center where we would play shopping cart destruction derby behind the store. But that's another story.

So, we're at his house probably doing something outside and we hear a terrible scraping, banging sound coming from somewhere in the distance. The sound grew closer and we started to think maybe some car was dragging its bumper or muffler. It actually turned out to be something worse. As the car pulled onto his street, we saw a car dragging a 55 gallon drum attached to the driver door handle. And yes, it was the Ford Pinto Station Wagon driven  by J.T.'s mom.

Apparently, J.T,'s mom overstayed her welcome in a pay parking lot in West Bremerton and the drum was attached to her car in an effort to make her pay the additional fee. Instead of paying, she simply drove home through town and across a bridge with the drum attached.  We were both amazed at what she did but mostly, we were amazed the drum had not ripped the door handle from the car. That's how we knew the the Ford Pinto Station Wagon was a tough car.

Oddly enough, I had no serious mishaps while illegally borrowing these cars for learning purposes. I did well in Driver Education class and passed my driving test on the first try.

Most of my problems came later with my own cars and involved sex, drugs, or the pursuit of financial gain. But, again, those are all other stories.

Photo credits: weclips.com, favcar.com, oldparkedcars.com