1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Road Warrior

www.rekhadhyani.com Freedom is just around the corner!

Freedom is just around the corner!

My parents went temporarily insane.

They decided to teach me how to drive and quickly discovered there was nothing standard about me.

A learner’s permit was the first step toward my passport to freedom. Controlling a giant hunk of metal was nerve-racking, not so much for me as for my regretful instructors.

I intently stared at our Pontiac hood ornament, making sure it lined up with the edge of the road.

“You need to look down the road so you know what’s ahead of you,” said Mom in a deceptively calm voice laced with a panicky edge.

I flicked my eyes between the ornament and the road ahead, gradually figuring out how to stay centered in my lane while watching where I was going. Driving was a cinch. In another day I’d have it mastered.

I was fairly comfortable with an automatic, when Momma-nooch became the first in a long line of optimists who made the mistake of putting me behind the wheel of a standard.

After many false starts in our driveway, Mom compounded her mistake by taking me on the road. Once I got going, driving a standard wasn’t too difficult. Of course, I was on a back road with no stop signs or traffic lights.

And then I entered the Queensbury town limits.

I approached a well-traveled four-way intersection.

Hoping to direct me away from any congestion, Mom said, “Make a right turn up here.”

The traffic light was green. I put on my blinker and obediently turned the wheel to the right.

“Slow down!” she shouted.

“I’m trying,” I yelled.

I took the turn on two wheels in the far lane, successfully demonstrating that a clutch does not work well as a brake. Luckily, no one was in my way.

Mom promptly ended my driving lesson.

www.ctorchia.wordpress.com Sorry Daddy-O, this is never going to be me!

Sorry Daddy-O, this is never going to be me!

A few days later for reasons unknown, Daddy-O joined in with attempting the impossible, but he took it a giant step further.

My silly father decided to teach me how to drive a tractor. Maybe he thought I’d come in handy during haying season.

I headed straight for his gas pump — a somewhat foreseeable event. Luckily, Dad stood behind me on the tail-hitch and grabbed the steering wheel in the nick of time.

Fast forward twelve years later: My new boyfriend and future husband gently assured me, “Sweetie, you just need the right person to teach you how to drive a standard.”

I joltingly drove his Volkswagen around my trailer three times before he yelled in an aggravated and unromantic voice, “Stop! Stop the car now! Honey, you’re never going to drive a standard. I should have listened to your father.”

Lesson learned: He was right on all counts. I never learned, and he should have listened to my father. I stuck to automatics.

Now it’s your turn: How did your first driving lessons go?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. mikesteeden says:

    What an opening gambit, ‘My parents went temporarily insane’ – fine, fine musings thereafter also.

  2. Elle Knowles says:

    I didn’t learn how to drive a standard until many, many years following getting married and having children. My thoughts were that if I had to drive, listen to squabbling children, and remember why I was in the car and where I was going to begin with – therefore, I should not have to add driving a standard to my list! 😉

  3. chsuresh63 says:

    Hahaha! Mary! You really are surrounded by a bunch of hyper-optimists 🙂 My family leaned in the other direction and I know naught about driving 🙂 Never did dare try to learn after finding that I had this uncanny knack of knocking over the sole pedestrian on a wide road with my bicycle. My very soul shudders at the thought of the mayhem I would wreak with any motorized vehicle, with my tendency to pursue vagrant thoughts in my mind to the exclusion of such insignificant things as people and traffic on the road I was driving down 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Suresh, I have visions of the poor pedestrian trying to get away from your bike. The world thanks you for abstaining from motorized vehicles!

      • Ralph says:

        Your comment chsuresh63 reminds me of how my mother’s father was killed just before D-Day in WW2 on the Isle of Wight, England. As a policeman he was directing a convoy of military vehicles through a crossroads at 2am using a small red torch. A drunk on a bicycle raced down the hill into him and so ends the story.

        Great post Mary ! Well up with your best stories ❤

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Oh my gosh, Ralph. That is a story that couldn’t possible be made up! And Suresh, did you have an ancestor in England at the time? Perhaps your bike trait is genetic!

  4. Mine was a problem of not knowing how to drive as my poor speedy driving habits and racing. In those days you could get by with a lot. I’m fortunate!! Today I would be in jail if I did like I did then.

  5. themoonstone says:

    Ha ha ! I failed two times with a driving school and finally made it the third time. The first time, I suspected the driving school car driver was actually driving while I was under the illusion I was driving. The second time, I was with a feminist who instructed me to mow down all the trucks on the road who dared to think who could have their way as I was a woman. The third time finally I struck gold after I learned from my dad-in-law and all I did was to take out of the parking and put it back for a month, till I had complete control over the car. That was 8 years back :). Since then, haven’t looked back. I drive the standard gear one.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      M.S., that’s the spirit, never give up! My next post provides details of my driver education experience. Let’s just say I think I left a lasting impression on him.

  6. Oh, so many stories! I spent a period of my life teaching driving (I still do it, if someone asks me) and many is the happy moment I’ve spent approaching 15 mph corners at 40 mph! The best times, though, are those when the learner in complete confusion presses the brake instead of the gas and the car stops dead. There is a certain mirror-glance that follows, watching the car behind to see if the driver has registered your completely illogical interruption to progress. A life-changing experience. Been there, seen it, T-shirt. Fun!

  7. Slo-Man says:

    Sounds like the Slo-Man’s sister who was half decent with the big column shifter, but the little stick shift totally defeated her. The use of a very heavy hand (due to the overall tension) meant that it was just likely to go back backwards as into first gear. The difference between the 2 gears was pressure applied downwards, so that is not surprising. Younger than her by 6 years, the Slo-Man still ended up in the instructors seat.

    There is another person who was taught by, well, the LastWord, wrote a story about how he met his wife and received this memoir in return, which reminded him of driving lessons he provided – free of charge. 🙂


    • Slo-Man says:

      Except that they ended up being very expensive for the poor little thing because she ended up spending 30 something years (and counting) of her life with him.

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Slo-Man, driving a standard and/or stick shift is a skill that you either master fairly easy or never at all.
        I think it’s funny that you taught a sibling 6 years older. And I would say you were very smart with your free lessons!

  8. Glynis Jolly says:

    LOL! Maybe the timing has to be right to move from an automatic to a standard. I learned first with the automatic, a real large boat of a car, the Mercury Montclair. Once mastered, my father found a little puddle jumper that had been totaled. He fixed all that was wrong including the damage to the body, painted it a metallic brown (yuck!) and surprised me with it. It was the boyfriend I had right after I graduated from high school who taught me how to drive a standard. We used his mom’s Corvair (sp?). He took me on dirt roads, making me stop and the start again, even on hills both up and down. I did learn how to drive that silly car. 😀

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Glynis, I remember our boat cars. I learned on a Pontiac Bonneville, the length and width of a city block. Too bad you didn’t get to pick your own color. Brown wasn’t the cool color back then, but a car is a car. And having one was cool. I admire anyone who can mastered a standard.

  9. I have been to a driving school twice over. Once to get my license, i was driving a small car, I got it. Then I found I had virtually no road judgement at least not the kind required for a Mumbai traffic jam and stopped. When I tried again, I realized I had top take revision lessons. Took them. The husband took me out to drive…… It was traumatic. i can get a car in motion, but I can’t drive.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Tannaaz, I understand your dilemma. I’m fine driving locally but tense up and panic if forced to drive on a crowded thruway, or even worse, switch from one thruway to another.

  10. suzjones says:

    I learned how to drive using a manual (what you call a standard). My parents only took me maybe two lessons before they turned me over to the professionals. My grandmother tried once (using a column shift) but she gave up as well.
    These days I drive an automatic. I can still drive a manual but it’s usually an entertaining experience for all 😉

  11. kriskkaria says:

    My driving instructor told me I’d never get anywhere fast. I’m not the speed demon. I am a dedicated standard driver though.

  12. Choosing says:

    Automatic cars are not so common here, almost every one has to learn the hard way 😉 I still remember when I just had learned to drive… I was afraid of red traffic lights because I thought I would kill the engine… Luckily my boyfriend had an old Volvo. You simply could not kill that engine. You could get that car going in second gear from a full stop, no problem at all. I loved that car. It was huge, but fairly rectangular, so I could always see where it ended. Also it was so old no one gave a damn if you scratched it. But I did not! 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Choosing, if we didn’t have an abundance of automatics I’d be riding a bike (not the motorized type). I never could figure out gears. I had a three speed bike once and never changed the setting. Definitely no mechanical ability!

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