Tales from real life
|Well, if they're not true, they oughta be!|
|Summer heat eased into the golden light of fall, and once school was back in session, I signed up for Drivers Ed. Yeah, it seemed kind of redundant, but I could get a real driver’s license at fifteen and a half if I passed Drivers Ed. The only problem was that the class was taught by Mr. Gallagher in the early morning, before classes. The only feasible solution was for me to drive myself to school so I could take Drivers Ed. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion, so I parked my Studebaker a few blocks away and surreptitiously walked to the high school parking lot. I later found out that pretty much everyone knew what was going on, but no one ratted me out. Just one of the advantages of growing up in a small town.
Drivers Ed turned out to be a useful course of instruction, and I learned a lot, despite my arrogant assumption that I already knew how to drive. Truthfully, there’s a very big difference between steering and driving. Mr. Gallagher took it seriously, teaching us to be courteous on the road while driving defensively. He wasn’t shy about pointing out errors, and emphasized major corrections with a swat from his clipboard.
The local Ford dealer donated a nice LTD for the school’s use, and it was the first time that I ever drove an automatic. When it was my turn behind the wheel, Mr. Gallagher told me to go ahead and start it up. I looked down hesitantly at the floorboards, fishing around with my left foot.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I can’t find the clutch,” I replied.
I completed the Drivers Ed course satisfactorily, and passed my driver’s test in the spring. The pickup had been parked again over the winter, and I had some difficulty getting it going. The battery had gotten pretty weak, so I now needed a jump to get it started when cold. The engine would turn over easily when warm, but I learned to park at the top of a hill so I could do a ‘bump start’ if necessary.
Our driveway had a slight downward slope, and the road had an even steeper downhill grade if I turned out to the right, so I could almost always get the pickup started that summer. Sure, it would have been easier to buy a new battery, but that would take cash I didn't have. And, anyway, the battery worked just fine once the engine was running!
The old Studebaker pickup lost its appeal once I could legally borrow a ‘good’ car from my parents. I drove it less and less as the year wore on. That fall, it was relegated to the old pothole, and I never started it again.
It wasn’t quite the end of my Studebaker pickup story, though. A few years later, the local Postmaster struck up a conversation with my dad about cars. He liked Studebakers too, and was excited when he found out that we had a ’53 pickup in near-running order. I knew that I was never going to restore it, so Bob got an old project truck and I got a crisp new $100 bill. I can’t say that I miss that rattling, bouncing, pile of rust, but I’m glad that it went to a good home.