Drive In

We went to see Disney’s Cars 2 (overly long) this weekend and that got me thinking about my own early driving history.

I found a letter from my father not too long ago, which I will share in a couple of weeks on his birthday, but one line in it reminded me of how young I was when I started driving.

“In 1981 dollars the 50 ft drive would cost about $225,000 per mile”.

As you can well imagine, my first driving experience wasn’t a great success.

It was in Memphis, Tennessee, 1963 and our family had grown to four kids. My parents were out looking at houses to fit their extended brood. My younger brother and I had been placed in the front seat of the car while my parents finished speaking with the real estate agent.

In those days there were no requisite car seats. An enterprising youngster could stand on the broad bench seat, play with the radio and pretend to drive.

While my parents talked, I tried my hand at driving. So what did I do?  I mimicked what I had seen.  Put the imaginary key in, grab the wheel give it few turns back and forth with some zoom, zoom sound effects and then…shift.

One other note about cars back then, gears didn’t necessarily lock on automatic transmissions when the car was stopped and the key removed.

Now a geography lesson, parts of Memphis are quite hilly.  Many houses are built with good sloping driveways.  We happened to be parked on one.  When I shifted the gear lever, it went from park to neutral quite smoothly and my nine month old brother and I were off on our very first solo drive together.

I cannot imagine our parent’s horror as they watched their car starting down that hill and  carrying their two youngest children across a four lane street with oncoming traffic. I have visions of them doing the slow motion outreach, “Nooooooo….!”.

It was okay though, there was a house across that street to stop us.

The car crashed into the front of the house just under a large picture window.

We were fine. My brother didn’t even roll off the front seat.

Surprisingly, my dad says the car wasn’t damaged.  They sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

The our joy ride blockade didn’t fare as well, hence the inflationary comment above.  Would loved to have seen that insurance report write up.

I have three memories from the event.  Seeing Mom & Dad outside of the car, being pulled out of the car and the physical sensation that equates to “Wheeeeee!”.

My driving career was somewhat curtailed until legal driving age after that.  But I’ll be danged I didn’t develop quite a love for roller coasters.   




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