Reminisce Extra Magazine
These days, North Kickapoo Street in Shawnee, Oklahoma, is a four-lane road leading out to the interstate, and lined with all kinds of places to eat and shop. But in the mid-1950s, it was just a gravel country road, the perfect place for our daddies to teach us how to drive.
We didn’t have driver’s education at Shawnee High School. We were on our own. Mom took me to pick up an instruction manual. I was the oldest of my friends, so we were excited at the prospect of a whole new world opening up. We’d have freedom to get around. Best of all, we could go to the Starlite Drive-In theater on 50-cents-a-carload night. We’d have it made.
Mom let me back our 1949 Ford out of the garage a few times to get used to the clutch and gearshift. I got familiar with the motion but was hardly ready for my road test.
Finally, the day came for Daddy to give me a real lesson. He drove out to the end of the paved section of Kickapoo Street and across to where the gravel started. My daddy had come from a family of 10, and they had been farmers in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. There was only one way to do things, and that was the right way.
Compliments were rare, so when he muttered his approval it was special. I didn’t want to experience his glare if I ground the clutch or the car jerked as I tried to get it going.
I took a deep breath, slowly let out the clutch, pushed the stick into second gear, eased down the road, and then carefully moved into third gear. He had me stop and repeat the procedure two or three more times until I came to the end of the section. I was feeling pretty good as I came to a stop and looked to Daddy for approval.
He glared at me and then barked, “You’ve been driving, haven’t you?”
He must have thought I’d been practicing in somebody else’s car. I quickly explained that my training was all on the up and up.
That was 60 years ago. I can still see the nod he gave me when he said, “Well, you did good.”