Thursday, June 12, 2008

First Automobiless

Driving a car began at an early age for me. I was twelve when I learned how to drive. The reason for the early age was simple: my sister is three years older than I and when she began learning at the age of fifteen via a beginner’s permit I went along and learned too.

Our (i.e., my sister’s and mine) first car was a 1936 Chevrolet sedan. It had a starter that was actuated by pushing the accelerator pedal to one side to engage a dog that depressed the start switch directly—no solenoids required. A manual choke and a manual throttle completed the dashboard controls. The transmission was a standard three-speed model with a floor mounted lever.

The battery on the car wasn’t very reliable so each afternoon I backed it up the alley behind our house to position it for a rolling clutch start the next morning. The steering mechanism was very stiff and, so my sister said, she couldn’t manipulate it so I became the de facto if not the de jure driver. I believe her real problem was backing it up a rather narrow alley. At any rate, I became the driver at the age of thirteen.

Every school morning we would go by the Gartner house and pick up Joanne and Bob (John Robert) Gartner. Then we would set off for the school on the east side of town. By the time we got to school we would sometimes have ten or more kids in and on the car. It had a nice set of running boards that would hold at least four people.

The cooling system leaked like a sieve so we had to add water daily in warm weather. In cold weather we added methyl alcohol because antifreeze was too expensive. I learned early on that my Father had set the timing back on the car to keep the speed down. I also learned how to set it back to a more advanced position so the car would run more than 40 miles/hour. Whenever I did this I had to be careful to set it back before I backed up the alley because there was always a chance that he would drive the car before the next morning and notice the timing change.

Later on that old car was sold for a penny per pound and netted $33.00, just a little more than the $25.00 paid for it earlier.

After that first car I move on to a 1941 Chevrolet business coupe to a 1947 Chevrolet sedan to a 1954 Chevrolet sedan just before I was graduated from HHS in 1959. The 1954 served me well all through college and wasn’t replaced until 1965 before I left OSU with my first Master’s degree. By then I was married and ready to go to work full time.

When I went to get insurance on the replacement car (a 1960 Chevrolet) I was working with the State Farm agent to minimize my costs.

Him---“Are you twenty five?”
Me---“No, I am twenty three.”
Him---“Oh, too bad. If you were twenty five I could get you a 15% reduction. Do you have a good grade point?”
Me---“Yes, I do.”
Him---“Have you ever had an accident?”
Me---“No, I have not.”
Him---“Have you ever had a traffic ticket?”
Me---“No, I have not.”
Him---“Well, I can reduce your premium 10% for the grade point and 5% for the no-accident and no-ticket record.”
Me---“That’s great. Will my wife be covered as well?”
Him---“You’re married?”
Me---“Yes.”
He tore up the original contract and replaced it with one that had a premium 50% lower.


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