I recently reconnected with Felda Looper on Facebook. We haven’t talked in about 35 years, so there is a lot to remember and a lot to learn about each other! We reminisced about learning to drive on the west side streets of Heavener. Dad taught Judy and me really young, about 12 years old I think. In fact, Judy had her first wreck with Dr. Fair when she was about 14. Anyway, I knew how to drive, and Felda and I decided it was time for her to learn as well.
We “borrowed” an old, old, old gray Ford with wings on the back from my Dad’s old car collection for this special project because the Gray Ghost had a Sears and Roebuck air-conditioner that was MONEY on those hot summer days.Dad worked a lot of nights that summer, so I would have breakfast with him and make sure he was sound asleep before I drove the Gray Ghost up the hill to pick up Felda for her driving lesson.
Driving the Gray Ghost was a challenge in itself because it was a 3-speed on the column, and really interesting things always happened when you changed from first to second gear.
I think they must have crossed up some wiring when they installed that Sears and Roebuck air conditioner. Sometimes the horn would honk when you changed gears, and sometimes the windshield wipers would swipe a few times.
Such distractions for a beginning driver!
Felda and I would make our way out to Independence Road and practice our driving skills, then get the Ghost back to my back yard before time for Mo to wake up.
When Felda turned 16, Dr. Looper was amazed at how quickly she “caught on” to the skill of driving. And we were so excited at the possibilities of Felda actually having a license! Dr. Looper had a Corvette and a Mustang, and we could just picture ourselves sporting around the country in those classy cars. But NO, we forgot about the old, old car Dr. Looper had in their back yard, the Packard!! And as luck would have it, her Dad was able to get the Packard running again just in time for Felda’s 16th birthday. That car was the biggest tank you can imagine, probably was once quite a luxury mobile, but not in 1971. It would not go one bit faster than 30 miles an hour, maybe closer to 25. All my careful teaching of how to effectively use a clutch was wasted. The Packard was an automatic; however, it was not without excitement either. Sometimes it wouldn’t change gears at all, and just hummed along really loudly in first gear. Or when it would change gears it had this crazy way of almost stopping and then LUNGING forward as it moved into the next gear.
There was such wisdom in giving your child a gigantic, slow Green Packard as a first car. We could never get a speeding ticket because it wasn’t possible to speed! There is no way that car would not be noticed, so there was nothing we ever got by with in the Packard. We had been told it should never be driven past the Dairy Cream, but we motored over to Poteau one day. A host of angry parents waited to greet us upon our return. Another time, all the majorettes decided to steal a stop sign. From the Glass House, sitting at his desk, Dad saw the old slow Packard packed full of girls lunging over the railroad tracks with the huge, red octogon sticking out the back window. (Later that night I had an appointment with Daddy and a shovel. Judy and I think it was at the exact same intersection where Dad watched her put one back up in the ice and snow 10 years earlier! I must clarify Judy didn’t steal hers. It simply encountered her bumper!)