men love cars and most old men do too, for the luxury of mobility.
"Son, you gonna drive me to drinking if you don't stop driving that
hot rod Lincoln." Those were the words of a popular song I really
liked as a teenager. That song had a fast, racy, rocking beat and
was very popular with many teenagers, especially hot rodders, of
that day. Some of my age group right here reading this, of the '50's
and '60's crowd, may remember that "Hot Rod Lincoln" song. I am
still very fond of that it, but rarely hear it played any more.
As an aspiring
teenage country lad in the summer of 1956, I worked a construction
job during high school summer break. It was between my junior and
senior year. The job was at an expansion project of the Lone Star
Cement Plant in Oak Cliff, Texas, a "old" W. Dallas suburb. A good
family friend from my rural Cass County neighborhood, Mr. Orman
Whatley, was kind enough to give me three months of badly need employment
at that time. Mr. Whatley was an Executive Assistant for a large
commercial construction company and throughout the years I learned
a great respect for him.
A group of
six construction guys all working together at the cement plant carpooled
every weekend to and from Kildare in NE Texas, near Atlanta. We
would drive to Dallas early on Monday mornings, work all week and
return to NE Texas late Friday evenings. That way we spent the weekends
at home. Everyone in our group stayed all week at an Oak Clift boarding
house where we ate meals and slept each night. It was a fairly nice,
adequate place to sleep and to eat breakfast and supper each day.
Of course, we ate our lunches on the job.
and from work weekdays in Oak Cliff, we often drove along Singleton
Boulevard and Hampton Rd. I soon began to notice a pretty little
1949 Chevrolet Fleetline two door sedan sitting on a nearby used
car lot. It was a very shinny dark blue color with very good chrome
and whitewall tires. Having six cylinders and standard shift, it
was attractive from an economical standpoint, too. I liked that.
It had the outside front windshield sunvisor, a long sloping rear
deck, fender skirts and lots of appeal to me. So I walked to the
car lot one evening after work to inquire about the car. I drove
it and inspected it very closely. I kicked the tires and began to
talk price with the dealer. Soon I was convinced to buy the car
and negotiated with the dealer for a reasonable price I could afford.
Payments were arranged, papers were signed and it was mine.
For the remainder
of that week I drove the car around Oak Cliff, to and from work
and about town. Come Friday evening after work, a work companion
and me drove it home to NE Texas. Back then the only route for us
to use was US Highway 67. It was the old two lane slow moving highway,
passing through the heart every little town along the way. Plus,
I didn't drive my "new" car very fast, either. Those were the days
before the great "super slab" Interstate Highway 30 was constructed,
so our trip home was unusually slow.
Our group always
stopped at a small, but real popular steakhouse just west of Sulphur
Springs to enjoy a nice Friday evening steak dinner. By the
time my companion and I reached that place, our friends in the carpool
ahead of us had already come and gone about an hour earlier. Maybe
they were in a bigger hurry than we were.
late that Friday evening, my parents had already retired for the
night. My arrival awakened them and they couldn't wait until morning
to see my "new" car. Having to inspect it that night, they seemed
to like it quite well. My dad said to me, "Very good son, maybe
now you won't have to always be borrowing my pickup for a date."
And he was right. It had been an inconvenient arrangement. He wasn't
very fond of, well, as he often said, "a wild and reckless" teenager
taking his work truck, the only family vehicle he could afford,
out for long hours on weekend nights. Especially since I had nearly
wrecked it on a couple of occasions. If today, I had a son like
I was back then, I would be even more reluctant to turn him loose
with my vehicle.
'49 Chevrolet served me well throughout my senior year and until
the fall of 1957, when I traded it for a 1954 Pontiac Catalina Hardtop.
That was some nice, cool, comfortable car. The extra long hood,
with the lighted Indian ornament, covered a big powerful straight
eight engine. Leather seats with a big roomy interior, made it a
"snazzy" fine car for me. I was proud that I had been able upgraded
My dear mother
never learned to drive, never; and as long as I was living at home,
I chauffeured her around quite a bit. Mostly to places like church
twice a week and to Atlanta shopping about once a week. We often
traveled to see relatives, too. I remember one weekend mother wanted
to go to Ore City, Texas, to visit a relative whose husband worked
there excavating "mountains" of iron ore gravel used there at a
nearby steel mill for the production of steel. We got as far as
Jefferson and had a flat tire. That took a while to get it fixed
before we continued merrily on our way.
All in all,
experiences with my cars haven't been bad. I learned to drive early
on. I learned a lot about the mechanical side of motoring. Being
mostly self-taught, I learned how to look and listen for any pending
problem and how to fix many of those problems. I learned to perform
all the regular service, to rotate tires and to keep a car clean
and be proud of it. My dad was pretty fond of saying, "Son, you
take care of it and it will take care of you." Never having a lot
of money for expensive repair bills, I tried to adhere to that bit
of wisdom. Throughout my life I have learned that principle also
applies to many, many things, not just to cars.
requirements these days are pretty minimal and throughout fifty-five
years of driving, I have had only one serious accident and that
was as a teenager. It happened between Atlanta and Huffines on Long
Bridge Road. I was driving alone in someone else's car and there
were no serious injuries. The car was a total wreck though.
It has often
been said that children are lucky to survive through adolescence
and the teenage years. I've come believe it. That goes double for
me in the rural backwoods during the '40's and '50's. Growing up
wasn't a "breeze" then and it certainly isn't easy today, either.
Even by today's standards, young folks have some mighty tough hurdles
to over come. There are so many negative influences lurking in the
world today, children need strong positive parental influence. Our
children need all the help, guidance and supervision they can get
from responsible adults.