By Doris Schroeder
My dad needed another driver badly when we lived on the farm in the forties. Since I was the only one around who could even slightly meet that criteria. I was elected to do jt. Learning to drive was a little different than in today’s society. Now, you take a driver’s education class in high school and when you are 16, you go in and take a test. My case was a little different.
Driving instruction began on the farm yard. Dad told me to push my foot on the one pedal, pull the gear shift down and then to the left, let up on the clutch slowly and hopefully, the car would be rolling. That accomplished, I had to remember where the brake was. Sometimes I didn’t remember until we had already almost hit the old hayrack, the stock tank or something else. Every time I started to move, the chickens ran out of the way like the roosters with their heads cut off, squawking all the way. Our two dogs, Shep and Spot. set off at a distance since they didn’t want to get hit. I must admit our ‘39 Mercury was quite accommodating to the whims of an eleven-year-old.
I don’t know why but after awhile my dad seemed to think I should practice out on the wheat field. We opened the gate from the barn and drove out where we had more room for mistakes that weren’t so major.
Again our car went through many little episodes as I learned the rudiments of changing gears and backing up. You see, automatic shifts had not yet been invented and it took a lot more knowledge to drive a car in those days.
Finally my dad let me drive down the country road which took a lot of expertise. because I had to dodge the big ruts in our driveway. A couple of times, I didn’t miss them and dad had to get the car relocated.
He began to let me drive when we went to visit my our relatives on Sunday afternoon. I always felt so elated when he would ask “Do you want to drive, Doris?” I felt it was an honor and even though I always felt some trepidation, I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to drive.
One Sunday afternoon, we were driving to Newton to see my aunt and uncle, George and Mary Schierling. We were traveling down Highway 50, mom and my little sister Carol were in the back seat and dad was snoozing in the front while I was zooming along at 50 miles an hour.
I really felt grown up and probably a little proud that I could drive so well. Suddenly, the turn off to Halstead came up. I couldn’t remember whether this was the right corner, so I began the sharp turn while calling out to my dad “is this where we turn or not?”
The car careened wildly on two wheels and almost turned over. Of course, dad woke up suddenly and grabbed the wheel and mom and Carol screamed wildly in the back.
Our trusty old vehicle managed to right itself as I remembered how to sop. My mom was still screaming, dad looked pale and my little sister was crying. My hands were shaking as we took stock of the situation and I secretly vowed I would never drive again.
In spite of mom’s protests, dad told me I would continue driving. My hands were still shaking as I backed up and continued down Highway 50. I can remember looking at the graveyard as we drove by and thinking “Dad is so wise by making me continue driving because if I didn’t, I’d probably never want to again!”
Actually, I was more cautious after that. I think it was when I was 13. we drove up to what later was the Self-service Drug store and I went in, filled out a brief form and for the grand sum of one dollar, was issued my first driver’s license. To me, that was an accomplishment. My dad? He deserved a medal of honor, but then, of course, he now had another driver in the family.
I am sure, however, that before each trip we took, dad was quietly praying for God to keep us safe. And He did! I am still here, however, the ‘39 Mercury is long gone to who knows where! AND, I am still driving!!!
Doris welcomes your driving comments and can be reached at [email protected]