At age 12 in 1952, I wanted a motorbike but Mother said no. Instead, I got a 1939 Chevrolet. I did not know how to drive, so Mother told Curtis, my old brother who was addicted to speed, to teach me to drive. You see, she needed me to transport her to work every morning and then convey myself and my tuba to school, so a car was her answer. Curtis took me to the backroads of Union County, taught me how to use the clutch and shift gears and said, “Drive, Danny, drive!”
If I was not going fast enough for him, which was often, he would reach over with his long leg and floor the accelerator. I managed to keep the old crate between the ditches, but cringed on the two-board bridges that abounded around there. After two afternoon sessions of “driving school” Curtis judged me ready, so Pop took me to the courthouse and told the man at the counter (turned out he was our back across-the-ditch neighbor) that I needed a driver’s license.
“Can he drive?” the man wanted to know. Pop said, “Yep, Curtis taught him.” So, the man wrote me a license. Mother wanted me to let her out about a block before we got to her place of employment. Maybe she was ashamed of the old vehicle or maybe she was concerned about the impression my driving would make on her co-workers. Anyway, she exited the auto before our destination every morning.
On the up side of the matter, as a car owner I was quite popular in junior high school. I made many new friends who wanted to eat their lunch with me sitting in the old crate. I got many suggestions as to what I should do to make it a hotrod. Eventually, I painted the bumpers red and immediately regretted it. One eccentricity the Chevy had was that the bracket was loose on the muffler and when you hit a bump, it would come loose and make a terrible racket. Curtis did not know about the problem, so, one day when we were going on about a 50-mile trip, he was driving. We crossed dippy bridge and the muffler fell, the car roared and Curtis panicked. I said, “Don’t worry, I can fix it.” I got out and slipped up under the car to make the accustomed adjustment. He was quite impressed. He was studying to be a mechanical engineer and here his little brother proved a bit more mechanical than he was.
I only had one fender-bender in that car. For some reason, on a boulevard in my town, the city had installed a series of vertical pipes around the median. I guess they were going to make a fence. I was paying attention to a couple of young ladies walking down the boulevard and mowed down two of the pipes, making quite an impression on the front fender and the two girls. As soon as I got home, I showed Mother and Pop the damage. To my relief, Pop said, “Well, it’s not too bad. That’s why we got an old one.”