The Tale of Three Drivers


Ours was gray.  I remember the pull cords on the backs of the front seats.

1946 Oldsmobile:  Ours was gray. I remember the pull cords on the backs of the front seats.

My dad bought his first car when I was in grade school.  He had swapped a gun and $50 to an old ’46 Oldsmobile.  This is the tale of three drivers I will never forget.

One Car, No Licensed Drivers

When my dad bought his first car, neither he nor my mother knew how to drive.  My mother seized the opportunity to learn, out of necessity, while my dad was working the “hoot owl” shift at the mines.

The Union Hall Mishap

She enlisted her brother Leon to teach her how to drive while my dad slept during the day.  My mother took liberties with that learner’s permit out of necessity.

One day we were returning from grocery shopping.  I was in the back seat with sacks of groceries surrounding me while my mother drove.  The licensed driver, my uncle Leon, was in the passenger seat.  As we approached the Union Hall at the foot of the Brickyard Hill where we lived, my uncle thought my mother was going a little too fast to make the right turn.

I briefly remember hearing him say “Slow down Lunah Mae.”  The next thing I knew our vehicle had climbed most of the steps of the Union Hall & I was wearing raw scrambled eggs on my pants.

The bent steel I-beam embedded in the ground near the Union Hall steps is, to this day, a monument to that historical account of my mother’s failed attempt at driving.

I have to smile every time I pass this historic landmark.

I have to smile every time I pass this historic landmark.

Modeling the Teacher

Of course there are two sides to every story.  I learned later that my uncle had reached his own foot across to the driver’s side to press on the brake pedal for my mother, but had instead hit the gas pedal.

I remember riding to Ohio with the same uncle and my dad to visit my dad’s ailing sister.  On that journey, we passed each and every motor vehicle, without exception, on the way there and back.  Not a single vehicle passed us.  Amazingly we escaped both tragedy and law enforcement unscathed.

This was also the same uncle legendary for his habit of getting so engrossed in conversation with his passengers that he forgot he was driving.  Once he even got so busy talking that he forgot he was driving and flipped his car over an embankment and into a creek bed on Beefhide Creek.  This is the story he told on himself.  You simply can’t make up stories this funny!

Dad Learns to Drive

Following my mother’s near calamity on the Union Hall steps, my dad bought his first new car:  a 1957 2-tone green Ford.  I’m not totally certain, but I believe the cost was around $1800.  We ate a lot of pinto beans and cornbread while my dad was paying for that car.

He had bought our family’s first and only new car without even having a driver’s license.  Evidently he took and passed his driver’s exam in the new car, but I have no idea who taught him to drive.  (I was there waiting with my mother on the Letcher County Courthouse steps the day he passed his driver’s exam.) Perhaps it was my uncle Leon, but I’m not certain who was brave enough to teach him.

Our family's first new car

Our family’s first new car

Taking Care of Your Possessions

My dad believed in taking care of what you’ve worked hard to earn and nobody was more particular than my dad about his new car.  It was always polished to a hand-rubbed sheen. One day he drove to work to show it off.  As he was coming out of the bathhouse at the mines, one of the other miners teased him that he witnessed a fly trying to land on it, but sadly it had broken its neck in the process.

I have personally witnessed him driving with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake pedal.  This may explain why we never traveled more than 10 miles away from home without a hired driver.

There was no danger my dad would ever be charged with speeding.  In fact he was so notorious for being a slow driver that rumor has it a one-legged man was seen hopping alongside his car syphoning the gas out of the tank while he drove.

The Senior Driver

In his senior years, long after my mother passed away, my dad had to give up driving because of epileptic seizures.  Seizures had lead to his early retirement from the coal mines.

By this time, he was residing in a housing complex for senior citizens.  He had bought his second new vehicle, also a Ford, but because of his seizures, depended on other residents of the housing complex to drive him to the bank, shopping, and visits to his doctor.

One day he had asked one of the residents who usually drove him, to take him to the bank (which was less than a mile away).  For some reason, my dad got impatient because he wanted to go right away and the man he had asked had put him off until later.  Still clinging to his independence in his 80’s, my dad was determined he was not going to wait because it was such as short distance, so he would drive himself.

He made it to his bank without a problem.  However, when backing up to leave, he hit another vehicle in the parking lot.    Later, when my dad was brave enough to recount this story to me of the last time he drove, I asked him ‘What did you do after you hit the other car, Dad?’  His reply was “What do you think I did?  I got out of there as quickly as I could!”  I had to laugh! My dad was a hit and run driver in a parking lot at the age of 83.

So if you’re the person who was parked in the bank parking lot near Robinson Creek, KY about 25 years ago and came out to find a ding in your parked car, my daddy has long since confessed.  I guarantee it was a small ding, because with one foot on the gas and one on the brake pedal, what else would you expect?

Pam Baker

If you enjoy humorous stories, you might also enjoy:  

The Story of the Dueling Wheelchairs


The Great Dungeness Crab Caper



Posted in STORIES and tagged , by with 1 comment.


  • brenda smallwood says:

    I loved this story again. I read before,but really enjoyed reading again.Thanks for posting on facebook.

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