Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Puddle Jumper

Mama had and loved a little green 1964 Chevrolet Corvair she called her puddle jumper. She drove it back and forth every day to work at what then was just called the chicken plant. This was long before anyone knew about Don Tyson.  

Mama in her Corvair? No it isn't.

It fit her perfectly but I wasn't as fond of the box like vehicle with a clutch, brake pedal, accelerator, and gear shift that all had to operate in sequence. Although, as noted in previous posts, I had difficulty riding a bicycle, I was determined I was going to drive a car. How hard could it be?  After all, I had seen a lot of people driving cars in the movies and on television.

One Sunday afternoon, after much pleading on my part, Daddy agreed to begin teaching me to drive. I had visions of long drives with the windows down and the wind blowing my long hair while gripping the steering wheel with one hand and smoothly shifting gears with the other hand. Although I was looking forward to a little father/daughter time, my brother and sister hopped in the back seat of Mama's little car as Daddy drove me to the, at that time unpaved, straight stretch of Shoe Plant Road. He began with the basics of starting the engine before showing me how to gently ease off on the clutch while pushing the accelerator down slowly and sliding it into first gear. That was a little tricky because when I released the clutch just a little too quickly, that danged puddle jumper would try to leap over some imaginary mud hole. After I failed to get the wheels moving forward more than two rotations before the car would shudder and die, my brother pulled a football helmet out of the back seat and put it on. Little sister was tucked tightly in the back floorboard.

I finally got the car headed South but something was still wrong. It was a good thing that was an untraveled road because obviously there was something wrong with the steering mechanism on the car.
It kept going from way over on the far West side of the road to nearly in the ditch on the East side. I didn't understand what Daddy was wanting to know when he kept asking me why I was moving the steering wheel back and forth. Didn't they turn the steering wheel from side to side in the movies? After just that one lesson, Daddy said I would have to take driver's education. I am still not convinced it was all my fault though. After all, the Corvair was one of eight cars listed in Ralph Nader's 1965 book "Unsafe At Any Speed."

Except for that one instance I would have crashed into the city pool house if not for Coach "I Forgot His Name" braking in the nick of time, driver's education went off without a hitch. But had I known you had to report your height and weight when you got your license, I would not have been as eager to learn to drive.


  1. Hi,
    Saw your comment on Living Life on Main Street where you asked me if I was taking an anniversary trip this year... I didn't see a way to email you so I will answer you here. I lost my husband Jan. 3rd of this year so no, there won't be a trip this year. It will be my first anniversary alone. You had no way to know so don't feel bad about the question... I was just so blessed to have had him for 60 years.

  2. Oh that is too funny, and how timely for me since my fifteen-year-old is learning to drive right now. Oh my!! Fun times.

  3. You don't know how bad I wish right now that I had a brake peddle on the passengers side of the van I bought for the girls. I swear I am going to push my foot right through the floor board one of these days. I just love your memories. My dad took me on a road called "Clothesline"

  4. I also had to learn to drive with a standard. I always had a fear of going up East Hill, having to stop for traffic, then starting back up; I just knew I'd stall the engine and roll backward. And we call those, "the good 'ol days"?

  5. Delightful remembrance of a neat older car and your attempts at learning to drive it. I enjoyed this post so very much!