(03 May 2018) – Our camera club came up with an interesting twist to our monthly theme. At least, Bill did. He’s the guy who looks after uploads to our photo sharing site. The theme for May is old autos. Bill thought it would be fun to find photos of our more memorable cars. The one we learned to drive on. The first one we owned. The first one we crashed. Things like that. He was right. It was fun.
I found a photograph of the car I learned to drive on. The one I passed my driving test on. The one I drove to a dance after getting my license.
It was a 1959 Rambler sedan. Aquamarine green, the colour might have been called. Bench seats front and back. Three speed manual transmission, with the shift lever on the steering column. One feature of those Ramblers was that the front seats folded back to make a double bed. This could be quite handy in some situations. Back in the day, a lot of drive-in theatres didn’t grant admission to young couples in Ramblers.
It was a good feature for our family, because we went camping a lot. My dad worked away from home on radar bases when we were young and we spent a few summers in nearby campgrounds. We had two big green canvas tents. One was a dining tent, the other was a sleeping tent for my three brothers and me. My parents slept in the car.
In 1964 you had to be 18 to get a driver’s license in Quebec. The test wasn’t too difficult. If you showed a willingness to stop at stop signs, and promised not to run over a pedestrian, you were good to go. The school year opened, my birthday came and went, and I soon had a driver’s license in my wallet. My younger brother and I were going to a dance where our friends played in the band. They were The Valiants and did a good job covering tunes by The Shadows and The Ventures. A couple of them went on to form the core of M. G. and The Escorts, an almost-famous Montreal area group.
I asked to borrow the car, my dad said yes, and away we went. At the end of the dance, the boys in the band were goingto the Vaudreuil Inn on the west end of the island. Ron wanted to join them. I said no, but he twisted my arm and left me no choice. So off we went.
At the time, the legal drinking age was 21 so we had to pick and choose the taverns we’d go to. Or the few to stay out of. I had an identification card that came with my wallet. It had a black and white picture of Rita Hayworth on one side and “this wallet belongs to …” on the other. I took a pen, made up a name and address and entered the birthdate at 21 years before. It was good enough for most of the men who slung beer in area bars.
By the time we got home at about one in the morning, my mum was wide awake and waiting in the living room. She was not happy. It took a few months before I got to borrow the car again.
A couple of years later I bought half of a 1965 Austin 1100. My mum bought the other half. She drove it to work on weekdays and I had it in the evenings and on weekends. With a four on the floor manual transmission it was fun to drive. It had a lot of get up and go, and hugged the road well.
I never smashed it up, but did bounce it off a rural mailbox in upstate New York. It put a dandy dent in the rear door, passenger side.
At the time the drinking age in New York was 18. Sometimes we’d drive to Rouse’s Point after work on Friday and come back on Sunday. About a mile and a half across the border there was a roadhouse bar with a dance floor that stocked lots of Molson Export, and a campground close by. Everything a young man needed for a weekend away.
One afternoon, a couple of friends and I went for a drive around the back roads. Two-lane blacktops with rolling hills and lots of bends. That was when I hit the mail box. I was stone cold sober at the time, but my brain forgot who I was. It thought I was Stirling Moss.
When I got home and my mum saw the dented door, she looked at me and frowned. I knew from the look in her eyes that she was not happy and wouldn’t be until I was not happy as well.