Learning to Drive in Uncle Ed’s 1953 Chevy

If I remember correctly I believe Uncle James came home after his Navy stint sometime in 1954. That was the year I began to learn to drive; and, I owe it all to Uncle James Wells. I was almost ten years of age at that time.

Aunt Pud and Uncle Ed Wells lived on south sixth street in Davis Oklahoma in the Baxter’s garage apartment with one side of the garage for their use.

Uncle James didn’t have a car, so he would borrow Uncle Ed’s car which was a 1953 Chevy which was a stick shift.

Uncle James took me with him a lot of places back then for whatever reason.

One morning we borrowed Uncle Ed’s car, and it was parked in their side of the garage. When we got ready to leave the garage apartment, Uncle James told me to slide in under the steering wheel. My first time to drive had arrived.

This scared me too death. I had a lot of trouble “letting out” on the clutch, and “giving the car some gas” all at the same time. Left foot to right foot coordination was a real necessity.

It was also really easy to shift into second gear as it was reverse. They occupied almost the same position on the shaft that held the steering wheel.

Uncle James told me to start the engine by first putting my foot on the clutch and holding it in, and turn the key until the starter engaged. When the engine started running, you let go of the key.

While the clutch was pushed in, Uncle James told me to put the gear shift into reverse. I was nervous as a Tom cat on a hot tin roof. His hollerin’ at me didn’t help much either. Being a pretty sensitive child, it didn’t take much for the tears to start rollin’ down my face.

I was so nervous that I had, in fact, put the gear shift into second gear instead of reverse, and when I let out on the clutch too fast, and  pushed too hard on the gas pedal, I almost drove through the wall of the garage in front of me, but, got ‘er stopped before that happened.

I finally got us and the ’53 out of the garage, and out into the street.

“Which way”, I asked. “Go north to main street and turn west, we are headed to Hennipen”. So, I managed somehow to get through town, and we drove out to Hennipen which is twelves miles west of present day, Davis Oklahoma.

We visited with Granny and Grand Dad Wells who owned a Magnolia station in Hennipen. After that visit, Uncle James and I met up with Bosky Jones who was a friend of Uncle James.

Finally, they decided for us to go to Davis. Since I had trouble shifting gears, Bosky got in my side and started the ’53 moving and jumped out and left me alone in the car and driving to Davis.

Bosky and Uncle James passed me about half way between Hennipen and the old Woodland School, and when the road got straight enough to see a ways, I passed them back running right at seventy miles an hour. I was lovin’ it.

Of course, they passed me back and gave me a mean look, and then they stopped just below the hill that goes up into Davis from the Washita river bottom, and motioned for me to pull off.

That little episode happened fifty five years ago, but I can remember it as if it were almost yesterday.

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