April 25th...”TELL ABOUT THE FIRST TIME YOU WERE EVER ALLOWED TO “DRIVE” A CAR.”
There she sat…….in all her 3,500 pounds of red n white metal glory!!! Yet, at the drop of his foot, Dad could make that 225 cubic inch engine make this glorious monster “fly”. And, if he hit the berm of the railroad tracks south of our farm, at just the right speed, that old 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air DID fly as it cleared gravel and came back to earth with a roar of raw V8 power.
Cars, in my growing up years of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, were wonderfully designed and each had their own distinct automotive fashion “signature”. Some, reflecting the modern jet age, sported “wings” along the back edges to imply swiftness of flowing movement; much like an aircraft or a rocket flying through space.
Being Lilliputian in size, I somehow managed to reach up and open that massive passenger door and crawl inside our red n white “chariot” of transportation. I was struck by the vastness of our wonderful car’s bench seat and interior. In my smallness, I could barely manage to look over the dashboard and across the monstrously large hood that covered that powerful Chevrolet 235 “Blue Flame” V8 engine. When the rest of the family joined me in the car, I was fascinated as I’d watch our big, strong father make this metal beast obey his bidding by pressing his foot on pedals, pulling/pushing buttons and turning that glistening red steering wheel that appeared as big as a hulahoop!
Our father held mastery of that humongous steering wheel as he’d spin it and we all could feel the car’s obedient response as we’d gently “sink” and tilt into the sunken corner of our driveway as we’d climb up and onto the gravel road that ran by our farm. While out for a drive, it was a fun sensation as we’d also “bank” around graded curves in the road while we were traveling. It was as if our car was a fighter plane and we were “banking” into a cloud in the sky while we rolled along.
I wonder if Dad could sense my yearnings to drive his “dreamboat”? One day, I gathered the courage to ask Dad if I could try driving? At first, he was skeptical of his tiny son, but soon softened and said, “Sure, climb on my lap!” We were just a mile or so from home, and on a straight section of empty gravel road so I’m sure he figured this bit of fun would be o.k. to enjoy. Once snuggled with my back against Dad’s chest, that steering wheel of our Chevy felt as wide as a football field to my little arms as I tried to reach from one side of it to the other. But, I doood it!!! I was “the boss” now, and actually in charge of this monstrous mechanical metal marvel………well, in charge of the steering wheel, at least! In the background, Dad had firm control over ever other aspect of the vehicle’s speed and motion. His foot was “covering” the brake pedal and gently accelerating as he saw fit. This was just in case I got wacko and tried to whip that Chev into the wide ditch next to us. But, overall, I was a good little man who was thoroughly THRILLED to be sitting in our father’s lap and feeling all “grown up” at that moment as I guided the red n white dream machine down the gravel road that approached our farm driveway. Dad even allowed me the honor of turning and “banking” down into our U-shaped driveway as we then rolled up the little rise and he brought the car to a safe halting at our farm house door. That experience was truly a “Kodak Moment” of joy for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!! 😉