The Day I Turned 16
Our 1955 Buick, portholes dotting the sides, was my learning-to-drive car. If you call backing in and out of our driveway or shifting from Park to Low or Reverse on a PRNDL at age 12 “driving”. Later, practice driving was in our 1958 Oldsmobile station wagon, christened “The Tank”, and generously adorned with chrome. Did I say chrome? Bumper to bumper, shiny metal gleamed. Even the handle of the portable transistor radio was chrome. That car felt safe.
Real Driving, according to my father however, required shifting gears, and as my driver’s test approached, Dad was determined to teach me Real Driving. In a borrowed ’57 Plymouth, 3-speed on the column, within the weekend safety of Lee High’s parking lot, he began Lesson One. “Push in the clutch, pull down on the lever, press the accelerator……slowly.” Bump. “No, slower”. Grind. “Push the clutch in, then change the gear, easy now”. Bump and grind again, then crunch. Despite his frustrated hollering, somehow I got the hang of it. Lesson Two: fathers should never try to teach daughters to drive a stick shift.
Having a birthday 5 days after Christmas is a pain. Having the (nearly) last birthday among my already 16-year-old classmates was agony. I had one day to make up for lost time – New Years’ Eve. My mission was to become a licensed driver immediately after turning 16 and before the New Year. Memorizing the handbook was fun: road signs and rules, even the ancient left hand signals –arm out straight for left turn, 90 degree up for right turn, 90 degree down for stop. The Written Test would be a piece of cake.
But which car to drive for the Dreaded Driving Test? The borrowed Plymouth stick shift still performed for me its bump, grind, and crunch -- sounds less than ideal for showing off one’s automotive skills. On the other hand, The Tank required two full spaces on the parallel parking trial run and parallel parking was a formidable requirement of the Driving Test. You had to nail it. Suddenly, the car-choice dilemma evaporated with the trade-in of The Tank on a 1963 Buick LeSabre with its power everything and ever comforting PRNDL. An old lady car, my brother Vern grumbled. He loved that Oldsmobile.
The Birthday arrived and the next day Vern drove me downtown where the driver’s tests were given. He parked the LeSabre across Eustis Avenue at the Church of the Nativity’s Ridley Hall, tossed me the keys and set off for a movie. An hour later, I had passed the not-so-piece-of-cake Written Test and faced the Dreaded Driving Test.
Mr. State Trooper motioned for me to get into the driver’s seat while he silently eased into the passenger side. “Just turn right at the corner”, he barked. PRNDLing to L, blinkering for a right turn, we set out on my big adventure. He seemed bored. Maybe having to accompany a nervous teenage girl in an old lady car was not his idea of New Years’ Eve fun. Hey, it was only noon, I was on a mission and didn’t care about his party plans.
“Turn right again”, he ordered as we approached Gates Avenue. A block? I’m going to go around the block? That’s all? Piece of cake.
The light turned green just as we pulled up to Franklin Street. You know how, when the light turns green, and you’re 4th in line behind the first car that won’t go? It’s like they’re expecting an engraved invitation or a particular shade of green. “Hm. Emerald”? “No, really, it should be something between Pistachio and Lime”. Well, since this light was exactly the right shade of green for me, blinkering another right turn, I eased through the intersection. Piece of cake.
Then it happened. She ran the light. Not me. The old lady coming from my left. My quick stomp on the Buick’s power brakes nosed Mr. Trooper into the dash. Dang, I thought, though didn’t say it. Having already blurted something extremely unladylike, the lesser swear word was unnecessary. “Not your fault”, he murmured. “Just keep it turning”. Expecting him to leap out any second in pursuit of the vanishing traffic violator, I crept toward the courthouse square. Instead, he nodded toward Ridley Hall. I turned right again, pulled into the reserved space, PRNDLed to P and waited. Time to parallel park, right? Wrong. Idling, he merely signed my test form, grinned, and quickly hopped out. Happy New Year!
Mission accomplished, I drove home for another piece of birthday cake. Vern must have walked.
Memphis, TN - It seems during my travels I misplaced two more stories about turning 16. One, by Elaine Hubbard, you will see above and the other one was by Lynn Van Pelt. Unfortunately Lynn didn't seem to keep a copy of her email and try as I may I cannot find the one she sent me. We will continue to look and perhaps we may find it yet.
This is the first issue of August and the summer heat is upon us. I remember a lot of folks who have moved away from the South said they would never again go to Alabama for a reunion if it was held in August. Well, the reunion committee listened to you and this year the reunion in in mid-September, so that excuse is gone. We still have a lot of folks who have yet to sign up. Again, let me stress, this is our normal every five-year reunion for the Classes of '64, '65, and '66, with special interest shown to the Class of '65 who are actually celebrating their official 50-year reunion. Other classes are welcome to attend as well. Please reconsider if you have decided not to come. We need all of you, since the next official three-year group reunion will not be held until 2020.
Click on the image above to see the information about the
upcoming joint '64-'65-'66 2015 Reunion.
Corvette Blue #457E89
by Randy Roman
John Drummond, LHS '65, sent in this information he received from Randy Roman, LHS '65, and wanted to share it with the rest of his Lee General friends. John recalls, "One of my fondest memories is of Randy, Linda Davis and me playing in a trio called "The Cool Three" at a Band Concert held in the auditorium. We played "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" with me on trumpet. Then Randy played a soulful sax rendition of "Harlem Nocturne" with Linda on piano and me (having no experience at all) on the Bongo Drums. We all three wore turtleneck sweaters and big, dark wraparound sunglasses, sort of Beatnik-style. Overall, it was a pretty straight, somber concert. I got the only laugh of the night when Randy was tuning his sax to Linda's piano and I followed up with a few rapid thumps on the drum-head, as if tuning my Bongos."
Randy wrote, "This is my original video and jazz composition that was inspired by a Rick Boswell oil painting of a classic Chevrolet Corvette. The melody came from the hexadecimal code of one pixel from the painting: #457E89. Alto saxophone played by Randy Roman."
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