shifting gears

By kateandcarla

December 15, 2011

Category: Uncategorized


Until today, I held myself responsible for Lynn Coffman’s decision to resign his position as driver’s education instructor at Seymour Community High School in the late 1960s. His shrieking at me from the passenger’s seat as I ground the gears of some ancient car, trying to back out of the alley behind Jones Drugstore, still echoes in my ears. Equally strong is the memory of a February day. Cold. Dreary. Somebody else was in the driver’s seat and California Dreaming was playing on the radio. Must have been his/her driving skills and the ambience of the “new” Driver’s Ed car that had won us the privilege of listening to KIOA.

But back to my just-found knowledge that others potentially share responsibility for Coffman’s departure. Doris Alley Pollock writes: “I drove with Barb Banning and Paula Hancox, and when we had to drive the ‘old’ car to learn the stick shift, Barb and I about died. Paula had never driven a stick shift and had a horrible time learning it.”

When I asked Paula, however, she said she couldn’t recall trouble shifting in Driver’s Ed as much as “…trying to drive Terry Smith’s Corvair (3-speed on the floor) and having a terrible time! Funny how we all remember different things!”

Marvin Tuttle reminded all of us that our class (1968) was the first for whom Driver’s Ed was mandatory, and that being born earlier in the year, he wasn’t required to take the course–just drive with a highway patrolman for his license. But “be that as it may” (that’s right, pop quiz on which one of our teacher’s loved that phrase!), I’m still betting there are some great learning-to-drive stories out there that can be shared.  What’s yours?

In return, I’ll share this short, sweet gift of a video. Talk about miles of smiles.



5 Responses to “shifting gears”

  1. I remember trying to learn to drive a stick shift. It was in Marvin’s car after we started dating. I took my eyes off the road, of course, to look down at the gear shift on the floor to see what gear I was choosing. Wrong! Never take your eyes off the road!

  2. We didn’t have driver’s ed in my high school. My sister taught me. I went in to my driver’s test feeling a bit nervous but that turned to total terror when I realized that she had taught me to parallel park on the WRONG SIDE–with the curb on the driver’s side of the car. When I had to try to parallel park the normal way during my test, I was also confronted with another big problem: The examiner’s huge gut. I couldn’t see out the window or the side view mirror because his belly blocked my vision. I think that is the only reason he passed me that day. He would have been embarrassed to note that I failed because I couldn’t see over his enormous middle!

  3. My mother taught me to drive in the family station wagon. Big ol’ Pontiac with an automatic transmission. But my stepfather taught me to parallel park in a Rambler with a push button automatic and then taught me to drive a stick in one of his oldest plumbing trucks. Good thinking on his part. It really reduces your performance anxiety when your vehicle is already beat up.

  4. In the winter/spring of ’63 I took D.E. with a fairly large class. We were put in teams of 4 students to a time slot. My team was Bernadine Chaplin, Joyce Head, Joe Bush, and myself. When Bernadine or Joyce would drive, I would try and sit right behind them and put my feet under their front seat. When things would get “anxious” for them, I would raise my toes under their seat and scream.

    Depending on which girl was driving, the other girl was always in the middle of the back set. As she’d drive down the road, I’d give Joe the “go for it” sign toward the girl in the back seat. He’d gaze down to the floorboards and shake his head no.

    Great memories, but Dan Roberts moved to Centerville right after the ’63 school year.

  5. Not having to take driver’s ed I only marveled at some of the stories that came out of the class. During my 35 years of teaching at PCM I had the priviledge of teaching driver’s ed. I thought at the time, since I came from the farm, that everyone knew how to drive !?!?!?!? Boy, was I wrong ! I have story after story of “close calls” to “I don’t know” happenings. Well, put it this way, I never closed my eyes while I was in the passenger seat with my students.

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