By in Personal

In Which Make of Car Did You Learn To Drive?

GemOfAGirl recently wrote of “Our Relationship With Our Cars”, and I was reminded of the car in which I learned to drive.

I graduated high school in an East Canadian town where I had lived for one year. I was sixteen and had gotten a learner’s permit, which meant I could operate a vehicle so long as someone licensed was with me. It was June, of course, and I had been practicing since late November, but not often, as my dad used the car daily and didn’t feel like helping me during his weekends off work. For him and my mom, that was party time - involving lots of drinking and dancing - important for construction people to “blow off steam”. Or so they said.

He still had his ’57 Plymouth Belvedere sedan, a canary yellow behemoth which he loved and that I had always seen as ridiculous. But it was a car and I ached to drive.

Sixteen was the only age I ever longed to reach, as it meant freedom to go where I needed without having to depend on anyone else. Since I was a couple of years younger than my classmates, many of them had their own cars, though few were willing to share the driving duties.

But now school was done, and we were heading back to home base - Winnipeg - where my parents co-owned (with his brother and spouse) a large house on the Red River with two rental units. The smallest was empty, and that’s where I lived while my parents moved back into their own room in the main part of the house.

And, because my dad had just undergone an operation for varicose veins and was told not to drive for a couple of weeks, I got to drive most of the way, only letting my mom take over if I felt tired. I was ecstatic. As a newbie, I avoided cities, taking the roads around; as for towns, it was usually a matter of stop and go on a straight path through. There were plenty of roadside motels with easy access parking. Mostly, I got to fly us along the virtually empty Canadian transcontinental highway, way over the speed limit.

Once we got to Winnipeg, I had to take the bus or street car wherever I might want to go and sometimes I would just ride at random, exploring the city out of boredom. My dad again went up to the D.E.W. line for construction work and my mom didn’t feel equipped to be a driving coach.

Enter my cousin’s boyfriend. He took pity on me and began my lessons.

Now here’s the thing. This was a huge unwieldy car without power steering. Even the twenty-one-plus young man teaching me struggled with it. I felt like I was wrestling an angry rhino. I’ll tell you, once I mastered parallel parking I was exultant, not to mention dripping sweat. (No air conditioning in the July heat and humidity!) I remember the guy who conducted my driving test peering at me sideways as I grunted and panted, using every ounce of strength I had to maneuver the yellow beast into proper position in a tight parking space, perspiration pouring. Thank God it was an automatic or I would never have managed it. He congratulated me heartily after he gave me a pass!

A few days later a friend came to visit me for a week and away we went - everywhere - from A&W Drive-ins to Winnipeg Beach. I came to finally appreciate the big yellow lemon, not for its looks, but for its wonderful, rich-sounding radio that could boom forth like a stereo. Or so I recall it.

And one of my salient memories includes a night we were driving down Portage Avenue and the disc jockey at CKY, the popular hits station at the time, kept replaying a song he had heard during a visit to London. We laughed at the band’s name - The Beatles - but we loved the song: “She Loves You”! This was the summer before they first performed on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964. This song somehow always defined the freedom that driving always represented for me.

Image Credit »

You will need an account to comment - feel free to register or login.


Kasman wrote on February 20, 2015, 4:41 PM

It's funny how we can remember notable cars we have owned. I still remember my first car - a Bedford Beagle in dark blue with a white stripe down the side. I can even remember the reg plate number - FXA350D - and that was from 40 years ago!
BTW your image credit isn't working. Take out the words 'photo by' and make sure there are no spaces left in and it will work.

Last Edited: February 20, 2015, 4:42 PM

BodieMor wrote on February 20, 2015, 4:45 PM

Oh, thanks... It's my first try with a photo not my own!

BodieMor wrote on February 20, 2015, 4:52 PM

Is it working now? (I could only find a pic of a black car which looks so much classier than the color version we had, lol! Now I need to look up a Bedford Beagle, not a car I've heard of!)

Kasman wrote on February 20, 2015, 4:58 PM

It's OK now. The Bedford Beagle was only sold in the UK. It was intended as a cheap version of a small family car and only had a 1056cc engine but I thought it was great and I travelled all over the place in it.

GemstonePink wrote on February 20, 2015, 5:02 PM

My dad was in sales for a publishing company, so he had a new company car every two years. Hard for me to remember which car was used to teach me to drive. I did get a dent in my mom's Ford though. I was somewhere where I was not supposed to be driving. I did make up a story to go with the dent to keep me out of trouble.

WordChazer wrote on February 20, 2015, 5:20 PM

Portage in that brings me back some memories!

I learned to drive in my mother's red Vauxhall/GM/Opel Cavalier. I took my first test in the instructor's Mini Metro. Failed. Took my second in Rupert the Cavalier and passed. Oddly enough I have always preferred Vauxhalls. Yes, I've driven Fords and Volkswagens, BMWs and Nissans, even if only as test or courtesy cars. But I keep coming back to Vauxhalls. My husband and I have owned at least 5 or 6 between us over the years, and then last California vacation, we were given a Buick. ANOTHER GM-group car. Everything was just the same as our current Vauxhall at home, just on the other side of the car. Bliss. So much easier to drive.

melody23 wrote on February 20, 2015, 5:44 PM

I actually learned to drive in a few different cars, mostly because I refused to sit my test for six or seven years and just drove about with my 'L' plates and someone to accompany me for years (usually my poor mother). When I finally decided to learn to drive at 21 or 22 mum had been really pressuring me into it since her health was starting to decline and she was going to need me to drive soon, she bought me a wee rover 25. Well she bought it and the plan was I would buy it from her when I passed my test which never happened and it just stayed her car till she got a new one a few years later. The first driving school I went to I believe I drove a Vauxhall Corsa but I hated my instructor and stopped taking lessons there. My mum then got a brand new Ford Fiesta and I eventually got a new driving instructor who also had a Corsa but got a newer model while I was taking lessons which really confused me because it looked like the exact same car, then I got in and it had all these gadgets in it. I sat my test both times in his newer Corsa, I then bought a Corsa of my own which didn't last long and I now have a Renault Clio.

MelissaE wrote on February 20, 2015, 5:53 PM

Another excellent piece. So well-written. I learned to drive in a station wagon...the kind with wood on the side. I want to say it was some kind of Ford Sedan something-or-other. I need to look that up.

MegL wrote on February 20, 2015, 6:22 PM

The car in which I learned to drive was much smaller. A Ford Anglia. It was my mother's and the driving school also had the same model. I loved that car. It had tail fins, so you ALWAYS knew where the rear of the car was, which was so useful for reversing and parking.

seren3 wrote on February 20, 2015, 8:35 PM

My family had one that was green! With "the wings" as my mom called them. Exact same car.

wolfgirl569 wrote on February 20, 2015, 8:57 PM

I learned to drive in an old ford pick up with a stick shift in it while we were baling hay in the summer. I can stick a car into some pretty tight spots anymore from learning to drive between the bales of hay with out running over them.

LeaPea2417 wrote on February 20, 2015, 11:27 PM

I first started taking driving lessons at the High School I attended in the late 1970s. That was the first time I was ever behind the wheel. I was 15 and the cars that the driving school provided for our driving lessons were those late 70s Ford Grenada's. They were 4 doors. So that is the model I learned to drive in.

Telynor wrote on February 21, 2015, 7:07 AM

I learned how to drive in a 1970 Volkswagen Karman Ghia. God, I loved that car! Still do, but as I can't drive any more, it's a moot point.

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 5:46 PM

My roommate during art college had a Karman Ghia. When she was in a bad accident she was told the tire under the front hood probably saved her life, cushioning the shock of the impact. It was orange. Such a cool car!

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 5:47 PM

If it had power steering you were lucky! emoticon :winking:

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 5:53 PM

A new car every two years! What luxury!!!

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:16 PM

I remember Vauxhalls! Had totally forgotten the existence of that make. And you live in the UK, right? How does Winnipeg bring back memories?

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:18 PM

Wow, you had a convoluted path to getting licensed, lol!

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:20 PM

Thank you!!! And wow! So cool! You learned to drive in a "Woody"! Were surf boards on top involved?

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:21 PM

SO much serendipity between us, right?

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:22 PM

Oh yes, no missing those tail fins sitting up like frozen flags!

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:25 PM

I commend you! Years later I learned to drive a shift in a VW Westphalia camper. And in the late seventies I got a champaign edition white on white VW convertible which I drove for over 12 years, also a stick.

wolfgirl569 wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:42 PM

Even tho both my vehicles now are automatic I love to get in a stick shift and go for a drive yet

MelissaE wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:57 PM

My dad had a Karman Ghia when we lived in the Panama Canal Zone.

WordChazer wrote on February 21, 2015, 7:13 PM

Stopped off in Winnipeg on the way to a few days up in Churchill watching polar bears in the 90s. Formative holiday, that. First time I had ever flown transatlantic, first time I did a package tour on my own, but for polar bears, all these things had to be done... I read a huge amount of research and had loads of maps and facts at my fingertips, so it was great to actually get to Winnipeg and find the tour had allocated enough time to explore the city. Portage had to be walked along, at least around the intersection with Main. We were staying at the Fort Garry casino hotel, on the corner of Fort and Garry, no, never! It was a few days after a hot air balloon had come down on power lines nearby and the whole place was still talking about it.

WordChazer wrote on February 21, 2015, 7:19 PM

I drive automatics only, I might add. Hence why driving that Buick this latest time in CA was a breeze. Never took my test in a stick shift, had one lesson in one and HATED it so I moved over to automatics and never looked back. My parents now also drive autos and my husband finds he's losing his ability with manual sticks having had so long driving my automatics alongside me.

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 8:17 PM

The Fort Garry a casino? Never knew that!
I always thought of Winnipeg as a unique (for many reasons) and lovely city and was proud to have been born there. Nowadays, however, it is known as a crime capitol of Canada, due to Indian gangs. I was astonished to hear that. (So, did you have close encounters with Polar Bears? I knew people living in Churchill who were not thrilled with their presence, lol. Extraordinary, but nevertheless dangerous, beasts!

WordChazer wrote on February 22, 2015, 4:40 AM

Yeppers, the Fort Garry had a casino floor back then. That may have been where all the gang crime started because in the States, the Native Americans run the casinos because they can apply different rules to land they own than apply on neighboring federal land. I guess if the money was good enough, that would start turf wars. And gang warfare is always nasty - look at Camden NJ and Compton CA.

I didn't get to see polar bears as close up as I would like (but then patting one on the head like a cat is hardly practical!) but I saw lots of polar bears behaving naturally in their own environment which was the aim of the trip. I love the wide open spaces and views up there. I'm sure living in Churchill would be a different kettle of fish when coping with bears than simply visiting for a couple of weeks. I think the huskies were friendlier than a bear might have been.

melody23 wrote on February 22, 2015, 6:23 AM

Its the weirdest thing, I absolutely hated driving when I first started. I had no inclination whatsoever to drive other than to be able to get mum to her hospital appointments, as she was always with me when I took her to them I didn't need a full licence to do that, I just stuck my 'L' plates on and off we went. That lasted years and I was never interested in sitting my test.

Now I have my licence and my own car I don't know what I would do without it, and its only been five months. Its amazing how your attitude towards something can change so quickly.

Telynor wrote on February 23, 2015, 7:00 PM

That must have been a fascinating place to live!

BodieMor wrote on February 23, 2015, 10:06 PM

Did you enjoy living there? Friends visited recently and loved it...

snerfu wrote on March 5, 2015, 6:48 AM

Yeah nice song and it such a smooth flow. Never did learn to drive that car.

BodieMor wrote on March 5, 2015, 8:46 PM

Do you mean you never learned to drive, period? snerfu