The family car in the early forties looked similar to the photo shown here, but no fancy tires.
Pa , my father , was the exclusive
driver until that glorious day in 1943 when I became 16 and licensed .
The older brothers were married ,not living at home , and driving
their own vehicles. I had no competition for two years
until my brother Chris made the passage into driver-eligibility age and I relinquished
by enlisting in the Navy. Pa was working as a machinist in the Charleston Navy Yard . The war kept him travelling
journey between Avon and Boston six and sometimes seven days a week. He left the Chevy at home and
commuted with a group. The last
thing he wanted to do the few hours he was home was drive a car...most people thought
the Chevy belonged to me. ¬ The gas gauge seldom
surpassed the 1/4 full mark. The War Rationing Board gave us an "A"
sticker for the windshield which allowed us to have a book of stamps
worth three gallons each.
I remember learning about the " sins of omission " . When asked , " Where are you going with the car , Mikey
"Up to the square to hang out with the guys. "
It was the truth , partially so. I " omitted" the journeys we liked to take after
the initial meeting ...all the way to Randolph ,
Stoughton, Brockton or sometimes as far as Norwood. On a few occasions, we drove the
20 miles through the Blue Hills onto
Dorchester Avenue and into the theatre district at Washington Street.
One such trip resulted in
a long suspension and hard labor in the yard. It all started when I decided to spruce up the Chevy
with a horn ring I bought at Western
Auto Stores. More modern cars did not have a button for a horn in the middle of the steering
wheel. The latest technological breakthrough
relieved the driver of the need to take his hand off the wheel to blow the horn. It was
a ring one could reach by extending the thumb....all
very classy ...and Western Auto Stores knew this. They provided a ring that
could be attached to older cars. I liked it so much , I
was blowing the horn at squirrels , field mice or anything , animate or not , in
my way. The installation required the expertise of
the well-accepted mechanical skills of one Carroll Bump , a frequent passenger.
Everything was fine if the " lovers knob " didn't get
in the way.( By way of explanation, a knob could also be purchased to attach to
the steering wheel ¬ which would allow the driver to
steer with one hand and easily take corners. The advantage of the free hand
made it easy to change stations on the radio ...and whatever
its name implied.) We never knew why the knob interfered with the
operation of the ring but the horn would blow during left turns.
This was a plus when the pedestrians were female and met the
Bump-Gregory standards. No need to remove one or the other
Now, the punishment
. I left home at the usual time ..after supper,
and gave assurances about where I was going and when I was returning. That was a night
we went to Boston and met some
girls on Boston Common. We weren't about to admit to them that we had to go home to Avon because it
was past our witching
hour. We stayed late and as the driver , it was my job to bring the guys to their homes. I wasn't worried about
home because I
knew the door would be open and my mother and father would be asleep.
I made the turn onto Spring Street , turned off
the headlights and
coasted home , invisible and inaudible. I made the left turn into the driveway and BEEP! I panicked and slammed
the ring. The horn
stuck. Lights went on in the house and in the neighborhood.
Mechanical whiz Bump was commissioned the next day to
remove the ring.
One day while visiting with the neighbors for a back-yard cookout , the conversation turned to the younger generation
they do stupid things. I was tempted to relate some of my adolescent adventures
but thought better of it. Why must I always
be the one to stop the discussion ? Here is the conversation-stopper I had in mind.
The combination of a sixteen-year old youth and
a Chevy of the same age, can sometimes place them both on the path to
" Hey Mike! How about letting me drive ?"
I'll pull over. "
" No need. Let's do the ' driver-change while driving thing '." (One must examine the photo of the Chevy to see how
this is possible).
The front seat passenger starts the journey by opening his door, while the driver tries to keep the speed constant
. On to the
running board and a step or two toward the rear fender while closing the door.
Hold on to the lip on the roof and move back
toward the front fender. Crawl up on to the front fender , then the hood .
While lying flat on the middle of the hood , peer into the
windshield and say " Look ! No hands!"
Crawl to the driver side and step on to the running board. The driver opens the door and slips
toward the passenger seat while
keeping his left hand on¬ the wheel and foot on the gas . Climb in , exchange feet with the original
driver, take the wheel and close
Ollie Graham , the Police Chief and lone member of the Police Department , learned about
this maneuver and wanted to at the
least, revoke our licenses. Since it was all heresay, The Fourth Amendment and "probable cause "
kept him at bay.
To my grandchildren and others of a similar age, running boards, protruding fenders and long stretches of lonely straight
are essential for this caper. Such ingredients haven't been around for generations.
Arguments between Chevy and Ford owners continued
for what seemed like hours on the store steps in Avon Square. Plymouth
owners were merely tolerated. Fords were known for their pickup
and Chevys for their maneuverability and developed speed.
We're talking as fast as 60 mph here! Fords also were notorious oil burners.
father would not let him drive his 1934 Buick. He bought it new and it always looked like it just came out of the
show room. I was
certain I saw it driven years later by Warren Beatty in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. Bump was certain he could
get the car up to 100
mph if given the chance...which is probably why he never got it.
The basketball game was to be played in West Bridgewater between West
Bridgewater High and Avon High. A large contingent
of Avonites made plans to attend. A 1937 Ford and 1936 Chevy were backed into the
Square and ready to launch. The engines
were running and ready . Someone gave some kind of signal and our version of the Le Mans was
underway. I always thought the
Chevy would have won if it didn't have to coast down hills to save gas.
ADVENTURES WITH A 1936 CHEVY