What do you see out of your window today?

An Achievement

A story by Elsie Johnson



Many families would take a Sunday afternoon drive for vacation. We had a 1930’s Willy’s Knight Sedan. While on these outings Dad would try to teach my Mother to drive. If a car came in the opposite direction, she would panic. It was then Dad decided I should learn to drive. I was the eldest child and just thirteen. It’s hard to believe, but drivers licenses were issued to thirteen year old in Iowa. We didn’t have school buses so parents of school-aged children had to drive them to school or would let the children of thirteen or older drive themselves. Many farm families still let eight and ten year olds drive tractors I the fields – sometimes with disastrous results. I was smaller than I am today. Cars had no seat adjustments or automatic gears. A pillow at my back and a pillow to sit on, put me in position to reach the brakes and pedals. Learning the gear shift was difficult until a neighbor told me to visualize an H while shifting the gears – what a great suggestion! I practiced driving up and down the driveway until Dad thought I was ready for the road. I know you thought there were only dinosaurs on the road at that time but we lived on a heavily traveled highway. I passed my written and driving examination on the first try. I was so proud of myself. My first real challenge presented itself when we received a telegram from my mother stating she and my brother would be arriving in Des Moines R. R. Station at 11pm and need to be met. Des Moines was 40 miles away. Dad was on a trip and wasn’t home. Feeling confident I assumed the responsibility to drive to Des Moines. I had been there several times with my parents and was sure I could find my way even at night. My two younger sisters were left to me to look after so I took them with me. My only concern was if I had enough gasoline. Because I didn’t have any money, I had a brilliant thought. If I turned off the engine I could coast down the few hills that Iowa has, and it would save gas. I learned later this was not a safe driving skill. Thank goodness, my guardian angel was on duty that night. We arrived at the R.R. Station safely when my mother and brother were waiting. I’m sure she was shocked to see me there without Dad. Needless to say she had to trust me to drive back to Perry since she didn’t drive. How I ever found the R.R. Station in Des Moines I’ll never know since I’d only been there twice before. My guardian angel was with me!

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 child drivers,Driver’s License,Willy’s Knight Sedan
  Perry, Iowa
Jun 24 2024


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