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Gettin’ Outta First

By Darlene Jennings

One of the most memorable times in high school was getting our license. We had our parents teaching us; some of us took Drivers Ed. or took lessons from a driving school. My sweet Dad taught me, God love him. I was pretty good, I kind of learned sitting on his lap when I was little, “driving” down the gravel road to my grandparents’ farm. So driving came easy to me, but scary to my Dad. He always wished he had a brake pedal to use; he said I had a “lead foot”. Ha! And I would wait to the last moment and stop short!

We had two cars when I got my license—April 3, 1964, my sixteenth birthday—a blue 1963 Ford Falcon with manual choke, and a 1964 Rose Beige Oldsmobile 88 with power steering and power brakes. The Falcon was for my brother, Lionell, and I to use if it wasn’t being used by our Mother. Lionell never cared much for driving; he counted on the wheels of others, so that left me with the use of the Falcon. Many a time I remember heading down our alley, turning right on to Wilbur and up to the stop sign at Riverside Drive. Riverside then was always a pretty busy street with traffic heading north and south, so you had to pull out fast and get moving. Well, the Falcon, with its manual choke, would invariably die on me as I gave it gas. This would force me to restart it, muttering under, or above my breath: “I hate this car!” After a few complaints to my Dad, playing on him the fact that I could get hit and seriously maimed pulling out in the Falcon, I was given access to the Olds!

Yes, now we’re talking! That car would drive itself so fast, so smooth, so easily. I told Marc the other night I never got a speeding ticket but did get a warning on Riverside. He said that counts, but I said, “No, I didn’t have to pay!” I still have never gotten a ticket, but just ask Marc how many he has gotten!

It was at the end of senior year, or possibly right after graduation that the following incident took place. Linda Scholl and I became fast friends and we were going to room together at Miami. She had started dating Steve Cruea and I started dating someone who will remain nameless. We would double a lot. We even snuck into JCC at night and swam—Linda and me with our clothes on! Honest! We were having a great time. Linda and I were making big plans daily and for the upcoming fall.

One afternoon I went to Linda’s house at the top of Ashwood. For some reason I couldn’t park in her driveway or on the street. But right next to Linda’s house was a bar, Taylor’s Tavern, facing Main Street. The bar’s parking lot was in the back, next to Linda’s house. There was a small sign saying parking was for the bar and “all others will be towed”, but who ever takes that seriously? So I pulled into the lot and parked facing her house.

We were in her room trying on Jean Nate body splash and talking about the days to come, and boys. We went back downstairs, got something to drink and just sat, talking. I was facing the window looking out on to Ashwood and now and then a car would go by. Then, I saw a sight that took my breath and voice away—my parents’ 1964 Rose Beige Oldsmobile being towed down the street! I jumped up and pointed to Linda: “help, we’ve got to follow it and get it back!” I didn’t know what happens to a car that is towed and neither did Linda; all I knew was we had to stop them!

Linda had a new car: a 1966 baby-blue 4-speed Mustang convertible. It might have been a graduation gift to Linda, I’m not sure now. But she grabbed her keys and purse and we flew out of the house, panicking and laughing at the same time. Linda started the car up and we were ready to rescue my parents’ car, but for one detail: as Linda struggled to get the car in reverse she said, “I really haven’t learned how to drive a stick yet.” “Well, Linda,” I said, “you better learn now, and fast!”

Somehow she got the car into reverse and we pulled out onto Ashwood. The next gear was first and it was becoming evident by the grinding noise of the gears that it was going to be a bumpy ride. We jolted and jumped down Ashwood going as fast as first would go. We made it to Riverside and turned right. We could see the tow truck and my parents’ car way ahead. I said, “Linda, follow it!” We came to green lights and she would stop or stall the car; and we came to red lights and she wanted to sail through them. We laughed and freaked out. Where in the heck would we end up?

We headed down Riverside and through town—in first gear the whole time—the tow truck ahead of us. I think we headed towards Welcome Stadium. Any guys who have towed-vehicle experience may remember where it was. We did finally make it to the impound lot, but were told we needed $30 to get it back! My heart and jaw dropped. Who carries that much money? Linda and I were lucky to have $5.00 between us! So we got back in the car—with the dread of having to tell my Mother what happened and getting the money. Poor Linda having to drive the whole way back in first gear.

At home I told my Mother what happened but I didn’t get in much trouble. I got the money and I guess Lionell took me back again to retrieve the car, no worse for the wear, but it seems like just yesterday that it happened. I wonder if Linda remembers it—and if she has “gotten outta first” by now. I know I have. I have my little red 5-speed Miata; it doesn’t stay in first very long!