Younger generations do not realize how lucky they are to have the kind of automobiles they drive today.

With the transmissions, and most everything else, automatic on the cars now days, it does not take a lot of eye, leg and arm coordination to master the art of driving.

Maybe it should.

They wouldn't have time to text or talk on the phone like they do today.

Back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, it took a lot of practice to operate a vehicle smoothly. The first car I owned was an old 1926 Model T Ford I bought for a whopping $10 in 1939 when I was 16. I bought it off a mechanic at Canfield Motor Company.

That old car was a monster to drive.

It had three pedals on the floorboard and a floor lever on the right side of the driver. The left pedal was used to engage the gear. The middle pedal was the reverse gear. The right pedal was a transmission brake.

With the floor lever in the forward position and the left pedal depressed, it moved you forward in low gear. If you let the left pedal out, you were in cruising gear.

The floor lever in intermediate position was neutral and was used when you hand-cranked the car to get it started. The floor lever in the back position was the emergency brake.

The throttle was a little lever on the right side of the steering column and on the left was the spark lever.

To start the car, you put the floor lever in the neutral position then set the throttle and the spark in the start position. You then got your crank and walked to the front of the car and inserted it into a slot that would turn the drive shaft.

If you had the spark ignite the combustion chamber at the right time and started the motor on the first crank -- if you were lucky.

You were double lucky if the crank disengaged from the drive-shaft and didn't break your arm.


I walked out to Big Hill Avenue to pick up my new toy. The mechanic gave me some instructions on how to operate the car and then helped me start it. I paid him the $10 and set off cross town in my new vehicle.

I pushed the floor lever in forward gear and pushed down on the left pedal and drove cross town in low gear as I did not want to practice changing gears until I was on a deserted road with no traffic.

I turned off Main Street and came to a stop sign on Irvine Street. I mistakenly took my foot off the left pedal and chugged right on through the stop sign in high gear.

Luckily, there were no cars coming and the man upstairs looked out for me.

The second day I owned the car, James Floyd and I toured Boonesborough and enjoyed a day in the sun with all our high school friends who could find a ride.

On our way home, we were on the other side of Red House and blew a head gasket coming up a slight incline. We got the car started again and had enough power in low gear to make it home at five miles per hour.


It was double ouch when I found out the gasket was cardboard!

I sold that car a day later for $10 and never owned another car for 10 years. I did have my day in the sun though, so I can't complain.

In the 1930s and 40s, cars did improve. The gear shift was relocated to a lever on the right side of the steering column or on a stick shift on the floor. There were two pedals on the floor along with a smaller throttle pedal. The left pedal was the clutch and the right pedal was the brake.

The gas throttle is located where it is today.

These cars were still tricky to operate, but far better than the one I had. They had three forward gears, a reverse and neutral.

You started the car in neutral then to go forward you pushed in on the clutch and put the gear in low. After you attained a speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour, you depressed the clutch again and engaged second gear. You released the clutch and hit the gas feed (throttle) until you got to 25-30 miles per hour, went through the same process again and you were cruising in high gear.


Sounds easy enough, but when you were on a hill, stopped at a stoplight, you had to do some fast coordinating of your hands and feet to keep from coasting back into the car behind you or taking off forward like a bucking horse.

That, my friends, is what we had back in the good old days.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

Well, you know something?

It beat the heck out of walking! It also makes me appreciate the mechanical marvels that you drive today.

Final thought

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for -- Tom Bodett

Until next time ... live, love, laugh and learn, Glenmore

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