By on May 3, 2013
My mom around 1955

My mom around 1955

As mother’s day approaches I think now about my own mother on the other side of the continent and about the journey her life has been. Born in the mid 1930s and raised in poverty, she was dumped into an orphanage by her father after her mother’s sudden death from breast cancer in the late ’40s. It has never been discussed in detail, but I know that she and her younger sister were rescued by their older sister, my aunt Evelyn, herself just a recently married teenager, and raised as one of her own. At barely 18 years of age, my mother married my father, had the first of her five children and worked hard to build a home for herself and her family. The amazing part of this is that she was able to do it all without ever driving.

Being a mom has never been, and probably never will be, easy. Modern moms work hard to ensure that their kids use every moment of their free time in the most productive ways possible. Gone are the days when a child came home from school, jumped on their bike and headed to the park or a neighbor’s house to play. To be a child today is to be constantly running from one activity, lesson or play date to the next and modern moms spend a lot of time behind the wheel. It’s hard to imagine that my mother raised five complete, productive people eight miles outside of town without ever loading us into the car and taking us anywhere. I wonder if it could be done today.

The routine around the Kreutzer house in the early ’70s was simple. On weekdays, Dad got up before dawn and worked all day long. With a lot of mouths to feed, if he had the opportunity to work overtime he took it and he was generally gone from sunup to past sundown. We kids got up just as he was leaving, ate our breakfasts and were at the school bus stop early because if you missed the bus there was no one to drive you. For us there were no afterschool activities, no sports and, of course, no play dates you couldn’t get to under your own pedal power. On the weekends, if dad wasn’t working, the younger kids would load into our station wagon and go to the supermarket while the older kids stayed home. On Sundays we would all go to church. In the summers we stayed out in the hills, rode our bicycles as far as they would carry us, fought endless mock wars with the neighbor kids and swam in the lakes. If we were injured during any of the aforementioned activities, we either suffered until dad came home or, if the situation was deemed serious enough, called a neighbor to take us to the hospital.

My mom and dad around 1983

My mom and dad around 1983

It seems odd today, but the reason for our plight was not because we couldn’t afford another car. Truth be told, the reason is that it was because my mom simply didn’t want to drive. She had, she told me, tried to learn once back-in-the-day but the pressure was just too great and she had suffered a panic attack at the wheel. The terror she felt left such a strong impression that she had decided it was better to leave the responsibility of driving to others. The family soldiered on and, as we kids matured and eventually got our own licenses and cars, the situation improved. As she moved towards the golden years of her life, it seemed that my mother’s status as a non driver would be forever secured. And so it was until my father passed away.

Tough times call for tough measures and it is amazing how my mother and all of our neighbors rallied in the face of adversity. With an empty nest at home my mother found herself stuck at the old homestead far outside town. At first the neighbor ladies were quite generous with their time and included my mom in all sorts of senior activities but one morning she was a few minutes late to the end of the driveway and they left without her. That day my mother swore she would never be dependent upon anyone ever again.

That evening after I came home from work, I rolled my father’s perfectly preserved Cutlass out of the garage and we headed to the local school parking lot to practice the basics of driving. The next day, another neighbor who was a driving instructor at a local high school came to our house with a driver’s guide and began working with her as well. Between the two of us, we covered all the basics and two weeks later my mother, then in her fifties, passed her road test and got her first driver’s license. To this day, almost 20 years later, she remains a licensed driver.

Think for a second about the kind of guts that takes. As car enthusiasts we are immersed in the culture of cars. Those of us who truly love cars have, for the most part, been enamored with them from the time we were little kids and we jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel. We admire the beauty of their lines, thrill at the power and enjoy the actual act of driving. It’s hard for us to imagine how anyone would choose to forgo what is to us, one of life’s great pleasures.

No matter who you are, however, cars are really all about freedom and if you really want to be free you can’t live your life in fear. I’m proud that I had a small part in sharing that freedom with my mother and prouder still that she had the courage to face her fears. But given where she comes from, I guess I should have expected it. Happy Mothers’ Day to all of you and yours.

My mom and her husband Guy a few years after they married.

My mom and her husband Guy around 2001, a few years after they married.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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64 Comments on “A Celebration of My Mom, Woman Driver...”


  • avatar
    Mykl

    Dude, your mom was hot.

  • avatar

    Great touching story as usual Thomas. Thanks for the story. Long live your mother and all the other mothers out there!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Great story Tom, my mother passed away almost 19 years ago and my father 3 years ago. My mother was always driving us around to different activities in the family station wagon. I was number 3 son and when my brothers left my mother had a baby girl. I was a big brother at 14.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    The “trunk” of my family tree eminates from southern Virginia in an area where the results of the Civil War (known locally as either the “War of Northern Agression” or “those recent unpleasantries”) are still being debated (think “Mayberry”). As late as the 1990′s, many of the older women wouldn’t think of driving. They wore their dresses and white gloves and their husbands “chauffuered” them around. A quaint notion perhaps, but certainly the last generation to practice it . . . . .

    • 0 avatar

      My family tree splits either side of the Missouri/Kansas border with Mom from Western MO and dad from Eastern KS. There was no dirtier nasty part of the civil war than that part that took place along that particular rift and it gave birth to real life outlawas like the james Brothers and fictional ones like Josie Wales.

      They were ALL pioneers though and no one on either side of my family would ever think about doing anything as genteel not driving because it wasn’t lasy like. If it weren’t for the modern trator, I’m sure people in that region would still hook their family members up in a harness to help ou the horse…

      • 0 avatar
        Geekcarlover

        I think it was a cultural, not necessarily a regional thing. My grandmother lived in New Jersey her whole life, 1897-1988, and I don’t believe she ever drove. It was one of those things a lady just didn’t do.

  • avatar

    MY MOM

    #1 first car was a Mercury Zephyr
    #2 Second car was a 198X Mercury Cougar with a V8 in Burgundy. She wrecked that sunuvabitch when she was sideswiped on a highway.
    #3 Third car was a Cougar XR7 1993. I learned to drive in it and fornicated in the backseat with Dominican college girls. I ended up wrecking it, BUT IT WASN’T MY FAULT because some Jamaican cab driver made an illegal U-turn and hit me in the driver’s side. I got a settlement from that and mom told me “YOU OWE ME A CAR”.
    #4 Mom’s 4th car was a Ford Expedition 2002. She wanted the Explorer, but because I was like 6’4 at the time she bought the Expedition. Explorer was too tight. THAT TRUCK WAS A MONSTER and TOOK ANY BEATING YOU THREW AT IT. Sure you had to replace brakes and front end parts, but it was built like a brick.

    #5 For mom’s 5TH car, I had to make due on my debt to her. I traded her Expedition in and had to buy her a CRYSTAL RED CADILLAC STS 2010. Navigation, heated/cooled seats, moonroof/leather,etc.

    Her car is relatively up to date with the XTS. She has the same 300HP V6, AWD and all the bells and whistles the XTS has. Her car really doesn’t look dated – even though the XTS does look so much newer – because nothing else on the road looks like those cars.

    youtube.com/watch?v=OsCnMujdhoo

  • avatar
    ArBee

    My mother loved to drive, and took great pleasure in nice cars. I guess she was an enthusiast. But her older sisters, born in 1912 and 1913, declined to learn how. Living in a city, they simply took the bus wherever they wanted to go, or took the train out of town. For that matter, some of the men in my family never bothered to get licensed, viewing a car as an unjustified expense. They were all quite fit from walking! And yes, Thomas, may I say your mother was and is a lovely lady.

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    My Grandmother is 85ish and has never driven. Granted she lived in the Bronx for most of her life. When they (they being her, her husband (my Grandfather), and 3 boys (the middle one being my dad)), would take long distance vacations (in the 60s, so by car), my Grandfather would repeatedly attempt to teach her to drive in case something happened to him while they were in the middle of nowhere.

    She hated every second of it and never got the hang of it. She lives in a condo association now that has a van that will drive all the old people to the mall, grocery store, etc.

    If I could describe her in 1 word it would be worrier, and I think that sums up why she never liked driving

  • avatar
    JK43123

    Not possible today. Too much running of kids, plus neighbors don’t help each other like that, at least not around here.

    Yes, what was wrong with playing in the neighborhood instead of all this constant running parents do these days?

    John

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Great story! My mom was actually the “car guy” in her marriage. She pretty much always drove nicer cars than my dad, so I was always begging to take her car when I went out on dates. Come to think of it, she was the one who taught me how to drive a manual transmission when I was 16 (my dad tried, but was short on patience). She’s still young (in her early 60′s), but has only recently made the switch from sport sedans to “mommy mobiles” (she drives an RX350) for the grandkids’ sake.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My Mom did not get her license until she was in her mid-20s, in the Air Force. Got her pilot’s license shortly thereafter though! She is quite a woman, widowed twice, first time at age 21 (my Father), second time at 60. Divorced twice in between, one other kid with husband #2. Moved in with my Grandparents to see them through their dotage. She makes me utterly crazy, but I love her. She is still a terrible driver, but she owned some cool cars back in the day. Early 911, Saabs, Audis, a 944 Turbo. She had a good career in the ’80-90s and divorced rather well. A much quieter life since.

    I too don’t get the running around and extreme structure of childhood these days. I can’t even imagine my parents driving me anywhere as a child. It was bicycle or walk, and I too lived 8-10 miles out of town for much of it, though in a neighborhood dense with kids. And Maine winters are COLD.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    I’m reminded of my grandmother, a paragon of achievement in every other respect who managed to pass her entire life driving exclusively from the back seat. Being an expert in this, she once exclaimed loudly “watch out, there’s a car”. The vehicle’s momentum uninterrupted and in a calm and unruffled response that made the impression of a lifetime this then seven year, my grandfather simply replied “I don’t think he can hear you dear, the windows are shut”

    BTW – no question, your mom was a knockout!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Very nice story. My mom didn’t have the aversion to driving, which was a good thing, because when my dad was in the Navy in the 1950s, he was away on a “cruise” for months at a time, not unlike the situation of Navy spouses today.

  • avatar
    skor

    My parents came to the US in the 1960s as refugees from Eastern Europe. They were small children during WWII. The city where they lived was 70% destroyed by bombing.

    My parents settled in Jersey City because that’s where my uncle owned a four unit apartment house. My father was the youngest of 8 children, my uncle was the oldest. Uncle Ivan jumped ship in New York in 1940 and served in the US Army during WWII…he was given his citizenship papers when he was discharged.

    My father never touched a steering wheel until he was 30. My mother never leaned to drive, despite attempts by my father, and later by me, to teach her. Let’s say she is, and always was, “high strung”.

    Living in high density Northern New Jersey meant you could get around reasonably well using mass transit. I don’t really remember my mother’s non-driver status as being that big a deal.

    BTW, you unreconstructed rebs sound just as idiotic as unreconstructed Nazis. Your great-great-great grand daddies lost. Lost because they were fighting for an idiotic cause. Get over it.

    • 0 avatar
      jhurle9403

      I would like to share my opinion on your final comment, if I may. Prior to the war about 75% of the money to operate the Federal Government was derived from the Southern States via an unfair sectional tariff on imported goods, and 50% of the total 75% was from just 4 Southern states-Virginia- North Carolina-South Carolina and Georgia. Only 10%-20% of this tax money was being returned to the South. The North claimed that they fought the war to preserve the Union but the New England Industrialists who were in control of the North were actually supporting preservation of the Union to maintain and increase revenue from the tariff. The industrialists wanted the South to pay for the industrialization of America at no expense to themselves. Revenue bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to the War Between the States were biased, unfair and inflammatory to the South. Abraham Lincoln had promised the Northern industrialists that he would increase the tariff rate if he was elected president of the United States. Lincoln increased the rate to a level that exceeded even the “Tariff of Abominations” 40% rate that had so infuriated the South during the 1828-1832 era ( between 50 and 51% on iron goods).

      I respect your opinion, however, I believe the above to be a good cause. I think we would all be driving nicer cars if people stood up against heavy taxation more often(I’m not saying start wars, but simply stand up.)

      Sorry for such a long post. I hope not to start an argument, but simply to share a contrasting point of view. Thanks for the great article!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I wasn’t aware of a tariff issue, thank you for contributing.

        Check out the painting of VP and later Senator John Calhoun… he evidently posed in such a manner!

        http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Tariff_of_1828

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The reasons and consequence of the Civil War were a tad more complicated than “fighting for an idiotic cause”.

      I once took a history course which made a very interesting point about the conflict: prior to 1865 authors and newspapers frequently referred to the US as “these united states” in various media (as almost as a confederation of free nation-states), afterward it became “The United States” (or a unitary style gov’t where all real power was based in Washington). Really, it all boiled down to state’s rights, its very easy for PC folks to come along later when they are rewriting history and omit key facts.

      • 0 avatar
        jhurle9403

        As I’ve heard many times “the winner gets to write the history books.” Thanks for the wikipedia link too. Very interesting.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Always to the victor go the spoils… recorded history does not necessarily equal truth. Yw for the link, I love random history.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          @jhurle
          Apologies from a Northerner for that rancid comment above. The contrast between it and the level of your reply says everything.

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            Run rebs!

            http://www.biography.com/imported/images/Biography/Images/Profiles/S/William-Tecumseh-Sherman-9482051-1-402.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Hiya DPs!

            http://bitterbananas.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Stalin1952.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            jhurle9403

            Thank you Summicron. There are many Southerners that make overstatements as well. Is suppose those people are everywhere. I do very much enjoy dispelling myths that Southerners are uneducated, so thanks again for your complement on my prose :)

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Ha Ha Great story. When my mother turned 16 her father took her down to the local Police Dept. He told them his daughter was 16 and wanted a drivers license. So they gave her one. No test, no driving no nothing. I think they had to pay a dollar. This was in the mid 30s. I did have an aunt that never drove or had a license. We never were taken anywhere. If we couldn’t get there by foot or bike we took the bus.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I often think of my father’s mother (my granny) who in her late teens got the first woman’s driver license in the state of West Virginia circa 1905. That took some ovaries!

  • avatar
    jhurle9403

    My moms cars from oldest to most recent (the first three are pretty awesome)

    1. 1969 Camaro SS (Her dad was a millionaire RV dealer, and people actually wondered why he bought her a used car)
    2. 1980 Mustang
    3. 1988 Honda Civic SI
    4. Pontiac van (The weird slope-y front ones)
    5. 1998 Monte Carlo SS (brand new from the dealership)
    6. Chevrolet Tahoe
    7. 2003 Ford F-150 Lariat King Cab
    8. Honda Odyssey
    9. GMC Yukon XL Denali
    10. AND HER FAVORITE: 2010 Dodge Sprinter 9 passenger van. She had to upgrade because they adopted more children, and outgrew the Yukon XL.

    Shes had some pretty cool cars.

  • avatar
    wumpus

    My late grandmother (born 1905) never drove. I know she couldn’t get the hang of turning the wheel “the other way” when backing up, but don’t know any more of the story.

    When my parents go someplace, my father is typically behind the wheel. This does not stop my mother from backseat driving from any seat in the car. I have no idea if my father’s lack of attention on where he is going has anything to do with these constant updates or not. My other grandmother (my mother’s mother) certainly drove, and I’m pretty sure the rest of her generation did as well (of course, not all of them had husbands to drive them by the time I came along).

  • avatar
    mcarr

    When my dad met my mom, he was driving a ’67 Beetle, and she was driving a ’68 Chevelle SS 396 4-speed. Knowing my mom’s temperament then and now, I just can’t see her driving that car. I’m not certain she knew what she was buying when she got it, it was probably “cute” or “a good deal”. My uncle was incredibly jealous of her car.

    I’m not sure my mom’s mom ever drove. My grandfather worked for GM and always drove Caprices as long as I can remember. My grandma was so short we could never tell if she was riding with grandpa until she got out of the car, so seeing over the hood was impossible for her.

  • avatar
    Slab

    Mom was the daily driver in our family. Dad took the train to work. She grew up in a rural area and learned to drive very young in a pickup with three-on-the-tree. Her first accident was with a family member on their own driveway. There was a freeze after a wet snow. She was coming down the hill, rounded a blind corner, and couldn’t stop in time. She managed to steer for the ditch and saved on the body work. Not sure you’d want to aim for a ditch in a modern car.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    My mother got her license when she turned 16; her dad bought her a manual Celica, followed shortly thereafter by the quintessential high school girl’s car: a VW Cabriolet.

  • avatar
    Sandycat

    Thank you for a great story! My grandmother never drove and claimed it was because she never wanted to. My sister and I spent our youthful summers with my grandparents in St. Louis and a favorite memory is the bus trips to town. Getting dressed up, walking with my grandmother and sister to the corner to catch the bus, looking in all the shop windows, and having lunch at the Walgreens counter. When I would visit during the years after my grandpa passed away, I learned that even though she never drove, her navigational skills were remarkable. She seemed to know every highway and byway of the greater St. Louis area by heart and could give calm, flawless, perfectly timed directions from the passenger seat.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar

    Excellent story and message.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    Thank you for the wonderful story, Thomas, and sharing it with us.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Thomas – wonderful reminisce.

    My grandfather ordered one of Mr. Ford’s products early last century. He had to go out of town – on railroad business – when it arrived, by rail, all crated up. Grandma went to the yards, had the yardmen uncrate it, read the manual and drove it home. No license needed for her and no license plates for the car either. Or so family lore goes – I got my doubts about my being able to handle a “T” after a lot of driving, let alone no practice. But grandma was a redhead and known to be feisty, so maybe she could.

  • avatar

    Great story.

    Both of my parents got their first Drivers License w/out passing the test.
    In my Mom’s case,she failed parallel parking and her Dad bribed the examiner. Ahhh,the 1940s,when you didn’t need to make a campaign contribution to bribe an official.
    My dad took the written,and the clerk behind the desk was having a day and mistakenly thought he had passed both the written and driving test and gave him his DL.
    For myself,I was really stressing parallel parking and the horror stories of Ga examiners messing w/student applicants. I started to parallel park,lining the car up and was just starting to turn the wheel when the examiner said that it looked like I knew what I was doing and I had passed.
    And that day started a pattern of it raining EVERY single time I went for a new license and thus a new photo. 4 States,about 7 photos,and wet hair in every one.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Thomas Kreutzer
    A great story. I bet you found you really didn’t miss anything in life as a kid either.

    My mom is French and my father met her during the Berlin Crisis in France, being so close after the war in Europe, I suppose the resources weren’t there for her to get a licence or the requirement since she was living in Bordeaux.

    Those two went their seperate ways and my mother re-married when I was only 3 and my step father had a fishing trawler and didn’t have a car either, but he could drive.

    We live in town in Cape May, NJ and I remember walking everwhere, going to the denstist, doctor, church, etc. My mother even used to carry the grocery shopping home from A&P over half a mile away. The only supermarket at the time in the mid 60s in Cape May.

    We used to catch a bus and go to Philadelphia or NYC every now and then and it was an adventure.

    My mother got her licence in the late 70s and bought a Vega. Now,after driving for over 30 years she couldn’t imagine not having a licence and car.

    Like yourself I couldn’t imagine not having a vehicle. Maybe that is the future of our great, great grand children.

    It is true that what you don’t have you don’t miss.

    All that walking gave your mother a great set of pegs.

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    My 91 year old aunt Betsy decided last year that it was finally time to hang up her keys and stop driving. Born in 1922, she has seen many changes in automobiles. She owned the following cars, all purchased new (price is before tax and fees):

    1951 Chevrolet Special Deluxe 2-door (purchase price unknown)
    1955 Plymouth Savoy 8-cylinder (Gold / White) $2619.77
    1957 Dodge Coronet Lancer 2-door V8 $3540.00
    1961 Mercury Comet 6 cylinder 170, A/C (Gray) $2415.88
    1966 Ford Mustang 289 V8 (Sauterne Gold) $2844.23

    She said that the 1961 Comet was the worst car of them all. She was absolutely overjoyed when she was able to trade it in on the most beloved of them all: her 1966 Mustang.

    To say she loved the Mustang would be an understatement. In 47 years, she drove it 172,000 miles. Except when traveling, it was garaged every night. She saved every record about it: the original window sticker, the sales contract, every service record, insurance policy, etc. At the end of it all, the car was completely original, save for normal wear and a few fender-bender repairs.

    The Daily Turismo recently posted an excellent article about her and her car:
    http://thedailyturismo.kinja.com/betsys-pony-the-story-of-one-womans-1966-ford-mustan-451337857

    It sold on ebay last month for $8700 to a gentleman in Sweden who plans to keep it in as original condition as possible. Betsy is very pleased that it is going to a loving home.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    My Mom and Dad had seven kids altogther. (One died of a brain tumor when she was four.) As our family grew in the 1960s; Dad bought the following for our family cars:

    1956 Ford Sedan
    1961 Chevy Greenbrier (van version of the Corvair)
    1967 Ford Country Sedan
    1972 Ford Econoline van
    1976 Plymouth Volare wagon
    1988 Chevy Celebrity wagon
    1995 Ford Taurus wagon
    2001 Saturn SW(?) wagon

    Like your mother, Thomas, my mother was very petit and very short; but she could manhandle the Econoline van just as well as Dad, and was proud of it. Besides shopping for us, she also bought groceries for the church rectory as well; I remember watching her van and latet the Volare pull into the church parking lot loaded with groceries from the second floor library window.

    Mom had a stroke in about 2007, and passed away about this time of the year in 2009. Dad continued to drive and live on his own right up to the moment he was admitted to the hospital and passed away three weeks later in September 2011. I miss them both very much.

    Dad rarely traded in his cars; rather, he would give them to family members who he thought needed them most; usually when they hit about 70,000 miles. I had the Volare wagon for awhile, then gave it to a brother when I bought my first car. I married a short time later; we got the Celebrity wagon, and later traded it in for a Nissian Quest minivan. When it did not work out, Dad gave us the Taurus wagon in about 2001. We have had it since then; while we owned it longer than than they did; to me, it is still “their” car.

    I tried to get Mom’s Saturn when Dad passed away; but it went to another family member. So, I restored the Taurus instead; and will keep it for a redicuously long time because it reminds me of Mom and Dad and their wagons, along with the memories of our own family.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Mom is 90 years old and still drives , though not all that much or all that far . Growing up in a rural area , she was driving by age 14 , even on long distance trips as my grandmother never learned to drive , to New York , the Grand Canyon and Mexico ( the latter sometime in the 1930s , I can only imagine the condition of the roads back then . My father was born in 1911 , also lived in a rural area and was driving at 12 years of age . As a kid though I can think of very few times where either parent was driving us to any activities or play dates ( and I recall very few parental planned activities ) , and I wouldn’t have wanted them to , preferring to ride my bike or walk anywhere less than 5 miles .Even before I got my license I would frequently run errands to the grocery store or whatever on my bicycle , equipped with carriers just for that reason .

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Mom learned to drive rather late in the game, I think she did in her mid 30′s or 40′s. I can’t quite recall the reason why she didn’t learn earlier, but fear wasn’t one of them. And she drove 3 pedal cars.

    My wife doesn’t drive, yet…

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Thanks for the atticle, Thomas. I think it’s worth remembering that our parent’s time was a much more industrial age, and a more nationally-based one at that. (I write that from a Korean-made tablet over the internet from France, so irony is duly noted.) Mechanical devices like cars, washing machines, lawn mowers and blenders were still aspirational things for the middle class. Driving was generally for men, though not exclusively so – we can thank Kettering for inventing the starter motor for opening driving up to women.
    Of the women in my family, my grandmother (born 1901) never drove; my mother (born 1929) learned to drive after she married and had her first child; and my sister (born 1955) had a 1967 Camaro RS when she was nineteen. I’m guessing that similar generational stories can be found in many families. Of note with my mother: I remember her putting her right arm out to stop us from going forward in a sudden stop as if the force of Mom could counteract the laws of physics (1956 Chevrolet 210 station wagon), and she learned to drive a stick shift at age 55 in her first own new car, a 1984 Buick Skyhawk. So, I have to ask, were they made of tougher stuff than their kids?

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    In my case , definitely made of tougher stuff . Being forced to deal with the Great Depression and serving in the military in WW2( both my parents) , father abandoning the family ( Daddy ) parents both dead by the time you are 21 years old ( Mom) , living in a rural area where hard physical work was a given and the old man being used as a farmhand by his abusive father – no doubt my maternal grandfather , being in the Klan , wasn’t such a great guy either . I think all those hard times toughened that generation up . My own life seems much easier .

  • avatar
    HillbillyInBC

    Great story, Thomas. Like yours, my mother never drove until my father died. She was 31, and we were 11, 10, and 5. Driving was one of many new responsibilities she had to learn and bear for our sakes, and I’ll always love and admire her for doing what she could to hold our little family together after a horrible tragedy. She’ll be 78 soon, still driving but not very often or far these days, and has never been in an accident in all of those years (knock on wood). Thanks for reminding me of her and how much she’s meant to me.

  • avatar

    i just had to log on again after reading so many great stories. I’d like to thank each and every one of you. You made me remember and appreciate my own mom yet again. She’ll have left us 3 yrs come Sept.

    Born in 1950, my mom certainly drove. The first car i remember her driving was a brown Chevy Nova the five yrs we lived in Miami (late 70s, early 80s). Then a Fiat 131 (?) Mirafiori in Colombia. Back to Brazil, she drove a series of VW Quantums. Then a Chevy Astra sw, a Fiat Marea sw. Then a Renault Scenic followed by a Renault Clio. Lastly a Renault Sandero she didn’t get a chance to drive much because of her illness.

    She was a good driver. I only rememberher getting into one smal fender bender in the Nova. She never drove on the road,

    as far as could tell it was my dad who chose her cars but he respected her wishes. In her long list you won’t see any Fords. She didn’t like them. She hated the Escort I wrote so lovingly of recently. She flat out refused to drive my brother’s Fusion and a Ranger I had. In this we couldn’t have been more different. However, i did pick up from her her disdain for big flashy show-off cars. She also didn’t like pus, suvs and cuvs.

    She loved her Scenic (the best car she said she ever had) and when my dad got rid of it he gave him a lot of grief until he got her the Clio. She also spoke fondly of a lime green VW Brasilia my dad got her when I was a small kid and which i don’t remember. She would laugh that not because it was any good, but because back in the day it did symbolize that she and dad were making it.

    Thanks again all, and specially Thomas, for this chance to remember.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Really, learning ANYTHING new at 50 is to be commended — let alone driving on public roads. Your Mom is to b e commended.

    When my Mom was about 40, I started racing dirt bikes, and she decided to get a little enduro motorcycle and license. Amazing.

    Go Moms!

  • avatar
    Roader

    My mom’s a little older, born in 1927, but didn’t learn to drive until 1970 when Dad bought our first car with an automatic transmission. It was a practical decision, as was your mom’s, but Women’s Lib had something to do with it too. 1970 was a social demarcation point for many groups including women.

    At 85, she drives her car to the supermarket almost every day. A high point of her year is having her driver’s license renewed. She’s actually a pretty good driver.

  • avatar

    This article taught me two things. First, a lot of us have pretty awesome moms, and second, mothers day is actually NEXT Sunday…

    I guess writing this too early is for the best though, it gives us all time to think about our moms before we go out and buy our gifts.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      And maybe a reminder to find time to see or call mom more often. I lost my mom a few days after Marcelo lost his. The emptiness of not having a mother to reach out to is very hard sometimes. The best gift of all is time together. Make it a priority. I spent a ton of time with my mother and and after she died I still felt like I should have done more. You don’t get a second chance. Be there for her.

  • avatar
    solracer

    My 85-year-old mom is still going strong after nearly 70 years of driving. So I thought I’d give an overview of her great automotive history. Her first car was a ’32 Ford Model A (yes, there were a few made in 1932) then a ’42 Chevrolet and a ’49. When I was born she had a ’54 Nash Metro but I quickly got too big and it was replaced by a pink ’59 Rambler wagon. Mom never really warmed to the wagon and it was replaced by a red ’65 Mustang with the 200 hp V-8 and a 4-speed stick. Her first auto was a ’70 Mercedes W108 270 SEL which she drove for many years until a cherry red ’66 Corvair Monza coupe replaced it. In ’78 my dad surprised her with a split-pea green ’56 T-bird which she still owns to this day. Later came a ’79 RX-7 she sold because it had been wrecked early in it’s life by the previous owner and was replaced in months by a turbo ’79 Mustang Indy pace car. Next was a ’79 Dodge Colt RS (bought from me) and then a new ’85 Mirage turbo. Next came a ’88 1/2 Merkur XR4Ti (also from me) and then a Sentra SE-R that she also never really liked. That was replaced by a blue ’90 Miata then a 10,000 mile red ’91 Miata. Unfortunately the Miata was totalled by my brother so mom moved on to a BRG 2001 Miata. However she had a soft spot for the ’91 and when I repaired it a couple of years later she bought it back and sold the ’01. She’s still driving the Miata every day and loves it!

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Your mom was kind of like a reversed version of my mother, she started driving at her uncle’s farm, in an old Model T they had, and at 13, she was driving on the road, she was passing for being in her 20′s at 13, 5’8″ tall, and being an only child, she could pull it off easily. She got stopped, once, and the cop who stopped her just laughed and told her to be careful (Turned out he was a friend of grandma). Her fear of driving developed in her 40′s, as I approached driving age. She never had any sense of direction, and it just got worse as she aged. She had an amazing memory for phone numbers, but she got lost even in areas she had lived in for years. After about 50, she barely drove, and her last drive in my “scary” Trans Am was the kicker, and that was it. For the last 25 years of her life, she never drove again, unless you count her complaints about how I drove. Congrats to your mom for having the guts to start after all that time.

  • avatar

    Great story! Happy Mother’s Day to your mom — she sounds terrific.


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