Posted by Juliana Szucs on September 11, 2014 in Ask Juliana

Dennis pictures 203This past weekend, my daughter bought her first vehicle: a used small pick-up that we got from a friend who was looking to sell and gave us a good deal. I was thinking back on the vehicles that have played a part in my life, and about my love-hate relationship with driving, so this week for Throwback Thursday our topic is cars and learning to drive.

The first car I remember was an aquamarine Pontiac Tempest. It was a nice car, but on our annual summer vacations, I remember it being really hot, as it didn’t have air conditioning.

We were all very excited when we got the “ice blue” paneled Mercury station wagon that did have that feature. It was particularly important on the bi-annual trips to El Paso. We drove through one town on every trip that was basically wall-to-wall cows. You really wanted to be able to ride through that town with the windows up.

My mom made cushions for the back hatch part so we could take turns laying down in the back for naps. For me, that didn’t happen very often. I did like to go back there and read occasionally, but most often I was in the middle row of seats with the previous year’s AAA map following our route and making sure my father was apprised on how many more miles we had to go. While I don’t know that he needed the constant updates, he was great when it came to teaching me how to read the map, so I eventually grew up to be a pretty good navigator.

Next up was a green station wagon, also paneled. It was the ’70s; paneling was all the rage.

The first family car I drove was a Malibu, but I only drove it a few times. I took drivers’ ed classes in high school, but I didn’t do so well. I have this memory of my instructor slamming on the passenger side brake my first time out, sputtering something about not taking corners at 40 mph. I did not pass the first time.

My dad was a little more patient. He commented once that I missed a stop sign, but that was ok because a while back I had stopped for one that wasn’t there, so I was even.

While I did pass the drivers’ test second time around, I decided I would just sit on that learner’s permit for a while until I got better at driving…oh, about 24 years later. After high school I took the train to work in Chicago and was quite content to move up and down the street between apartments that were walking distance from the train. Eventually I moved downtown and got around via public transportation and cabs.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, we got an old Ford Thunderbird, and while I was excited to finally have a car, I was not excited enough to want to drive it. When my daughter started school, I held out and walked her to pre-school and kindergarten but it was becoming increasingly evident that I would need to get my license.

When she was in first grade we got a white mini-van and I finally broke down and got my license. I now enjoy driving to some extent, but with work travel taking me to new cities all the time, I have to say I really appreciate the time my dad spent teaching me navigation skills. They still come in pretty handy when the GPS isn’t cutting it.

What about you? Do you have fond memories from your old family cars? Who taught you how to drive? What experiences did you have? Share your memories with us, and more importantly, share them with your family.

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.