Museum Musings: Keeping memories alive


This is a continuation of folks’ memories of learning drive.  It also keeps alive the names and memories of those who have gone before us. I hope it brings you some smiles. 

Trent Curtis. I started learning in a hay field, in a standard-shift pickup with a trailer. My brother, Kirk, and I were so little, we had to help one another. One I of us had to get on the clutch while the other guided the wheel until the other one could jump up in the seat. We managed to work together well. After about 1,500 bales of hay, I thought I was a pro. After working the clutch and jumping back in the seat on our knees trying to see where to go, I think I could have driven with my tongue. We were so tired!. We loved to drive, but if one wasn’t feeling good, we were out of luck, because we had to be a team. We’d argue about whose turn it was to actually hold the steering wheel!

Linda Jack Manning. As I remember, Dale Dean taught me to drive on the dirt roads in the Jozye community, in a column-shift Ford that belonged to his mother, Sara Dean (1913-1985).

Carolyn Tisdale Bailey.  I took Drivers Ed in a class at MHS taught by Coach Ray.  There was a group of four of us: Jerry Montgomery, Jimmy Dee Anderson, Carolyn Hendrix (1964-1996), and me. He told us that he knew that all of us were already driving to school and knew how, so we would take a drive to Lott, Texas to the western store so that he could get a new pair of boots.  We drove there on a Saturday and I don't ever remember any of us driving for him again.  I can't remember if he bought a pair of boots or not, but we did go visit the western store.

Jerry Montgomery. Carolyn (above) is right, but  I had forgotten about that. Coach Ray was cooler than the other side of the pillow.  I remember passing driver's ed, taking the driving test with Trooper (Tommy) Andrews, & getting my permit.  Dad let me have our beloved old '63 Chevy pickup that my brother, Jimmy, had turned into a gorgeous ' 69 Cadillac-metallic blue street machine.  I drove to Phillip Risinger's house in Midway, and Phillip and I got "snitched off" for burning doughnuts in the middle of OSR. Good Times! I miss my ole truck.

Lola Hardy.  I'm sure Coach Jefferson wanted to have a heart attack when I told him that I had never driven a car, and drivers ed would teach me!  Ben Perry (1972-2016) was also a student in the class and was in the back seat as I proceeded to drive towards the junior high, and he said, "She's gonna kill us”. All I could do was laugh, because I was all over the road.  When Coach Jefferson realized I was telling the truth, his eyes almost popped out.  He was patient with me and if anyone has any complaints about my driving, I learned it all in Drivers Ed.

Sara Becker Hudson.  I learned to drive on stick shift, in a pasture in Brushy Community.  Laney Reding Smith  taught me the rules of friendly driving.  We were young, running errands, and we did the hand wave to everyone!

Josalyn Ironette Holiday.  I was 12 years old and the only one home one day when Mrs. Billie Reding needed to pick up her tractor in the hay field.  She took me to drive her car back to her house while she drove the tractor.  She told me to follow her home and push on the gas, so that’s what I did.  I had never driven a car before in my life but I did it without having a wreck.  When I ran in the house and told my grandmother what I’d done, she almost had a heart attack.  That’s when she realized she had to teach me to drive! 

Tracey Foster Young.  I think my brother, Danny, and I probably both learned to drive with Mr. Travis Caldwell (1908-1989),out in the pastures. He had a yellow and white Dodge truck. I also learned with a stick shift from Dad, driving up and down our dirt road (Caldwell Rd) in a little Chevy Luv truck. At school in formal driver's ed, Coach Jeff Jefferson taught the class and we all wanted to be in his car for driving because he was so funny.

Cathy Closs Parker. My mother, Ruth Closs (1931-2016), had a Dodge Lancer with push button controls when I was about 10, and I learned to drive in that. Marsh Marsh Story and I would go back and forth in our driveway for hours, and that was only 25-30 yards long! Then we progressed to driving behind Marsha’s parents’ house, in a dump truck that belonged to her dad, Sonny Marsh (1925-2007).  What wonderful memories!   

Martha Dean Fautheree. Daddy, Elmer Dean (1917-1978) taught me to drive out in Elwood on the good old dirt roads in Daddy's Jeep with stick- shift -on- the -floor!! It was actually fun and I took my driving test with a standard.  It wasn't bad at all!

Eddy Jo Jemison. Daddy (Ed Grigory, 1911-1977) put me behind the wheel of his old Jeep – had two pillows. We lived right behind where Tractor Supply now is, and Daddy had me drive from our house down past the Eastridge entrance is now – all the way there and back in first gear!!When he said, “Let’s shift into second,”, my answer was, “Oh, no! This is fast enough!”  It must have been agonizing for him, but he never said a cross word. The next day I did better. Then he turned me loose in the pasture, "Don't hit a cow" were his instructions! Soon no one would dare say no when I asked to drive my Grandmother Grigory to church, even though I was too young to get my license!  She got to attend all the revivals and evening services and I got to drive!

Jana Gafford Wonders.  I did not learn to drive early as most country kids do. My first memory of driving was when I turned the corner too sharp on the square, turning right from Highway 90 to Highway 21, going to Standley Feed. I popped the tire off the rim of my mom’s Jeep.  I was doing the at home driving education with my dad. My mom told him, “You can't blame her, you were the one teaching.”

Curtistene Burnette Baylor. I don’t recall much about learning to drive, but I took my driver’s test in a standard-shift 1955 Chevy that belonged to my sister, Bertie Sue. I had some difficulty getting the clutch right, failed the parallel parking, but still passed and got my license. Later I sometimes commuted to Sam Houston in that same vehicle, and I remember pulling up to the northwest corner of The Square in Huntsville. That always made me nervous, for fear I’d roll back into the vehicle behind her! 

Mary Wagstaff Carden.  My dad. T.R. Wagstaff (1909-2001) taught me how to drive, and I took the written test in the old courthouse.

Shirley Hutchins Savell Kustiner.  I grew up in Houston. My grandparents lived in Flynn. I have two brothers. Daddy would take the Madisonville exit. We went FM 978, taking the back roads to Flynn. Dad would let us drive on those roads. I remember Mama always said "They must have been drunk when they made these roads" but that is where we got our practice.

Richard Wakefield.  Dad (Gerald Wakefield, 1914-2011) taught me to drive on a '48 Farmall A. We were pulling logs out of burn piles, restacking them, and then doing the final burn. I thought I had died and gone to hell. Dad learned the meaning of the phrase "near death experience!”

Karen Tucker Gouge.  I was what you would call a timid driver. There were several family members and friends that attempted to take on the daunting task of teaching me how to drive. My father, Paul Tucker, tried (in vain) to teach me how to drive his truck, and that lasted approximately the length between his house and that of Jim and Gay Collard. My step-mother, Claudia Jordy Tucker, was a much better driving instructor than Daddy had been. My mother, Claudia Tucker, bravely attempted to instruct me in the art of driving; however, I drove her car onto the lawn of one of our neighbors down the road. My maternal grandfather, Claude Baker (1931-2008), was actually the one who taught me that driving could be fun when he tossed me the keys to his ancient dodge farm truck and we took off across his cow pasture out in Cottonwood. My actual Driver's Ed Instructor, Colvin Walker, and others pitched in to help me learn, and it quite literally took "a village" to teach me how to drive with confidence.

Leta Ann Wells Carson.  Daddy, Glyn Melvin “Mutt” Wells (1926-2010), taught me to drive. Mom swears that's why my driving scares her to this day, but that’s not true.  I am a good driver! Dad would pull over leaving town on 978, and I would drive to Granny Batson’s and back. Uncle Milton then had me driving his tractor since I knew how to drive. When Dad was off on a job, I was allowed to drive Mom to Granny Batson’s and back. I did this for years before we all took Drivers Ed and I got my license.

Suzi Abilez Daniel.  My grandfather, Boggy James (1916-1988), had one leg and taught me how to drive a standard shift, right in town in Madisonville.  We started in the Methodist Church parking lot.

Elaine Stephens Rosier.  I had never driven at all when it came time for me to take my driver’s test. My mother took me south of town on Highway 75 to Pee Dee Road and let me drive once. I was driving my brother's big Impala because it was an automatic and everything else we had was standard.  That afternoon I went in, took the test, and the only part that I did not pass was the parallel parking because I had never done it.  You didn't have to pass that part, so they turned me loose on the road.

Renia Donaho Kyle. I was 11 and little sister, Ginger, was 8 when we were practicing driving in the pasture on the 52-acre farm belonging to Daddy, Parmer Donaho (1932-2010).  One was in Daddy's '69 Dodge panel van, the other in a '65 Oldsmobile, and were being so cool, driving in figure eight shapes.  We had seen our older sisters drive in figure 8’s around trees in the yard and it looked like fun, so we tried that out in open pasture.  Then we met in the center of the 8 and we ran into each other, damaging both vehicles. I’ll never forget trying to explain an invisible 8 shape to Mama and Daddy. 

Sharon Albers Harris.  My dad, Elvis Albers, (1922-2016) taught me to drive before Driver's Ed was available.  He would take me practice driving every Sunday afternoon when his nap was complete.  I'd wait for him to go to sleep and then about 10 minutes later began to make all kinds of noise, hoping he'd wake up and we could go.  He never successfully taught me to parallel park so when I took the driver's test in Madisonville, I promptly failed that portion of the test by knocking over the pole behind me. The kind officer said "Don't worry about it--we don't have parallel parking in Madisonville anyway.

Jacque Zulch.  When I was 6 or 7, I would stand on the floorboard of the truck and look between the dashboard and steering wheel to see where to go. When I was 8 or 9 I would drive down to Shirlie and Darrell Michels’s house after school.

I hope these bits gave you some grins, and that you will be inspired to keep loved ones' memories alive by sharing stories with friends and family! 

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Museum Curator Jane Day Reynolds will welcome your visit.  The cookbooks have been selling well and we will probably reorder soon.  If you’d like to share a story, call the Museum, 936.348.5230.  If the answering machine picks up, leave your name, number, and message, and someone will call you back.