Posts Tagged ‘majestic ballroom.Magnetic Motors’

My First Car and the Prang

May 15, 2019

MY FIRST CAR AND THE PRANG
It’s quite amazing how closely my life and the life of Eddie Blackwell, who wrote the last tale, duplicated each other. Not only did we clash on opposite sides in the 1954 Leeds Red Triangle under 17s football cup final but we were both conscripted into National Service in the late 1950s early 1960 we both learned to drive in the army and both got our own first own car in 1962.
I want to tell you about my first car but first about the ‘prang I had while learning to drive in the army

THE PRANG
We national service personnel worked alongside career regulars. I believe my regular colleagues were disadvantaged in comparison to normal civilians. In the army, it is so easy to fall foul of authority. A mistake committed even in an off duty period could result in a NCO being ‘busted’ down, which contrasts sharply with civilian life where a transgression committed outside the workplace does not normally instigate disciplinary action at work. An instance of how easy it was to transgress happened to me while at Detmold: I managed to find myself on three charges at the same time. The first charge was for innocently wandering across a football pitch, which was evidently out of bounds. The second was after being pulled for having my hair too long and the third for having a ‘prang’ in a one ton truck while under driving instruction. On the face of it I looked a real villain, three charges, but what great misdemeanours had I really been guilty of? Nevertheless, it was not good policy to keep being dragged up before the OC.
The ‘prang’ though is an incident worth recording. A few of us were learning to drive in a one ton truck under the instruction of a subaltern, who like all subalterns spoke very cut glass.
I

It was my turn to drive and the rest of the lads who were either waiting or had already had their turn were sat in the back where they couldn’t see forward. We were driving along, on the right of course, it being Germany. The officer ordered me to turn right into a minor road where a German civilian bus was waiting to get out. Being totally inexperienced, I was going far too fast to execute this manoeuvre. I was still in third gear when I tried to turn into the side road. I can still see the horror on the faces of those Germans when they realised I was not going to make it. I gave the bus a real crack amidships. The unseeing lads in the backs cheered: ‘Hey up, Woody ‘as ‘it somat’
‘Oh hard look Wood!’ said the officer admirably keeping his composure. ‘Right Wood, reverse out.’ He was using the theory: if they prang, dust ‘em off and send ‘em up again before they lose their confidence. Unfortunately, I selected the wrong gear; instead of reverse, I selected one of the forward gears and gave the bus another crack. The lads in the back cheered again: ‘Go on Woody – give ‘em some more!’
‘I think I’d better drive back,’ sighed the officer, his good intentions going out of the window.
So, I was on a charge for the driving offence: as they put it, ‘For causing damage to a War Department vehicle and a German civilian bus’. I was marched under guard to the OC’s office. ‘Left-right-left-right,’ screamed a sergeant, it was all very formal, normally he was an alright guy but he’d turned into monster for the day. ‘Left-turn-right turn, beret-off-left-turn, A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N!’ They had me so confused by all the shouting that I finished up with my backside to the OC. (Captain Juniper) ‘Oh turn him round, sergeant,’ said the OC. in exasperation, whereupon the sergeant took me by the shoulders and turned me through 180 degrees. As far as I can remember, I only received a balling out and never heard anything more about the other two charges at all.
So the result was I didn’t actually pass my driving test in the army. But I had put that right by 1962 when I passed my test in civilian life and got my first car.

My First Car
It was a Friday lunch time in 1962 and clutching my new driving licence I was dropped off by Dad outside Magnetic Motors in Water lane, there to pick up my very first car. It was a 1959, beige coloured, Ford Popular 100E three years old and cost me the £165 that I had managed to save up from my meagre army pays. It was standing there bright and shiny amongst all the other cars in the showroom. I asked the salesman to manoeuvre it out for me as I was afraid of scratching it, not to mention the other cars. He parked it across Water Lane, shook my hand and wishing me the best of luck departed. I sat in the driver’s seat, twiddled the wheel a bit and looked across to the passenger’s seat; for the first time I saw there was no one sitting there – it was all a bit scary!

drove gingerly back to McLaren’s Fabrications where I was employed at the time; I was as proud as Punch and eager to hit the open road but it was still only Friday lunch time there was the afternoon to get through first. I worked with my dad at the time and Dad’s mate was a guy called Cliff; he was a grand guy – the firm’s mechanic. He came over to take a look at the car standing there, still all bright and shiny and he said, ‘Well, it looks a million dollars.’
I had to park it overnight in our back street and in those days even in a back street a car had to have lights. Now, if you were to leave a car overnight with even the sidelights on the battery would be as flat as a pancake in the morning, so people had various devices to show a light. Some obtained road-mender’s lamps and placed them in the road alongside the car. I had a spare battery, which I positioned in the boot and ran a line to a tiny little light that fitted onto the top of the driver window and showed red at the back and white at the front. Well, as ‘Sod’s law’ would have it on that very first Friday night that I had the car we had one of the worst gales I can recall before or since. I lay in my little back bedroom hearing slates being blown off the house roofs and crashing down into the street all night long, crash after crash; all I could think about was my poor little car. In the morning there was a huge gash where a slate had sliced into the car roof.
The following night, Saturday, I proudly took my mates out for the night – we went to Harrogate and I was relieved when I managed to get the vehicle home without further damage. After the slate fiasco Dad had managed to negotiate with a neighbour to allow me to leave the car overnights in his large unused garden. This would save me from falling slates and absolve the need to put on any lights at all. Unfortunately, while attempting to manoeuvre the car into his garden the front wheel fell down a huge unseen hole and crumpled the front mudguard. I had to get Dad up to extract me from the hole as I was making an even greater mess of the car in my efforts to pull clear.
I drove it to work on the following Monday morning; Cliff the mechanic took another look at it – now with its gashed roof and crumpled mudguard. ‘Well.’ he said, ‘It looked a million dollars on Friday – but I wouldn’t give you tuppence for it now!’
The winter of 1962/63 was a bad ‘un; one Friday night (4th January 1963) I parked the car in the centre of Leeds and went dancing with my mate to the Majestic Ballroom. I met Brenda that night and gave her a lift home we got stuck in the snow on a hill between Harehills Road and Harehills Lane. The very first night we met. Brenda had to push me out of a snowdrift in her high heeled shoes – we never looked back and had our golden wedding in 2018

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