What was your first car and how old were you when you got it? Well, I remember my first car very distinctly. It was a pale green Simca that used to belong to my grandmother, Norma Cripps.
I would have been 17 and had started work at my first job at Lockes Furnitures in Marine Terrace and I used to walk to work from where I was boarding. It was about this time that my grandmother was getting into her 80s and the family decided she probably shouldn’t be driving anymore. As Dad had bought the car for her originally and it was being stored at the farm, he handed it over to me. My first distinct memory was the key ring, which had a St Christopher medal, the patron saint of travellers to keep you safe. I kept St Christopher on my key ring for years afterwards, but one day, it fell off in the grass at my work at the dental surgery in Shenton Street. I never did find it, although I looked everywhere. Since then, I have bought another St Christopher medal. I hope he keeps me safe!
I don’t remember a lot about my driving lessons or who taught me. I seem to remember going to some driving lessons as I learnt the three-point turn, reverse parking, hill starts and general driving. When it was time to go for my driver’s license, it was the easiest thing I’d ever done. The policeman and I drove out in the driving instructors car, out to Tarcoola, around the block and back. We were coming up Durlacher Street, when he suddenly said, turn here, at Anzac Terrace. Well, I remember doing as I was told, you all did that right? I flicked on the flickers, changed gears and whizzed around that corner, across oncoming traffic, but we made it safely. All the cop said was, ‘great evasive driving!’ and I got my license. I may have had to reverse park somewhere, I think on Foreshore Drive from memory but that was all.
Before this though, when I was at boarding school, I used to walk over to my grandmother’s house not far from the school with one of my friends and sometimes she would take us for a drive. On one occasion, we were driving around the Back Beach area near the lighthouse and there was a snack bar nearby. I remember ‘nanna’ asking if we’d like something to eat just as we neared the turn-off, well she suddenly whipped around that corner, no indicators and we nearly ran off the road. I never did tell Dad, as I’m sure he would have taken the car from her then.
When I first met my future husband, Bob, I remember driving out to his house on Nanson Road, (now Chapman Valley Road) and I had to cross the Chapman River bridge. It was early evening, winter and the rain was pelting down. My first experience of driving in the rain. Well, I was petrified. Those little wipers just weren’t taking the rain off the windscreen quick enough, the dip switch for the lights was a push button on the floor that you had to take your foot off the clutch and press on this switch to put the lights up or down and I just panicked. I pulled off the side of the road and burst into tears, waiting for the rain to stop. It did eventually and I made my way out to Bob’s house. I didn’t tell him, as I was too embarrassed to say I was scared. I’ve hated driving in the rain ever since.
Another big adventure in that little car was the first time I drove a long distance from Geraldton to our farm just north of Northampton. It was about 46 miles or 75 klm. Mum was having a Tupperware party, so I decided I could drive there from Geraldton, however not on my own. Ann Inder-Smith, the daughter of my boss Laurie, came with me. We got to Northampton without any dramas, but I had to ring mum from the post office to let her know where I was. There were no mobile phones in those days, so I rang from the telephone box. We eventually made it to the farm, still another 20 miles out of Northampton. We must have made it home safely, as I don’t recall any dramas on that trip.
I kept that car until our first daughter Helen was born in 1974. In this photo, you can see my little Simca at the bottom of our yard.
This photo below is the only one I could find on the Internet that came close. It would have been built around the 1960s.