Great Grandma Bean learns to drive

November 2, 2011

by Papa (because Jenny ate too much candy to write a post)

Great Grandma Bean never learned to drive. I think it was a left-right thing since she always seemed confused about what side of the road to be on. In spite of her directional handicap, she got an Alabama driver’s license in 1960 which was about 16 years after her first driving test. Before that, she had been turned down in Japan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington, California, Alaska and Taiwan. Something to think about if you’re looking for a safe driving state.

Photo by Curtis G. PerryFrustrated with being her chauffeur for 16 years, King—Great Grandpa Bean—bought her a brand new 1960 Corvair. And then in typical King fashion, he took off on an extended business trip with instructions to Boy to teach her to drive.

“But, Dad, I’m only 15 years-old. I don’t even have a driver’s license myself.”

“Who in the hell says you have to have a driver’s license to TEACH driving?”

He had me there. We were in Alabama and someone in the Department of Motor Vehicles was incompetent enough, or just plain crazy enough, to give Grandma a license.

Then again it could have involved a payoff or someone scared to go on the road with her. So, it almost seemed logical that the next step was to have her 15-year-old son actually teach her to drive.

It should be noted that Boy had been driving Great Great Grandpa Bean since he was 12. Not that Great Grandpa couldn’t drive. It’s just that his humming would distract him—it’s another story. Suffice to say the family felt it was safer for a 12 year-old to be driving than a humming old man.

It’s a Bean thing.

Boy came up with a plan to teach Grandma the mechanics of driving. Driving on a one-lane dirt road would eliminate, for a time, the whole left-right side problem, so she could concentrate on learning how to steer, accelerate and brake.

Everything was going just fine until we went got to the water. It seems some enterprising beavers had damned up a stream and caused the road to flood.

Why does this shit always happen to Beans?

The water really didn’t look that deep. It really didn’t. We went for it.

Water actually came up through the steering column of that Corvair and was pouring into Grandma’s lap.

“Don’t stop!” I remember yelling.

If we had opened a door, the whole inside would have flooded. In spite of what Ralph Nader said about the Corvair, it was a damn tough little car. We made it through the lake with just a few engine sputters.

By silent agreement, we decided King was better off not knowing what had happened. We would just clean up the water that poured through the steering column, and everything would be okay. Easy enough.

Wrong. There was 12 inches of water in the front trunk.

Luckily, some GM Engineer had anticipated Grandma Bean and designed a drain plug in the bottom of the trunk. At home we drained the trunk, mopped out the inside and left the little champ sitting in the sun with the trunk lid and doors open.

We felt safe from the wrath of King.

A few days later we decided Grandma Bean’s first mission as a solo driver was to deliver a garden club flier to Old Lady Wilson down the road.

I was the one who took the call.

“Your mother just ran over my mailbox!”

“Was she hurt?”

“I don’t think so. She got out of the car and put a letter in the mail box—the mailbox that was lying in the road. Then she got back in the car and drove off. On the wrong side of the road!”

A week or so later King returned home. When the roar came from the carport, I knew there was trouble.


“Sir, yes sir, sir.”

“What the hell is this?”

And there it was. The two left-side headlights of that Corvair were half full of water.

Un-frigging believable.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Irene November 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Are you sure my MIL and your Great Grandmother Bean aren’t the same person?

To this day, she never knew how to drive. Never had a license. Put the car in a ditch while taking a lesson and never got into a car again.

You forgot about the headlights! LMAO!!!

Jenn November 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Irene, I went to visit her once. The traffic was horrible and I was driving into the sun. After I arrived, she asked me if I would like to drive us to dinner. I declined, and she got behind the wheel.

And that was the last time I was ever in the car when Grandma Bean was behind the wheel.


Ally November 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Amazing the car didn’t die in the middle of that water! Some people were just not meant to be behind the wheel. LOL

Betsy at Zen Mama November 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

My grandmother drove into Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota when she was only 14! Love hearing about your family! It’s so great to read about times gone by!!! Thanks for sharing Papa!!

portia November 5, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Both of my grandmothers. indepently, tried to learn how to drive. Both were ‘taught’ by my grandfathers( before or shortly after being married). Both of them promptly ran cars into large trees…. and never attempted driving again. This explains alot, mainly how I managed to kill my own mailbox( causing damage to the burban) and how I ran into the huge tree ,that has been at the end of my driveway for WAY longer than I have lived at my house(causing the spending of a lot of money to fix the burban). Maybe some of us are meant to have a driver , rather than BE a driver. I like to think, that in a perfect world, someone would be delighted to drive me, and I would not ever have to worry about running into things that sit between me and where I want to go.

Jenn November 7, 2011 at 10:01 am

Ally: Ain’t it the truth.

Betsy: And I thought it was just our family.

Portia: You never told me you killed a mailbox. I’m not surprised. And this is why I prefer to drive when it’s the two of us!

Kristy K. James November 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. Although I shouldn’t read it when the kids are still sleeping! I’m going to have to do some checking because one of my grandmothers never drove (I guess it was easier to walk a couple of miles to the store…). Makes me wonder if there isn’t a reason I need to know about. 🙂

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