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My first Car …..

When I was a teen the minimum age requirement for an Idaho State Driver’s License, daylight priviledges only, was 14 years of age. I knew in my family there wasn’t much point in getting a driver’s licence if I didn’t get a vehicle to go with it. No one was buying me a car.

So, the summer I was 12 I took a full time baby-sitting job, 8.5 hours per day. I also baby-sat evenings and weekends. All money went into a container in the back of the freezer (you had to know my dad — our freezer could have retired to the coast and lived quite comfortably). The following summer my dad was logging much further away from home, so we left the house to my step-brother and his new bride and lived in a travel trailer just outside of the teeny town of Murray, Idaho (please run your mouse over pic for more information). There were no baby-sitting jobs to be had there.

So, to earn money I got up every morning and walked 3 miles. I drug a gunny sack with me and I picked up every aluminum can along the west side of the road on the 1.5 mile trip to my destination, and all the cans on the east side of the road as I returned. You would think I wouldn’t acquire many cans since I walked the road daily, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact I sometimes wonder if the road would have been passable by the end of summer if I hadn’t walked it every day.

My destination was the dump — really just a very wide spot beside the road where the city put three huge green refuse bins. This was back in the day when nobody much worried about saving the world — or making money on trash. A couple of local bars made it a nightly practice to drop off their empty aluminum cans. I made it my daily practice to gather them up, put them in gunny sacks and toss them into the bushes. On his way down the mountain my dad would pick them up, then at the trailer park we poured them out, put slabs of plywood over them, which dad then drove the one-ton across to flatten them out. Then I picked them all back up again. Every Saturday we drove into Wallace, Idaho and I turned the cans in for cash. Sometimes I made as much as $60.00 — which, way-back-when, was a pretty good pay out for a 13 year old kid’s work week.

During the school year we were back home and I was baby-sitting again. As April 24th approached (my birthday) I began looking for a car. One of the folks I baby-sat for owned a body-shop. He had a lovely ’69 Chevy convertible for sale for $600.00 (remember, it wasn’t a classic then, it was just old). Coincidentally $600.00 was exactly the amount of money I’d saved. I asked dad for the car.

He said, “No.” My step-brother had just wrecked his convertible and, even though he was just fine, dad wanted me in something sturdier. Dad went out of town. I asked my step-mom to let me buy the car. She reminded me that my dad had said no, but she knew just like I did that he was going to say no to everything until I was 18 — or maybe 32.

So, while dad was out of town we went shopping for — and purchased — my very first vehicle. A lovely little Yamaha track and street bike. It was only a 125cc, but I could afford it and the insurance, easily keep it in gas (75 cents filled the tank) and legally go everywhere I wanted to both on and off road.

When Dad first saw the bike he stared at it in shock. Then he walked around it too or three times, stopped, and stared some more. Slowly he turned around and stared at me. Finally he looked at my step-mother and shouted so loudly he made windows rattle and our neighbors come to gawk: “At least the car had four %#&*! sides!” Then he went in the house and slammed the door.

So, that’s how it came to be that my first car was a motorcycle.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. Corvette for 600 dollars… :: drools ::

    And don’t feel bad, A’s mom still won’t let him have a sturdy Harley at 30 years old… but I told him if he still wants one when we get our own place and can prove he’s learned to ride one, I’m not against it.

  2. Great story, Quilly! I love reading personal stories like this one. There was nothing exciting about my first car, but you should’ve seen the car we had for the driver’s ed program. It was an old Dodge Diplomat – and Army surplus… It was still painted olive-drab green, except for the doors. Each one of those had it’s own color. I remember one was blue and one was gray. We hated that car. There was always 2 or 3 of us who went out in it at a time. Those who weren’t driving were huddled on the floor in the backseat to avoid ridicule. I remember people yelling rude things at stoplights, pointing and laughing. I guess I can’t blame them. It was quite a sight.


  3. Hey Quilly. Wow, you sure were one determined kid. I thought the real story here was how you saved up for that car.

    My first car is the one I have now. But then, I didn’t learn to drive till I was 31 (a big wus).

    Say hi to the kitties for me.

  4. If I went shopping for my first car and came home with a motorcycle, my dad’s reaction would have been just the same!!
    Great story!

  5. Great story. What I don;t understand is why is it in your blog and not in some magazine. :chases Charlene with a “submit your work” sign:

  6. What a great story. I guess your dad’s plan backfired on him. I like your determination to save money. I was the same way, saving every penny I made. My first car was a green Gremlin (’77). My dad did not offer any advice or even go looking with me. I don’t think he knew I had enough to buy a car.

  7. I am happy that this story had a good ending. I have not had pleasant experiences with motorcycles. Perhaps I can someday share those stories. As for old cars, well we would be Somebody Today if we had only known their worth! Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  8. To those who marvel — I was good at saving. Past tense – -ancient history. But you’ve got to know that when I was 12 I didn’t have any bills, and I was dying to be a grown up — having “wheels” would make me instantly mature — big time motivation. I do still have that determination, but I don’t always use it so constructively.

  9. Wonderful story, You wouldn’t want to know what my first car was I drove. It was my Dad’s 1973 Comet. It was the only Automatic I ever drove. I prefer a Standard.

    This is the car I learned how to drive on way back those many years ago. My Dad taught me how to drive. I can still hear my Dad say “Blinker” when we came to an intersection and I was making a turn. Not to mention the thumping on the floor of the passenger side when my Dad hit his imaginary Brake before I use the real one. To this day, I can still see him sitting in the Passenger Seat telling me “Blinker”

    Now if I was talking about the first vehicle I bought, it would be my B2200 Mazda pickup which I still own. I bought this in 1992. All previous vehicles I drove were the family cars.

    As for your comment on my last post, and I quote

    “I’ve already visited the site of your new blog and I have this to say: WORK FASTER!

    Waiting with anticipation ….”

    Remember what the Good Book says about Patience………..

    I am still waiting for you to relate your story you were going to talk about on your Reflections blog. I reminded you of a story you have when I talked about the Frog Pond last week.

    later Quilly, thanks for the memory of my Dad teaching me how to drive.

    The Old Fart

  10. Awesome! 🙂 We still a different version of this bike in production here. Its used for daily commute and some off-roading too. I used my roommates for about a year and man this one had a great pick-up!

  11. Too funny, you don’t hear too many females say that their first car was a motorcycle.

    My first car was a 79 Mustang, nasty ugly and some squirrls had inhabitated it before me so it was full of nuts!!

  12. what a neat story and I admire your determination to achieve such a goal- most kids that age would go spend their money on foolishness. Your story reminded me of my first car- it cost $800, was a sky-blue comet and my sister and cousin named it Clancy because of the way it jittered up hills.

  13. Justin’s dad’s first motorcycle was a harley 125cc. Now he has a Honda Shadow Ace 750cc . He got it last year and I told him I would never go on it with him, but soon after I thought maybe just around the block. Now every nice weekend we go for a couple hours on it and I really like it a lot.

  14. haha, you first car looks a lot like my second “car”, I sold my 80cc and got a 250cc.

    I am 56 and I still have my motorcycles endorsement on my drivers license, just in case when I am 80 I still want to RIDE….love that feeling of wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth.
    I rode when you didn’t need a helmet.

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