Friday, April 1, 2011

Driving without a license!

When I wrote about my grandfathers in my previous blog, I didn't consider that there was another back story to "The Burglar" until my Aunt Jerry added a bit from my Uncle Mick, who was a young teenager at the time the story took place. When my grandfather left the Boy Scouts on a camp-out because he was sick, I didn't think to find out who took charge after he left but obviously someone had to be in charge of those boys--someone who could take them home and someone who could drive. But there was more to it than that, especially regarding driving. And that got me thinking. Just when did drivers' licenses come into being?
During my research on the subject I discovered that each state in the early 20th century issued them at different times. But apparently, the world's first driver's license was issued in 1888 to Karl Benz, the inventor of the modern automobile. And all along, I thought the inventor was Henry Ford! Sometimes research can bring more information than one might want. Other countries began to issue drivers' licenses before any of the American States did. On September 29, 1903, Prussia was the first locality to require a mandatory driving license and test. Other countries, especially Germany and France began to require them also.
Because there were many automobile-related deaths in North America, legislators were provoked into studying the French and German laws as models. On August 1, 1910, North America's first driver test law went into effect in New York but only applied to professional chauffeurs. In July of 1913, New Jersey became the first state to require all drivers to pass a test before they could receive a license. Because my grandfather stories both happened in Oklahoma, I decided to limit my research to that state.
The history of Oklahoma driving goes back almost as far as statehood. According to Wikipedia, "In 1912, there were only sixty-five hundred automobiles in the entire state. But by 1929, over 600,000 vehicles were being driven up and down state roads. Oklahoma had become a state on wheels, although the roads those wheels were rolling over were designed for horse and buggy travel. One clear indication of the arrival of the automobile age in Oklahoma was the shocking number of people killed in vehicular accidents - about five hundred a year by the mid-1920s." However, Governor E.W. Marland, the 10th Governor of Oklahoma, pleaded for a Department of Public Safety and he prevailed over a hesitant legislation on April 20, 1937 and by July 15, 1937 the Department of Public Safety was a functioning agency.
Now I come back to the story of Grandpa Kennedy, my Uncle Mick, and "The Burglar". If my mother (Cha) was a senior in high school when this happened, then the year must have been 1934 and Mick must have been about 14 years old. However, this is what my Aunt Jerry wrote recently, adding to the story: "The one he (Grandpa) put in charge of the boys was your Uncle Mick. At the time he was 15 or 16 years old. He drove the boys back in a lumber yard truck (a big flatbed truck with no sides, and all the 12 to 14 year old boy scouts rode there). Of course, Uncle Mick did not have a driver's license, but neither did anyone else. No one in Oklahoma had a driver's license at that time." And now we know why they didn't.
And Granddad Chancey didn't have one either when he almost drove off into a gully.


Marja said...

I love the grandfather stories, and the research you did on drivers licenses is actually very interesting.

You reminded me of a story. My grandfather bought his first car and kept it parked in the barn (in Kansas). One morning they came out and a skunk had come along and had babies in the car. There was nothing they could do about the stink, and the car was gotten rid of. They were back to using a buckboard.

Palmaltas said...

I was going to say, "What a cute story" about your grandfather's car but "cute" isn't quite the right word!

I remember riding on a buckboard when we lived on a farm when I was a little girl. Can't remember why we did that except that maybe my father had the car and some relative had come by with the buckboard for Mother, me, and my little brother.

Love old memories! Thanks for sharing!