I’ve never spent very much time pretending to be an automobile mechanic. I believe the preferred descriptor is now “automotive technician. At an age when many males were busily souping up their first cars or taking “auto-shop” classes, I had no interest in joining the ranks of those who could rebuild a motor, perform brake jobs, or rebuild and paint the rusted out body of some early 1950s derelict coupe.
There was a select group of students at that time that drove new or nearly new cars to school. They were the children of automobile dealers who were allowed to drive demonstrator vehicles, piling up miles on some local buyer’s new car before the ever saw it.
In nearly the same category were the fortunate sons and daughters of local surgeons, members of state government, and other upper social class families who were willing to provide their offspring with Detroit status symbols. Also mentionable were the local standout ball players who were pampered and treated by booster clubs, all too eager to introduce young athletes to that world of under the table goodies.
In those distant days, a high school parking lot held mostly family cars on loan for the day, various pickup trucks driven in from local farm to market towns, and ten-year-old specimens in various states of repair that belonged to the vocational class’s students.
That is in stark contrast to what I have seen since. Many high school student parking lots have newer and more expensive vehicles than do the faculty lots. There seems to be a sense of obligation that compels parents to provide new vehicles as 16th birthday gifts. I did not and do not subscribe to such a practice.
I had no personal vehicle. I could sometimes share rides with friends, sometimes get a family car for events that required extra hours on campus. I often road the city bus line, often walked in good weather. As a last result, there was school bus coverage. I generally preferred the five-mile hike home to the yellow cattle hauler.
I never became infected with the desire to rebuild and repair vehicles. At this point in my life I was a decent woodwinds musician and was becoming a better than average acoustic guitar player. Had I not intended to enter a university after high school I might have been qualified for enrollment in motor-shop classes, to find a mechanic’s job that would fill the gap between high school and induction into the armed forces.
Almost to a person, the males attending motor-shop were there because they had no interest in any academic courses; while I was carrying a full college prep class-load and instrumental music classes. Had I entered motor-shop I would have been immediately the outsider. That certainly dampened an interest I might have found in such education. However, the thing that really was the single most determinant lay close at hand. Nearly every one of the motor-shop students and instructors were missing digits. That single factor was all I had to see.