A Middle class type young man like I was in the 50s, who had to earn and prove their way always loved his first car. No matter what it was. At almost 17, I was just damn glad to finally have my own wheels.
I was a little later than most getting my driverâ€™s license. When I turned 16 in February of 1957, a couple of my friends I hung with had cars so I did not really need to drive or have a car right away.
I did already know how to drive. Learned when I was 15. Never needed a permit. I only drove with my folks on board. Back then there was no mandatory Driverâ€™s Ed. Family members were the driving teachers.
By the summer of â€˜57 I was starting to get the driving bug. In September, I would be a junior in high school and turn 17 in February. Depending on others was getting old, I was craving some independence and privacy. I also was feeling guilty of taking advantage of my friends with cars. Sometimes I was limited to the car ownerâ€™s whims and where they were going instead of what I might have wanted to do.
It was time to have more control of my own desires and needs. For example, there where a couple girls I was interested in. You really need a car for the girlfriend scene. More importantly a car of my own was essential for the two jobs I now held. A car was needed getting to school and work on time.
For the two jobs, I worked at our family bakery, Rayâ€™s Cake Box in LaSalle, Illinois and also at the new Piggly Wiggly Supermarket at the new shopping center-north of Peru, Illinois. LaSalle and Peru were twin cities. With a driverâ€™s license, dad could use me at times to help deliver his bakery goods in our 1950 Chevy Panel Delivery Truck. Rayâ€™s Cake Box, besides being a retail bakery and store also sold fresh wholesale bakery goods to grocery stores, house to house delivery route businesses and a good share of restaurants that encompassed about five to six area towns.
As I indicated earlier, in 1957 every kid that turned 16 even though they got a driverâ€™s license did not automatically get or have a car! Like they do today.
LP High School was fair sized school. My graduating class of 1959 was nearly 300 students. Even though most juniors and seniors could drive, only a dozen or so high school students had cars of their very own. There was no need for a HS student parking lot in the â€˜50s. At least not at LP High. Luckily we high school kids that had cars were allowed to park in the LP High School Staff parking lot, which also served as parking for LPO Jr. College students. LPO Jr. College students attended their College classes in the same buildings as the HS kids.
Needless to say, the high school kids that had cars had many friends. LOL!
Too many Car Friends could be problematic. And I did not want to be a factor of that scene any more.
That summer of â€˜57 I suggested to my folks it was finally time for me to drive legal. My folks were in total agreement. It was time to get my license.
Back at 15 years old when I learned to drive, my dad taught me in his 50 Chevy Panel wholesale bakery delivery truck. It was a straight stick. I took right to it. I had no problem mastering it. Everyone should learn with a stick. I also drove our family car. That was a lot easier to drive. It was a classy 1954 Buick Century two door sedan. With automatic trans. And big straight 8 engine. That 54 Buick is what I took my first ever driverâ€™s test with.
To take the driverâ€™s test my Dad and I had to go 15 miles to the LaSalle county seat in Ottawa, IL.
Passing the written test and the driving test were no sweat. After I got my license that day, I drove home. On the way home we took Rt. 71. That is the scenic route by Starved Rock State Park. That old two lane highway skirts Starved Rock State Park and is narrow with many scary 10 mph. hairpin curves edging next to 100 foot deep canyons. The curves are skirted with beat up and scraped guard rails caused by many close encounters of the third kind. There were no shoulders whatsoever.
After getting by Starved Rock, with several near guard rail misses but without actually hitting one or vaulting into one of those 100 ft. deep canyons, my dad announced I should stop at the Curliss Buick car dealership when we get to LaSalle. He informed me I was going to buy my own car.
The exact quote was this: You are buying your own car! You sure as hell are not driving mine! (I guess my dad perceived my performance on the canyon roads going home had a little to be desired!?)
I was floored. I could not believe my good fortune. I had my driverâ€™s license and now was going to have my own car. All in the same day. Wow! Outstanding!
We got to Curliss Buick. That is where my folks always bought their Buicks. We found this nice used 1950 Calvin Grey Fast Back Buick Special two door sedan. Straight 8 engine with Dynaflow automatic trans. Price was $147 with sales tax. That also included a tin piece of sheet metal, screws and new floor mat all installed to cover the rust hole in driver floor.
I bought that Buick with my own money. I worked for my dad and mom in our bakery (full time in summer). I also worked almost full time at the new giant Piggly Wiggly supermarket. Thirty hour weekends at the Pig and 40 summer hours during the week at Rayâ€™s Cake Box, our family owned bakery. With my hard working ambition I always had some money saved.
My whole family had to work hard and long hours. I was no exception. It was expected. Even during school season I worked at my folkâ€™s bakery and the Pig both-part time. After school on weekdays I would work at the bakery rolling in Danish Doughs, making pie fillings, homogenizing whip cream, make frostings, custards etc. And I would even help waiting on retail customers if the store part got real busy. My mother taught me how to wait on customers and count back change before I was 10 years old.
Hardly anyone even knows how to count back change these days. I also helped clean up including washing pots and pans.
At the Piggly Wiggly I worked all weekend. Friday night 5 to 10 PM and sometimes fourteen hour days. Saturday and Sunday 8AM to 10 PM. At a young age I became quite familiar with the food business.
But that direction was to change in the future. Destiny had a different plan for Jim Feurer. And was not the food business.
After I took delivery of my treasured 1950 Calvin Grey Buick from the Curliss Buick dealership I followed my dad home. We showed Mom the 50 Buick. Mom thought the two door fastback Buick was real sensible and cute. I took them both for a ride in what was now, my own Buick. My older brother Sonny was in Air Force. I wish he would have been home to see it and drive it. Sonny was the family car guy back then. He was six years my senior.
After our ride, it was still only mid afternoon. I already had my driverâ€™s license and my own car. It was a rare occasion having a whole day off. I decided to take my Buick for a ride by myself.
As I cruised along in my 50 Buick, I suddenly realized! This was the first time I was totally alone and not being monitored driving a vehicle. Any vehicle. And it was MINE!!! It was a new chapter in my life. A definite turning point!
Since I learned to drive, I had never been able to be behind the wheel without someone saying, Slow down now! You are going too fast! Do not take off so quick! Watch out! ETC! ETC!
I headed across the river to a secluded straight county black top road where the hot rodders played. I proceeded to put that 1950 Buick through its paces. It was a self learning experience. I had never been over 55 MPH before. That day I drove my fastback Buick faster and faster. 60, 70, 80. It topped all the way to 105mph! As fast as it would go. WOW. (Back in the â€˜50s if your car went 100 mph it was pretty fast.) Then I brought it to a stop at a spot were the hot rodders drag raced. I decided to see how fast it would go from a dead stop in a quarter mile. There were two road signs all the local hot rodders knew the signs were a quarter mile apart. I ran it through the quarter mile starting from a dead stop in low then to drive. I was impressed. It was great fun.
Then I remembered my older friend we called Buckets, showing me how to do Neutral Drops with an automatic transmission in his dadâ€™s 55 Olds.
You put the trans in neutral-put gas pedal to floor while holding the foot brake with other-and slam into low and release the brake at the same time.
I decided to try it now with my own car. I did it just like Buckets showed me. Wow!! What a launch! The rear tires on my big 50 Buick even screeched! I was immediately enthralled. I did the neutral drop act several more times. I was hooked!
My love affair with cars, speed and Hot Rodding had struck me like a diamond bullet!
I had watched and been with people running their cars hard a few times, and that was fun. But now! This was different. Me having control to do it myself and with my own car was entirely different.
I suddenly saw that Calvin Grey machine for what it was. A new depth. Perhaps like having sex for the first time. Only this feeling went much deeper. I would never see cars the same again. They were not just transportation and a convenience to me anymore. They were very special. Magical! This was an affliction that would never eradicate.
Fast forward to evening: I called a girl acquaintance to tell her about getting my driverâ€™s license and my newly acquired ride. I asked if she would like to go for a ride. She very excitedly said sure.
Rosemary who was also 16 and would also be a junior at LP High School lived in the north part of LaSalle. About three miles east from my folks house in Peru. (LaSalle and Peru were twin cities.) I picked up Rose about 7 PM. (Rosemary was a cute nice little Italian girl-always up for a fun time-never demanding.)
As we cruised down Garfield Avenue in North LaSalle (a wide long side street with very few stop signs), I saw my friend Jasper Maggio and his girlfriend Peggy pulling out of her driveway. Jasper was driving his souped up 52 Chevy. It had duel Stromsburgâ€™s, Crane Cam and duel splits with Smitty Mufflers.
By the time I got to them Jasper was out on the road. I pulled up along side him. Jasper was surprised I had a car. Jasper says kiddingly, How does that big old tub Buick run? I replied, Letâ€™s find out!
We lined up and Jasper revved his engine a couple times and his duel Smitty Mufflers cackled their discourse. Then Jasper said with smug confidence, Whenever you are ready! Peggy will give the signal to go.
I knew it was time for the neutral drop I had practiced earlier that day.
I slipped my Buick shifter selector into neutral-held the brake with my left foot-then floored the gas pedal jammed the shifter into low-letting off the brake at the same time that Jasperâ€™s girlfriend gave the go signal!
That big old Calvin Gray Buick lurched forward screeching the tires like an insane Big Animal --- I was immediately ahead of Jasper and his hot 52 Chevy by over a car length. We raced as far as we dared in town -about 2 blocks- and Jasper gave up. He could not get around me! I then slowed down also.
Another milestone. Another turning point in my life. A new love. A mistress named
I had run my first drag race as an underdog and won. Won because I out drove someone with a hotter car than mine. Racing and Winning! What a rush!!!
Jasper pulled alongside me as I came to a stop. He was dazzled and impressed. He said he never had anyone ever leave on him like that! I thought in my mind-Thanks Buckets!
The two girls took it all pretty much in stride. After all-It was the 50s!
What a day! I got my license.---Got my own car. --- Got to go out and run the crap out of my Buick-ALONE! For the first time.---And ran my first drag race AND WON!!! All in one day.
Oh yes-There is the girl. My first date with Rosemary. In my first car. I guess that counts also. But like my cars, there would be many, many more. Now I craved to make my car go even faster and hone my drag racing skills. What a Day!
The End Of The Story? No Way. Actually-It was Only The Beginning!
Over the next 50 plus years I had dozens of great high performance street cars. And later on the drag strips a host of winning sportsman and then professional drag cars winning six championships.