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The First Day Accident
by Don Drewniak

My driver's license was in my wallet two days after my sixteenth birthday. Yes, I had passed the Massachusetts' driver's test, but events would soon prove I shouldn't have. My father owned a 1954 light green, four-door Ford. He also had use of a job-related pick-up truck.

When I showed him my new license that evening, he made the mistake of tossing me the car keys and saying, “Take the car tomorrow.” I called two of my best friends, Lenny and Jack, to tell them I would drive them to school.

We made it to Durfee High (Fall River) without anything resembling an incident. Traveling too fast downhill on the lower stretch of Columbia Street on the way home, I came too close to a parked car. Bam! The right-rear fender hit the protruding end of a wrap-around bumper. Bumper 1, fender 0.

Except for racing at drag strips, seat belts were all but unknown in the 50s. I slammed on the brakes and screeched to a stop. No seat belts. Thud! Jack, who was on the passenger side of the front seat, smacked his head on the interior of the windshield. No damage to the windshield. No permanent damage to his head.

“Dammit!” yelled Lenny as he slammed into the back of the front seat.

“Any damage to the other car?” I screamed.

Lenny uttered a less than convincing "No" a few seconds later.

I shifted into first and left a few feet of rubber as I rapidly departed the scene of the crime. Not a word was said as I headed toward my house. Parking the car just out of sight of the back of the house, I told the other two to stay in the car.

I assessed the damage, a ten-inch in diameter shallow dent. Racing into the yard, I opened the cellar door and grabbed two ball-peen hammers from the Old Man's workbench. (It was commonplace in the 1950s, at least in my hometown of Fall River, to refer to one's father as the Old Man.)

Off we went to a secluded area near a deserted mill located less than a mile from the house. We jacked up the right-rear of the car and removed the tire. I went to work. Lying under the fender, I held one hammer against the outside of the dent and began gently tapping the inside with the other one.

This was something I learned to do a few years earlier from having watched the Old Man when he owned an automobile repair shop.

Several hundred (or so it seemed) taps later, came music to my ears from one of my co-conspirators, “It looks like new.”

With my face, arms and shirt covered with five-years worth of gunk that had fallen on me from underneath the car, I slid out from under the fender and let out a whoop. It looked perfect to me. But how would it look to the Old Man's eagle eyes? After a week went by without him saying anything about the car, I finally began to sleep soundly.

I secured a part-time job at Fall River's H. Schwartz and Sons Lumber and Hardware three days after the accident, A few weeks later, I bought my first car, a 1952 Ford, for $99.00.

“Wait a minute,” said the Old Man as he inspected my new pride-and-joy. He then headed to the basement of our home.

He returned a minute later with the two ball-peen hammers. “Here,” he said with a slight smirk, “these are in case you put a dent in your right-rear fender.”