Your First Car, A Rite of Passage

I came across a fascinating newspaper article recently which asked the question: “Do young people of today still think of a car the way we baby boomers used to?”

I paid £150 for my first car, a 1949 Austin A40, 60 mph flat as a tack, with the big ends knocking. Photo from Google Images.

When I was a young teenager in the early 60s, owning a car was a rite-of-passage into adulthood. I was just 16 when I sat for my driver’s license, not even able to drive, and within a week I had bought my first car.

A car to the baby boomer generation represented so much freedom, and we loved our cars, it was an extension of who we were!

We couldn’t afford to buy really ‘cool’ cars, sports cars or powerful V8s (although some kids soon had twin-carbies and the like). We were happy to settle for an FX or FJ Holden, Ford Consul, a Zephyr or Prefect, an old Vauxhaul or Vanguard, or whatever our parents drove (usually dad) and had in the garage for us to borrow.

Experts say that a car now is less important to today’s teenagers due to the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be.

“What we used to do in cars, young people are now doing online,” said one analyst at a recent oil conference.

The ability to meet and interact with people on the Internet is largely replacing the need to hop in a car and cruise down the main street.

Couple that with more recent restrictions on driving — later ages for licenses, limits on how many people can be in the car, restrictions on mobile phone use — and the Internet may be surpassing the car in the category that gave cars so much appeal: freedom.

Remember when we had the early Holden a ‘column stick shift’?

“When I got into a vehicle, it represented me going to meet my friends,” said Craig Giffi, car practice leader at the consultancy Deloitte. “For them, it cuts them off from their friends.”

This is particularly true for the youngest, most digitally-connected members of Generation Y. Forty-six percent of 18-24 year-olds would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to a recent Deloitte study.

It’s a trend the car companies are noticing as well. “With this generation, what owning a car means is completely different from previous generations,” said Annalisa Bluhm, a spokeswoman for General Motors. “It was a rite of passage. Now the right of passage is a mobile phone.”

With the Baby Boomers, Bluhm said three-quarters had obtained early life’s five big rites of passage by the time they were 30 — buying a car, leaving school and getting a job, getting married, buying a house and having kids. Now less than 40% of the under-30 crowd has all these things.

What’s more, 30% of Baby Boomers considered themselves “car enthusiasts,” said Bluhm. Less than 15% of Gen-Yers say the same, and they’re flocking to more practical models.

“They have a number of things that validate them,” Bluhm said. “The car is no longer their first purchase, they’re more likely to prefer a computer.”

I paid £150 for my first car, a 1949 Austin A40, 60 mph flat as a tack, with the big ends knocking and yet I still remember that car to this day and some of the experiences I had in it!

What memories do you have of your first car?

School Savings for that Rainy Day.

When Mort Hansen shared a photo and some memories last year of the old school bank days, he created quite a deal of discussion on the Australia Remember When Facebook page; (https://www.facebook.com/AustraliaRememberWhen/)

Photo courtesy of Mort Hanson. Many posters remembered their particular ‘bank’ day at school and how we would take our bank books and 6d or 1/- to deposit on the day.

Mort wrote; “Here’s my school bank book from 1971. There’s still $1.40 in it! I’m guessing the surfboard is about the only thing a school kid might save for these days, although the old dragsters are worth a bit today.”

Many posters remembered their particular ‘bank’ day at school and how we would take our bank books and 6d or 1/- to deposit on the day.

Many wrote with memories of the cover of their Savings Bank Book being a dark grey in colour, with pages inside having figures written in the columns and little stamped entries.

Ruth Ridgewell wrote; “Yes, had one of these with a material cover with a pocket, so the 20c could be inserted to prevent losing it. It was really good seeing the hand-written balance increase every week”.

And Susan Bennett remembered; “Mum made a special cover for ours, mine was blue with red flowers and a little pocket on the front to put my bank money in. We thought we were so special. I still have an account at Bank SA”.

Philip Jeff worked for SBSA and recalled doing school bank 4 days a week from the Blackwood branch; “The money and books were collected by the teacher in an old chalk box and sent to us in an empty classroom. Every box was 20c short, every time. We carried spare cash to balance the difference”.

Still others reminisced of about pocket money and how it was something that had to be earned and never given freely.

I was reminded of how tough it was to get pocket money out of my parents, when my wife reminded me that one of her pocket money jobs was to regularly wash and clean the hairbrushes at home.

I remembered my job of a Sunday morning after church was to rake up the dog’s poo and push the hand mower over the front lawn. My sisters had to help prepare the Sunday roast and also help mum bake biscuits and a cake while the wood stove was fired up (later the electric stove).

The Commonwealth Bank school money box was made of tin and completely impregnable. Once in, those coins never came out

Most parents in the 50s and 60s were very frugal and after all the household bills were paid from the single income pay packet, I imagine there would not have been a lot left.

As boys we seemed to have more freedom than the girls, which allowed us to scout around most weekends looking for soft drink bottles, which we’d take back to the corner shop for the deposit, press button B in all the public phone boxes, or even try to catch some fish for which mum might give a shilling or two.

I know that some kids today still have to do chores to get their pocket money but for us it was never guaranteed, you did the chores and hoped you might get paid!

What are your memories of banking at school and pocket money as you were growing up?