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Editorâ€™s note: The following is the third of a six-part series.
COLUMBIA CITY â€” The Beatles wrote a song about it. Teenagers dream about it. Vacations begin and end with it. Driving a car. For Paul Gates, 83, of Columbia City, driving was a pleasure. Gates remembers his first car, a 1932 Chevy bought in 1947.
â€śCars were a lot different back then,â€ť Gates said. â€śThey were fast enough. Now a days these cars can go way too fast.â€ť
In his 60 years of driving experience, Gates took 39 road trips to Arizona. Cruising for the southwest was Gatesâ€™ favorite memory of his time spent behind the wheel.
â€śOut there it is so beautiful,â€ť he said. â€śThe mountains are a sight to see. There just was nothing like driving out to Arizona.â€ť
Air bags and safety features were missing from the mostly metal interior cars driven by a young Gates. In fact, what is now considered a necessity was not yet a standard item on the car Gates learned to drive.
â€śI remember my dad telling me how to signal out the window with my arm when I was going to turn,â€ť Gates said. â€śI donâ€™t know if anyone knows what that is now. There are so many drivers who canâ€™t flip a switch to turn on a blinker let alone use an arm signal.â€ť
Of all the cars Gates has driven, his 1947 Ford Coupe was his favorite.
â€śThat was the car I loved driving the most. I could get it up to 60 mph and most of the time that is the speed I drove at - all the time,â€ť he said with a chuckle.
Driving cars was just one facet of Gatesâ€™ automobile experience. He spent decades as a mechanic and service attendant at gas stations. In the 70s, Gates worked at the old Columbia Shell station that once sat where the Whitley County Jail now stands.
â€śI remember working one night when it was pouring down rain. A car pulled in and boy, I did not want to go out there. But he was blowing his horn so I went out in that awful weather,â€ť Gates recounted. â€śAs I was standing there filling up the manâ€™s car, lighting struck the pump behind me. It burned up the wires and everything around that pump. It should have blown us up, but it didnâ€™t. I guess we had someone looking out for us that night.â€ť
For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Dec. 27 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.