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MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE: Miles traveled yield wisdom

December 27, 2012

Photo contributed Paul Gates, 83, has had a passion for driving. Pictured is his 1947 Ford Coupe which was the favorite car he owned.

Editor’s note: The following is the third of a six-part series.

COLUMBIA CITY — 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.

“Cars were a lot different back then,” Gates said. “They were fast enough. Now a days these cars can go way too fast.”

In his 60 years of driving experience, Gates took 39 road trips to Arizona. Cruising for the southwest was Gates’ favorite memory of his time spent behind the wheel.

“Out there it is so beautiful,” he said. “The mountains are a sight to see. There just was nothing like driving out to Arizona.”

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.

“I remember my dad telling me how to signal out the window with my arm when I was going to turn,” Gates said. “I don’t know if anyone knows what that is now. There are so many drivers who can’t flip a switch to turn on a blinker let alone use an arm signal.”

Of all the cars Gates has driven, his 1947 Ford Coupe was his favorite.
“That 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,” he said with a chuckle.

Driving cars was just one facet of Gates’ 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.

“I 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,” Gates recounted. “As I was standing there filling up the man’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 didn’t. I guess we had someone looking out for us that night.”

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.

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