I don’t know how old my grandma was when she decided to get her driver’s license. She had been born and raised in Utah, but was then living in San Francisco. I don’t know if she had ever driven at the time she had resided in Utah and maybe didn’t feel the need in San Francisco as she could rely on public transportation.
Grandpa Ralph was a retired bus driver and did know his way around. I am pretty sure that he had a car, and after he passed way, perhaps Grandma Mary had been missing that luxury of just driving somewhere and not having to wait for the bus or the streetcar or the BART or whatever.
I was too young to actually get all the logistics involved. I just remember my own mom having mentioned it. I know that Grandma had purchased her own car but doubt that she had it for more than two years. San Francisco has a lot of hills and narrow spaces. Why anybody would ever want to drive (or learn to drive) in San Francisco is beyond me.
I vaguely remember teeny space off to the side that led the way to underground parking. I probably would have missed it altogether except for I remember daddy driving through whenever we would visit – which wasn’t often, really. My grandma seemed okay with the driving part, but was more than reluctant to try to park it. I remember her telling my mom that she would stop it in the street and wave someone down and offer to pay the individual five dollars to park the car for her. That always fascinated me as she lived in a very high crime neighborhood. Yet every person that got behind the wheel would actually park it for her and no one just took it from her.
My Uncle John had worked for the police force and lived in Martinez. I remember taking the BART from the mission district to a location that was near to where he could pick me up and drive back to Martinez. It was interesting to me that grandma had taken me to a BART location in San Francisco where the transportation was located underground which reminded me of a subway system. And yet when I got to Lafayette (I think that was the name of the station where I got off for Uncle John) it was above ground like a monorail.
I had gone to Martinez to go to church with John and his family and when he returned me to the station, his police radar had kicked in and as he told me where to get off, he warned me to stay underground. The mission district was full of crime and he said under no circumstance was I to walk up to the street but that I had to wait for grandma to come and get me.
I remember telling mom and she kind of made a face and laughed and said, “I’m sure he’s asking you to wait for this little old lady to come and protect you.”
Grandma was a very friendly and optimistic person. She didn’t seem to be bothered by much. I remember my mom telling me that grandma’s residence had been broken into a least a couple of times – but it was while she was out. I don’t know that she was ever physically attacked. On the other hand, mom did have a good friend who had been attacked at Golden Gate Park. I cannot find the original source, but there is mention of it here.
I don't know what it is that triggered my memory of my grandma. It still fascinates me when I think about it.