Steering Knobs

It amazes me sometimes to think about the things we take for granted in today’s world. We talk, text or email people around the world from a little device we carry in our pockets. We scroll through hundreds of channels looking for a show to watch on television. Or to DVR so we can watch it later.

But it wasn’t always so. . . .

Ever hear of steering knobs? No? That proves you’re not quite as old as dirt.

Back during World War II—I’m not sure when they began installing them or when they quit—automobiles frequently had little knobs attached to the steering wheels. I guess in the days before power steering these knobs helped people get a better grip as they tried to turn. I drove back in those days and never had any problem making turns, but I’ll admit it took some muscle—particularly making sharp turns at low speeds.

My little sister was born when I was only four years old, and my grandmother, whom we called Mimi, came to stay with us for a few days to help my mother out. When she got ready to go back home, it was decided she’d take me with her to keep me out of Mother’s hair. My sister Barb couldn’t go, since she was a big girl in kindergarten at the time.

Although Fort Worth has normally mild winters, we had a pretty good snow storm while Mimi was here, and when we left snow covered the ground and streets. Mimi had on a heavy coat which she unbuttoned once we got in the car. I’m sure I was warmly dressed, too, but that’s not of great importance.

We drove straight up the street for two blocks, where we made a right turn in front of my sister’s school. Somehow as we made that turn, the knob on Mimi’s steering wheel got stuck in one of the buttonholes of her coat. When she let go of the wheel to straighten back out, nothing happened. The car kept turning toward the curb.

Mimi managed to stop the car before it jumped the curb or ran into anything. I’m sure she was creeping along on the snow-covered street, so she wouldn’t have had to slow much. The experience shook her up, though. I guess she had visions of injuring her eldest—well at that time only—grandson, or maybe damaging her car.

It turned out to be very minor, and we continued on our trip, but that event has always stuck in my mind for some reason. I guess the smallest thing can be magnified a thousand times in a child’s brain.

Ø Think of your early childhood—what things would blow your children’s or grandchildren’s minds compared to their lives today?

Ø How did some of these things impress themselves indelibly in your mind?

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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17 Responses to Steering Knobs

  1. Lynn says:

    Actually, when I used to ride the JREA van to high school, I saw my very first steering knob. The van was equipped with one and the lady who drove used it every time she turned. Never seend one before or since.


  2. Sadly, this must mean I’m as old as dirt. I remember steering knobs. And I own a 1953 Chevy sedan. 🙂


  3. T_T says:

    I have a theory on why you would have remembered this event so vividly even though it is of no great importance. I have often thought back on why I remember the things I do about my childhood and have drawn on major connection. They are all events in which my emotions were high. Good or bad, they were simply high. I would be willing to bet that emotion has a lot to do with memory.

    And Janelle, I am not that old myself, but I still think back fondly on VHS tapes. Ya know, the precursor to DVD’s? It is hard for me to think that my kids have never even seen a VHS and since we own an AppleTV, don’t really think twice about DVDs.


  4. David,

    Recently, I was joking about the technology in use today–things like DVDs, which are slowly being replaced with video streaming–and wonder if my grandchildren will even know what they are (I’m a twenty-something, so that’s a long way off). I remember my dad had a car phone (does anyone recall those? a precursor to the cell phone). I thought that was so interesting. And I remember going to a friend’s house and having to admit that I’d never used a rotary phone. I’m proud to say that I now, in fact, know how to dial a rotary phone–even if it’s not a very useful skill these days!

    Thanks for sharing this story–steering knobs weren’t something I’d ever heard of. 🙂


  5. Barb Estinson says:

    Though I don’t recall this incident, since I wasn’t with you and Mim, it is fairly vivid in my mind as you have described it. It must have made a real impression on you. I can imagine how shook up Mimi must have been.



  6. Wow David so much has changed. Technology is the biggest, but what I remember and miss is the joy and appreciation of learning. We had to go to the library for research. We took notes on flashcards and made outlines because you couldn’t Google it later. We read everything we could get our hands on…more than once. I fear younger generations are losing critical thinking skills.


    • You’re right, Barbara. We also didn’t have to have a computer and an Xbox and other such things to entertain ourselves. If we got bored, our mothers could always think of chores.


  7. Thanks, Angela. Same when I was a kid back during WW I – well, not quite that long ago. The world of the late 1940s and 1950s seemed like a safe and sane place, bearing little resemblance to today’s world.

    BTW, I read your blog for the first time this morning. Won’t be my last time.


  8. These are still very much in use with handicapped people. I watched an episode of Top Gear a few weeks ago that had handicapped people racing with these things!

    I remember my dads car. My sister and I would be given a drawing book and crayons to occupy us for a 8th drive. These days my girl wants to pick a video to watch when we drive to Target!


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