This year I don’t have to wait until the holiday catalogs arrive to select what I want beneath my tree this Christmas. The RM Sotheby’s catalog for the annual auction held in conjunction with the AACA Eastern Regional Division Fall Meet is here, and what I want is Lot 104.
There are some amazing cars in the catalog, including a Curved Dash Oldsmobile survivor, an amazing 1937 White Model 706 Yellowstone Park tour bus, a Flanders Speedster, a Derby roadster, a V16 Cadillac, a Locomobile speedster, the hot rod that beat the quarter horse, not one but two Model J Duesenbergs and a stunning Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow.
But given my choice, and my bank account, what I’d want from the auction is Lot 104 — a circa 1930s driver’s education bench.
Not just any driver’s ed device, but what it believed to be the first of its kind, a nicely crafted tandem-seated stationary chassis. Each seat had a steering wheel, and brake, gas and clutch pedals. The idea was to teach new drivers about road safety at Lane Technical High School in Chicago.
Although the driver’s ed bench is stationary, the nicely patinaed woodwork reminds me of my own first set of wheels, a hand-made and lay-on coaster that gave me mobility on the sidewalk even though the lower half of my body was encased in a cast.
A plaque attached to the bench notes that the “drivers” would operate the steering wheel and various pedals while watching a film, presumably with the teacher checking their reactions, and reaction times.
Later in my young life, I lived about 30 miles southwest of the Windy City, and I’d grow up knowing about Chicago’s Lane Tech, the city’s largest — and at the time all male — high school, and about its powerful football teams. The school’s alumni list includes Johnny Weissmuller, yes, the Olympic champion turned Tarzan; singer Frankie Laine; ventriloquist Edgar Bergen; a long list of major league baseball players, and even one of the gangsters involved in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.
The driver’s ed bench, which is nearly 8 feet in length, is being offered at the auction without reserve. RM Sotheby’s expects it to sell for $6,000 to $8,000. More than I might afford, but if you’re in the holiday giving spirit…