Saturday, December 31, 2011

Driver Education the Old-Fashioned Way

New Year's Eve seems like an appropriate time for this post. When I was enrolled in a driver education course at Rochester High School in the mid-1970s, the instructors used a "scared straight" method of impressing upon their students the importance of safe, sober driving. Their instrument of choice was a film entitled Mechanized Death, (click the link if you remember this and would like to see it again!) which was gory enough to make some of the queasier fledgling drivers forget about wanting to get behind the wheel at all. The film hit home for a lot of students because in the community of Rochester, one had only to drive down Main Street and turn west on Second to see three-dimensional proof of the hazards of inattentive, reckless or impaired driving.

Shown in this snapshot from 1962 is part of the Byers wrecker yard, located directly behind the Byers Shell gas station that stood on the northwest corner of Main & Second.  When a Byers tow truck was called to clear up the scene of automotive mayhem, the mangled metal carcasses were usually deposited on their lot behind the gas station, along Second Street between Main and the west alley, where they were on display for all of the town to see and contemplate. In a small community such as Rochester, the details about the resulting injuries or deaths circulated quickly. I imagine that more than one Rochester parent used a cruise past the Byers lot as a teachable moment.

In this photo, the camera is looking southeasterly from the northeast corner of Second Street and the west alley.  The Texaco station and auto repair shop that is seen on the southwest corner of Main and Second is now the location of the Shehrzad restaurant.  The two houses shown in the background at left are now the location of the Quik Pik and Penn Station East Coast Subs store; the Village Cleaners building is seen in the background at center right.

Do you remember, Rochester?


  1. Oh my, oh my, oh my!!! The "good ol' days" when brutal wrecks would be placed on display in front of many a corner service station (which, come to think of it, probably resulted in a number of traffic mishaps themselves, given all the rubber-necking they caused). One of the driver's ed. instructors at my high school would actually have his student drivers pull into those parking lots so they could get out and view the wrecks---all up close and personal!

    Then, as you mentioned above, Deb, there were the infamous traffic safety films shown in driver's ed. These films almost had cult status back in the mid-1970s, when I, too, was enrolled in driver's ed. While we didn’t see “Mechanized Death”, we did get to see "Signal 30" plus another, even more gruesome, film whose title I don't recall.

    Funny thing was, even back then, the cars in “Signal 30” would have been considered "antique" by the day’s standard - after all (as many of us noted) the copyright date for "Signal 30" was 1950 – a good 25+ years old by the time we saw it - so from an automotive safety perspective, the film was quite out of date. Regardless, it still did a good job of shaking us up.

    a.k.a. John Mohr

  2. I remember well!!! My Dad hated those cars. Most of tose literaly got swept up!! Said he would never drive one,until his wife bought him one!! And he still did not like them!!!