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Man spends life behind the wheel

Delbert Aldridge can check off the models like an odometer clicks through miles.

Thursday, August 19, 1999

Delbert Aldridge can check off the models like an odometer clicks through miles.

"I owned a couple of Plymouths around the 40s, but otherwise they’ve all been Oldsmobiles," he says.

A 1948 Olds, two-door. A 1949 Olds, four-door – the first V8 the company built. A 1976 Olds he took to Florida and back.

"I drove a 1924 Buick once for the company and it didn’t have a heater," he adds. "We would raise the hood on the driver’s side and put a block under it so the heat would keep ice off the windshield."

His newest, the 1999 Olds 88 Luxury Sedan parked outside his Ninth Street home, use every gadget and gizmo imaginable, including heat, he says.

"There’s more instruments on it than an airplane."

Aldridge – now a spry 95-year-old – learned his way around roads, and cars, when he jumped in a seven passenger Studebaker one day.

Then, while working at the Malleable in 1918, he plunked down $25 for his first car, a Ford Roadster with no top or windshield.

"You know the Ford had three pedals up front you’d shove the left one in low gear and then when you threw the emergency break forward and let the clutch out you were in high gear," he said.

Automobile industrialists continued to hammer away at cars, changing engines and shapes. New companies formed. Models overflowed showrooms.

Aldridge stuck with Olds – and kept driving.

"I’ve always gotten enjoyment out of driving, maybe more for the people who are with me," he said.

The Armco retiree used to drive a church bus, but gave it up after turning 88.

Daily drives to Lake Vesuvius, Superior, Pedro kept Aldridge and his wife, Florence, occupied for many years.

"It was about the only enjoyment she had since she had her stroke," he said. "I had a person come in and bathe her and dress her. I’d fix breakfast and dinner and after dinner she’d want that ride."

Six months ago, Florence entered Bryant Health Center. Aldridge visits once or twice a day.

"I don’t think I will ever get her to ride again If there was a way I’d be more than willing."

That’s the devotion of the road, the devotion of matrimony, he says.

"I’ve always thought it’s better to give than to take, just like on the road. I give way to others first."