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Video: Video: Tomorrow's Drivers

Yesteryear Travel: Tomorrow's Drivers

Baby Boomer seniors now cruising Route 66 in RVs may have learned their driving skills from this 1954 classroom film.

Narrated by folksy Jimmy Stewart (in a career lull before he hooked on with Alfred Hitchcock), the film showcases "one of the most interesting and important experiments in driver education today" -- the kindergarten-through-3rd-grade Driver Ed courses at Garfield Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona. The kids peddle little cars around a custom-built miniature town while the film turns it into a hamfisted metaphor for older drivers. As the tots reenact bad driving situations, Jimmy tsk-tsks about "a few childishly inconsiderate drivers" and "drivers who play childish but dangerous games with everyone else on the road," and tells us "that bad driving habits are childish."

The gentle nagging approach of Tomorrow's Drivers was out of favor by the end of the 1950s, replaced by classroom Driver Ed gorefests such as Red Asphalt and Highways of Agony.

In case you're amazed that five-year-olds were being taught how to drive, these Tinytown courses still exist today.

The film assigns no responsibility for accidents to the notoriously unsafe cars of the 1950s, because it was produced for Chevrolet by the Jam Handy Organization, prolific purveyors of pro-business celluloid goodness for the classrooms.

Complete film at

Old Films: Fascinating!

Yesteryear Travel.

The Team has a special appreciation for archival films -- from family home movies to sponsored travel shorts. Senior editor Ken Smith is author of "Mental Hygiene," the definitive book-form history of America's classroom educational and industrial films. He was an archivist and cataloger for Rick Prelinger in the early days of the Prelinger Archives. This film is made available through the Prelinger Archives.

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