ARLINGTON, Texas -- Admit it: It's a little unsettling when the DMV doors swing open – and a 102-year-old woman with a walker proudly holds up her new driver’s license.
"I got my papers for two more years,” Helen Maddox grinned Wednesday.
She was afraid she might flunk a test to keep her permit. Her eyesight is good, but not her hearing.
"Passed with flying colors. That's us,” she said. "You can't get better than that, can you?"
Actually, you can. Take a road trip with Helen Maddox.
No, she's not driving. And leave the radio off -- you won't need it.
Start with a photo of a family piling into what Maddox says was the first Dodge sold outside of Detroit.
"My dad got the car, and we all got in. We had a great time,” she said, flipping through a scrap book in her Arlington home.
She was born July 28, 1914, the day World War I started.
She remembers the first car she ever drove. “Yes. The Buick,” she said, pointing to a photo labeled 1930. A young woman posing beside a massive sedan.
...The Buick she took without her parents' permission. You know where this is headed.
"About 1930. I had the car,” Maddox recalled. “I said to the girls, 'Let's go for a ride over to Ann Arbor. That's where the boys are.'"
Your first driver's license will do that to you.
A few years later, she and her sister split the price of a Chevy. "And in 1937 we drove to Key West, Florida. You know the story about that one,” she laughed. “There was Hemingway."
She didn’t know it at the time, but she had run across one of the most famous novelists in the world. All Helen knew was there was a guy in a pub with an offer for a boat ride. She steered clear.
But the road ahead would stay interesting: A 50-year marriage to her husband, John, and a love affair with politics.
The walls of her home groan with political photos, well wishes, and mementos. She reads the handwritten note on one black and white.
"With best wishes from Dwight Eisenhower,” she reads.
And why a signed photo from Ike? “Just because I'm a good person.”
And a very good Republican.
There are pictures of Helen having a private tea at the White House with Nancy Reagan. Helen with Charlton Heston. A full-page, handwritten letter from former President George W. Bush.
"We trade birthday cards back and forth,” she said.
Proud of it all. But just as proud of her new driver’s license.
"I just want to be able to have my driver's license. I don't want to give it up,” she said. “I guess it's because I feel like I'm losing myself if I don't have a driver's license."
She almost never drives, and never very far.
Friends, like former Republican state representative Barbara Nash are always nearby. Nash took her to the DMV and brought her home in Helen’s Cadillac.
"I just don't want her driving. But I know she can,” Barbara Nash said.
Helen chimed in, “I don't want to drive with the crazy people who are out."
No. Wouldn't want that.
But she is street legal, and that’s good enough for her.
“It’s good for another two years,” she laughed. “Can you imagine that?”