Posts Tagged ‘Community History’

Sometimes traveling backward works best…

Monday, January 4th, 2021

1925 Model T Touring Car – perhaps similar to the H.A. Espy family auto

My mother and her brothers used to tell stories of their trips back and forth to Redlands in Southern California where the family lived for six years (1926-1932) so that the three of them could attend the University there.  Their car was a Model T.   I was always fascinated by their report that, sometimes, over steep grades in the Siskiyous, they had to travel in reverse, “because the car didn’t have enough power to make it when going forward” they all said.

Somehow I thought that was a peculiarity of their particular car, but yesterday, I was re-reading Shirley Rowlands Wright’s book, When A Little Meant A Lot –Growing  up on the Long Beach Peninsula during the Great Depression and the World War 2 Era.  She told of a similar problem that her family had with their Model B Ford:

First Street Ilwaco Looking North, July 4, 1910 — Bob Bredfield Collection

The Ilwaco hill near the hospital used to be a much higher grade than it is now, and getting out of town with the family in the car was a real challenge to say the least.  Uncle Mason would sit beside Daddy and we’d start down by the Rogers Mill and yell to Daddy, “Give it all you got Daddy, so we’ll make the hill!”  We’d go through town as fast as a loaded Model B would go, horn honking in case we weren’t seen, and as we headed up the hill, of course the car would slow.  Sometimes it would just barely get us over the top.  If this didn’t look like it was going to happen, Daddy would yell, “Hop out Mason and put your shoulder to it!”  It was moving so slow by then he did just that. 

If he could push hard enough, he mastered getting it over the top.  If he yelled, “Can’t hold her George!” he jumped aside and, as brakes at that time were the last things to be mechanically in A-1 condition, we went through town backwards all the way to the mill, honking like mad.  During the time it took Uncle Mason to walk through town to the car, we had rejuvenated our eagerness and were ready to have a go at that hill again.  Sometimes it took three attempts before we got out of town.  We were so happy when they lowered the grade of that hill.

From Virginia Williams Jones story, “Gins Tonic” — 2007 Sou’wester (drawing by VWJ)

Somehow, Shirley’s story prompted me to do a little internet research.  This is what I found:  “During most of the T’s production run (1908-1927), its 10 US gal (38 l; 8 imp gal) fuel tank was mounted to the frame beneath the front seat. Because Ford relied on gravity to feed fuel to the carburetor rather than a fuel pump, a Model T could not climb a steep hill when the fuel level was low.”

So, the story of “more power going backward” was spot on!  And although the Model B came later (1932), I couldn’t find anything about its fuel tank.  I imagine it was the same problem.


Turning Over the Reins

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Leaving a Record of Devotion to DutyJPGYesterday, as we bowed our heads and stagecoach driver ‘John Morehead’ placed his sou’wester over his heart to read the final words of our Shoalwater Storytellers presentation, “…leaving a record of devotion to duty seldom equaled…”, my thoughts were a bit of a jumble.  That moment marked Dave Immel’s debut as a Shoalwater Storyteller and my final appearance after thirty-two years of performances.

Memories flew to mind, unbidden, of the hours and days and months that Lawrence Lessard and I developed the scripts for our readers’ theater concept.  I combed the old Sou’wester magazines looking for first-hand accounts, preferably with a dramatic quality, that I could script and Lawrence could adapt for the stage as only he could.

I thought about the fun we had when there were six of us – Noel and Pat Thomas, Bob and Senta Cook, Lawrence and myself – performing for pennies wherever we could, but only if the audience numbered more than our cast!  And I thought about how Lawrence and I rewrote the scripts for the just two or us a year or so later when the Thomases and Cooks dropped out.  And of how willingly Nyel stepped up when Lawrence moved away in 1985.

And, of course, I thought of the glitches that always occur in live theater, like the time that Bob was playing the stagecoach driver and, when he was cracking his whip, inadvertently let go of it and it flew into the audience!  Or, Bob again, who lost his place in the script when he was playing George Easterbrook, an early lighthouse keeper.  The rest of us were backstage and all we heard was Bob saying over and over “I was forced…”  I was forced…”  I still laugh when I think about that.  Or the time that the seat of Lawrence’s pants ripped out at the top of the show and he had to play every part without revealing his backside to the audience…

But overriding all my memories yesterday was the joyous thought that, though Nyel and I are now “retired” from the Storytellers, the performances will continue.  Kitt Fleming will be Dave’s partner and we have already begun working on the “transition.”  It’s not that I don’t want to ride that stagecoach again or reenact the hanging of Lum You or take part in the 1893 kidnapping of the county seat.  It’s just that it’s time.  Time to turn over the reins.  I can’t think of any two people we’d rather have carry on the tradition!  Bonne Chance Dave and Kitt!