Life

Last fond recollections of early automobiles

Last fond recollections of early automobiles

Last fond recollections of early automobiles

Last fond recollections of early automobiles

by Don Pelechaty
In the early days of the automobile there were no “improved roads” or even marked routes and definitely no pavement, gas stations or repair shops. You were on your own! I guess that is why early photographs showed those about to sally forth on a car trip equipped with tools, tents, blankets, lunches extra tires, long jacks, and cans of gas. After about 1910 however when automobiles were cheaper to buy and some services began to crop up here and there, the ‘auto’ became popular. Gradually more automobiles began to appear on Saskatchewan Avenue and thus early images of our shopping district showed a mix of Model-T cars and every type of horse drawn conveyance you could think of! Indeed in 1910 our main drag still bore hundreds of horse hitching posts, a leftover from very horsey days! By 1930 it was becoming more rare for waggons and buggies to come into town, although I still remember loads of long poplar poles being brought in by the Natives pulled by a couple of horses, the whole family perched on top. Some of the more traditional farmers were still bringing in loads of wheat to the elevator with their old horses. It seems to me that old Billy Fletcher was still coming to town with his horse and buggy as late as 1947.
However many were unconvinced of the value of the auto. After all the love affair with the horse had been going on for thousands of years. Traditional farmers were still ploughing with horses even though powerful and effective tractors were now on the market. An article in an early Graphic said, “automobiles about the country are used for almost everything, farmers bring in chickens, families come to town with produce, the ice men are making deliveries with them, overland travellers tie their big steamer trunks onto them, sportsmen go off for a days shoot loaded with tents, hunting and fishing tackle, but in spite of that, we have yet to see a load of hay or a cord of wood brought into town on one! They have their limitations!” Well, how little they knew eh!
But the horses may have well been looking worried about this time though, for out in Wisconsin Dr. Ballard was opening dog food plants!
In the beginning one major obstacle was the lack of any decent roads. Even our own Saskatchewan Avenue was often impossible to navigate the mire twelve ox carts wide. Each Spring it just got wider! But as the auto became of greater importance to people the desire for better roads grew. Gradually small towns like Portage bought mechanical graders to even up the mud, and spread cinders from the steam locomotives who cleaned out their furnaces here. The streets were even being sprayed with water to allay the dust. The downtown merchants endlessly cursed the dust that drifted onto stock and filled their lovely shops with a patina of grey that endured until Mayor Lloyd Henderson put the heat on and had Saskatchewan Avenue paved! Suddenly we had a street for Saturday night cruising! So gradually town streets began to improve with layers of cinders but the country roads remained deplorable. I remember some perilous roads Dad and I navigated driving out into fields to avoid monster pits of muck and water, called a road. There was always, it seemed, a kindly farmer with a horse to pull us out.
The two featured photos show a flipped “flivver”This photo is humorous now but it was probably $385 out the window for some new motorist of the early 1900’s. Notice the collision even shredded the rubber right off the front tire! Where did that tree come from? The second shot “Looked like a good road for a picnic!” Mom and the kids are standing off the road while the guys curse their fate as the car sinks lower and lower into the mud!

capone@mymts.net



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