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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

Trip to Cecil for Jim Powell

Jim Powell was a colored man, about 40 years old, who used to come in to the Moore and Bashore grocery Saturday night about closing time an sit discussing politics or reminiscing about old times with five or six old timers. One evening while we had the Maxwell, Jim came to me while I was putting my coat and hat on preparatory to going home and asked me if I would meet him in Cecil a week from that Sunday night: He was going to Toledo to visit his sister, who was crippled, and was to bring her back to Paulding. I told him I would have to ask my dad but I was sure it would be alright.

It was still daylight when I arrived in Cecil on the day agreed on so, instead of going to the depot, I stopped and George's. George was the man who did the heavy work around the elevator. He lived a block or so south of the depot with his wife and two children. When I told him I had come to meet a man who was coming from Toledo he said I should leave the car in his yard as the recent rains had made the road along the CN tracks nearly impassable. It wasn't until that point that I realized that I was somewhat ashamed of acting as chauffeur for negroes. I said I could drive on into town and come back to the station by another road but George was a stubborn German and overruled me. Even then I didn't want to tell George that the "man" I was to meet was a colored man and his sister, who was crippled. I objected that it was very dark and we would have to walk back along the tracks. At that point I was taught a lesson, namely; it is better to come right out with the truth rather than try to squirm out of something that is unpleasant. Also I began to wonder where I had picked up the idea that I was superior to negroes just because I was white. George said he would light a lantern and go along, which he did.

We were a long time walking back along the tracks the short distance to the car as Jim's sister could hardly walk. It seemed to be painful for her. George was very courteous, holding the lantern close to her feet so she could see, tho neither he nor I offered our arms for her to lean on as Jim did on one side. Both she and Jim were very apologetic for having caused us so much trouble, calling George and me these gentlemen which made me more ashamed than ever. I certainly didn't feel like a gentleman, besides I was just a kid.

Another trip I made to Cecil after supper with the Maxwell was to take Arthur Neeley over so he could milk our cow. It was supped to be George's job but he was unable to do it for some reason. Raymond had learned to milk a cow but I hadn't as I had my job at the grocery and helping George in Cecil so we asked Arthur who had learned to milk on his grandfather's farm near Lancaster. We found the cow waiting patiently in a corner of the field near the road and Arthur set to work. The cow seemed very nervous and kept trying to kick the bucket over. Finally a farmer came along in a buggy and stopped to watch. Then he called out as he drove away, "You'll have better luck if you get on the other side." It was the first time I ever knew there was a right and a wrong side to a cow. I guess Arthur had forgotten. Sometime later I had the job of leading the cow to Paulding where she was stalled in Barne's bottom where Raymond could do the milking.

I nearly ruined the big 5 passenger touring car, perhaps I did, by driving it with no water in the radiator. I took a bunch of kids to Stryker to see a football game and we stopped at a restaurant before we started home to get something to eat. On the way to Stryker the motor had acted up and was very hard to start so I decided to let it run instead of shutting it off, then trying to start it again. When we were through eating I noticed the motor was hot so I shut it off, then went to get water to fill the radiator. After that there was no way I could start it again tho I wore myself out cranking. The other kids found ways to get back to Paulding but I felt I had to stay with the car. One of the bystanders, a boy my own age, was very generous and offered to let me sleep at his house and I accepted. The crowd got behind the car and pushed it to a small garage on a side street. I telephoned my dad next day and he told me to come home on the train. My father had to get a mechanic in Bryan to get the car and tow it to his shop where he found that the pistons were frozen. It must have cost quite a bit and I should have been punished for being so careless but my dad never said anything. Maybe he felt the shame was enough punishment. It still bothers me when I think of all the trouble and expense I caused him. He shouldn't have allowed me to take the car in the first place.

I nearly had a bad accident with that same car, the only close call I've ever had in my life. I was driving my father home from Cecil one night after dark. The lights on the car were rather feeble, tho better than those on the Maxwell, and I was not going more than 20 miles an hour. A few miles out of Cecil we could see the lights of a car coming toward us. It must have been three or four miles away when we first saw it but the lights kept getting brighter and brighter, the brightest lights I had ever seen, until I was completely blinded. I edged over to the side of the road and slowed to a crawl when suddenly my dad yelled, "look out!" At the same time I saw a dark shape directly in front of us and jammed on the brakes. We hit something with a bang and it went hurtling diagonally across the road. The oncoming driver saw it in time and was able to avoid it but we had a badly bent axle. Cars were not yet fitted with bumpers. Someone had parked his car right in the road while he visited with a friend. We were able to continue on to Paulding at about 5 miles per hour. Jake Knoedler, the blacksmith, was able to straighten the axle but my dad traded the car in shortly after for a new EMF, the first new car we owned. I forget was EMF stood for. I thought at first it meant "Electromotive Force" but I think it was the initials of the three men who had formed the company to build the cars. I had graduated from high school and gone to Ft. Wayne by the time we got the EMF.

We didn't have the first EMF even a year, as Raymond tangled with a switch engine on the railroad tracks in Latty and the car was a total loss. Luckily Raymond wasn't hurt. The railroad paid for a new EMF exactly the same as the first one.

It was about this time that the demountable rim was developed which save a lot of backbreaking work on the road when you had tire trouble. All that was necessary now was to unscrew a few lugs, remove the tire and rim together and replace them with the spare tire and rim, the tire already inflated, which you carried on the running board or on brackets at the rear of the car. The car trunk was still a thing of the future. It wasn't until some years later that someone thought of replacing the whole wheel instead of just the rim with the tire mounted on it.

Most of the motor cars in Paulding in the early nineteen hundreds were similar to Charlie Burgner's or Floyd Donart's but there were some exceptions. Dr. Dillary owned one that was simply a buggy with a motor underneath. A belt running from a pulley on the motor shaft to one of the rear wheels, which was about five feet in diameter, provided the motive power. Steering was done by a short horizontal bar connected to a vertical rod coming up out of the floor in front of the driver. Dr. Dillary was a very fat man and it was difficult for him to get behind the bar. His belly was in the way when he wanted to turn left. Some friends of the Creviston's, who build a house on South Williams St. would come to visit them in their Stanley Steamer. Compared to a gasoline powered car, which made a horrible racket, a Stanley Steamer was almost noiseless. Steam power lost out, of course because of the time it took to get up steam. The electric car, usually owned by little old ladies, were also very quiet but there were none in Paulding. I saw them in Chicago and Ft. Wayne and also in Van Wert. They could only be used in town on account of the limited range of the batteries without recharging. They were also steered with a horizontal bar like Doc Dillery's buggy but they were much more genteel. We called them showcases as they were completely enclosed, the only enclosed cars we ever saw, and that very infrequently.

There was little attempt at first to dampen the noise of the internal combustion engines, on the contrary. After mufflers began to be installed a hole was provided in it which could be opened from the driver's seat. Noise was synonymous with power and speed, especially in the minds of the young bucks. It took a few years before the noise became so intolerable that laws were passed forbidding the practice of opening the muffler.

Dust had been a problem even with horses and buggies when the traffic was heavy, as it was, for example, during Fair week and, after cars became plentiful and drivers were going up to 30 miles per hour, it really got bad during the dry days of July and August. Great clouds of dust rolled up along the highways and settled on everything on both sides of the road and, of course, on the motorists. It was wise to bundle up in a long duster that came down to your ankles, put on a motoring cap and a pair of goggles. Women covered their hair with scarves and their faces with veils. During rainy weather and when the snow was melting in the spring mud holes made it nearly impossible to drive. In fact very few people did.

You never saw a car in the winter. They were all put up on jacks in the garage and left there until things dried off in the spring. The odor of spring was not the odor of flowers. It was the smell of gasoline and exhaust gasses.

The speed limit posted on all of the roads leading into Paulding was 8 miles per hour as late as 1920 but most cars were unable to go that slow without jerking or switching into low gear. There was no one to enforce the law anyway so no one paid any attention to it. Your dare-devils would brag about having reached a speed of a mile a minute which was actually a reckless speed on the kind of road that existed at the time, a single track just wide enough for the tires, built up on stones and loose gravel. If you got out of the track made by the passage of vehicles you hit loose gravel then dropped at least six inches, on the right into the ditch and on the left (depending on which way you were travelling) down into the passing road which, in Paulding County, was clay, muddy when wet and deeply rutted when dry.

The self-starter, invented I believe by Charles Kittering, finally made it possible for women to drive by eliminating the necessity to crank the engine to get it started. Cranks were still carried with the other tools, however, and the hole under the radiator remained as last as 1928. I was driving the car of a friend in Québec City about that year - it was an Essex - when the bendix, which connects the started motor to the engine, became stuck and I had to use the crank. You connected the bendix by pushing down on a lever with your foot. A solenoid (magnet) now does the connecting and all one has to do is turn a key. The choke and spark are now controlled automatically and countless other improvements have made cars easier to drive and more reliable so that today's motorist can hardly imagine what it was like to drive a car in the early days when there were considered merely a new kind of toy for the rich or for crack-pots.

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Last modified on 20 March 2017 @ 22:42