Every car ride was a joy ride
Editor's note: this is the conclusion of Bob Zosel's history of cars and their owners in the Wadena area.
In the early days, every car ride seemed to be a joy ride.
In 1916, Dr. Kenyon's Studebaker three passenger roadster was stolen, Minnesota license tag #3769. The paper reported that it was a 1915 model, showing considerable wear with 7,500 miles on it. It had an aluminum deck and a peculiarity of the car was the fact that the two rear fenders had been bolted in through the body to remedy a tendency on the part of the fenders to wobble. The car was recovered about a week later near Staples, and thought to have been stolen by certain parties residing in Staples.
In 1919, the Legislature passed a law that all motor vehicles transferring ownership must be registered with the state and that a new auto license would not be issued without it.
In 1924, the allure of an automobile ride was still quite great as at a meeting of librarians and trustees from all over Minnesota for a two day meeting climaxed with a luncheon followed by an auto ride.
In 1925, in an article in the Bemidji Sentinel it was reported that J. H. Spangler a farmer from Lake Plantagenet and later Minneapolis has an invention for automobiles which promises to prove a wonderful achievement. It was called the Spangler Gearless Shift in which the shifting of gears in the car was accomplished by a series of push buttons on the steering wheel and a pedal taking the place of the clutch. The push buttons on the top of which are indicated the several speeds and reverse, are located within finger reach of the driver, directly under the steering wheel and attached to the post. The shifting mechanism being automatic throughout. I find no further mention of this invention so don't know if it was the forerunner of our present day automatic transmissions or not.
Also that year in a warning in the Pioneer Journal issued by R. C. Kassube, chief of police, that the practice of driving with head lights and tail lights out must stop or the violators will risk the chance of arrest.
In a 1927 Pioneer Journal appeared the first newspaper ad for an Auto Glass & Top Shop. It stated that Mr. Hirschel, the proprietor, is well qualified to perform automobile curtain and top repairing and the replacing of all sedan glass or windshields regardless of size, shape or style.
In 1930, the American Legion Post of Wadena staged an automobile show in the Canning Factory building, later the Wool Growers building which burnt in 1990. Quoting from the Pioneer Journal: "The stage is all set for the automobile show which opens today (Thursday) and continues until Saturday night. The event is of outstanding importance to our community and the local Legion Post is to be congratulated for making it possible. Car space is all filled and every available bit of room for the radio, merchandise and food exhibits has been taken. Automobiles ready for the inspection of the public located on the ground floor of the building include, Ford, Chevrolet, Hupmobile, Chrysler, Graham, Pontiac, Oakland, Plymouth, Durant and a six cylinder Willys. Three models of trucks will be displayed, Ford, International and Chevrolet. The Same number of tractor models will be displayed, International, John Deere and J. I. Case. Accessory displays will be shown by LaMay Auto Parts and the Service System Store and two oil companies the Baehr Oil Company with Shell products and the White Eagle Oil & Refining Co. The Rice Cab Service has a nifty booth inside at the main entrance and taxi service will be available at any hour of the show."
I remember my Dad taking me to the show and the high point as I remember was the barbecue of a buffalo supplied by Harry Merickel. The head of this buffalo still hangs in the Legion Rooms.
In 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, the Chevrolet Motor Company announced a price reduction of up to $55 on some of its models. This followed an announcement by Ford of similar reductions. I am sure this was quite a reduction as prices ranged on standard cars from four to five hundred dollars. Also in an article covering an interview with Carl Villwock he stated that the 1932 Hudson's had increased horsepower to 110 horsepower a gain of 14 horsepower over the previous year with an unusually complete system of spring suspension for the new models. The other outstanding improvements were a redesigned instrument board, an anti-backfire device and many other things. Sound pretty primitive doesn't it?
In 1934, an announcement by the Highway Commissioner stated that it was not compulsory to carry auto insurance, as this was the choice of the auto owner unless he kills someone while driving, drives under the influence of liquor or drugs, commits a felony in connection with a motor car, convicted three times over 12 months of reckless driving, fails to stop after an accident or fails to pay a judgment after an auto accident. It further said that this measure protects the public against the reckless and irresponsible drivers without penalizing the careful motorist.
In 1938, Stuntebeck Ford staged a three day auto show in Memorial Auditorium with new Ford Cars, Lincoln Zephyrs and Ford trucks on display. It further stated that admission was free, that Bob Patterson, known as the fastest Banjo player in the world would be on hand, there would be dancing and other features including lectures, movies and door prizes.
I know there is much more automobile history in later years but that must follow later.