Reflections: Evolution of the automobile


By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

Sitting at a stoplight in a city recently, my son pointed to a car in the adjoining lane and said “That is an electric car.” I don’t know how he told the difference just by looking. It looked like any other car to me.

It set me thinking later on and I wondered when electric cars made an appearance. I mean currently, because as a youngster I remember an electric car driven by two sisters in Marion — that was probably 60years ago — and we were told they “plugged it in” when it was at their home.

I do recall that it ran slow and it was very quiet. Now, electriccars are becoming very popular.

My memory of automobiles goes back a little – I won’t say how far but I took my driving test in a 1936 Plymouth – it was 16 years old then, and of course, had a standard floor shift – not the automatic shift found on the floor today. I passed that test, 100 percent, backed into the parking space perfectly. That was the last time I backed a car in a parking space I always looked for something to drive into or with plenty of space all the way around.

I also discovered through researching that the first automobile in Morrow County was owned by Cardington resident and hotel owner, J. D. Gregory, who purchased and drove a Stanley Steamer in 1903. It was said he built an extra room onto the hotel for that car.

Contradicting that statement though, is another that says the first automobile in Morrow County was a primitive home made car built by a man in Harmony Township.

The first automobile car agency in Cardington was the Hupmobile Car Agency owned by Kelsie and Elza Click on West Main Street. The first gasoline powered car was owned by Dr. Green in Cardington. Wilbur Buckingham had the first Ford dealership in the village.

There was long-time jeweler George Frew who was a familiar sight in the village driving his 1907 Holmsman buggy. According to a clipping from a 1951 Morrow County Independent, Mr. Frew’s buggy, a “runabout” was one of the first half dozen or so automobiles in Morrow County.

I recall my father, who had no sons, four daughters, determined to teach us how the motor of an automobile worked and lined us around the motor of our car with the hood up and explained what happens when we turned the key. I followed it closely until the hood went down, then forgot everything he had just taught me.

On the other hand I had a friend whose father grew up in horse and buggy days so when he began driving a car, he ended in a corn field several times saying “Whoa!” instead of hitting the brake. True story.

Automobiles, or as my grandmother called them “machines,” are a part of our lives, no matter how they are powered. We can’t do without them nor do we want to.

80 years ago, 1938: Five unemployed men were certified by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to begin a veterans’ grave registration project in the county’s nearly 150 cemeteries. The purpose of the project was to obtain an accurate record of the graves of all war veterans located in Morrow County. The work was expected to last six to eight months.

70 years ago, 1948: A three phase traffic signal with red, yellow and green lights, was installed at Main and Marion Streets, replacing the old two phase signal of red and green lights only.

60 years ago, 1958: Former Cardington resident Robert J. Gibbons was named American Consul in Newfoundland. While living here, Gibbons attended the elementary school in the 1920s.

The Marengo Depot was closed by the New York Central Railroad.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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