A Journey for Two
By Nola Tinsley Willeford

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Like many men of his generation who were expert horsemen, our father did not make the transition to driving a car easily. He bought our first car, a new Model T Ford, in 1921. 
The first trip in it was to Paducah to visit his parents for a week, and then on to Dawson Springs to visit Mother’s parents for a week. Daddy could drive in a pinch but he didn’t like to, so he hired a chauffeur to drive on their first vacation by automobile

In 1923 he bought our second car. At this time JT was nine years old and he started doing all the driving under Daddy’s supervision. These first cars had three doors - none on the driver’s side. There were three pedals for operating the car. After cranking it to start the motor, you put the car in low gear by pushing the left pedal to the floor. When you let the pedal out again you were in high gear. The middle pedal put the car in reverse, and the right  pedal was the brake. The gas tank was under the driver’s seat and the gas feed was a lever attached to the steering column.

In 1926 Daddy bought our third car. Many improvements had been made. This car was four-door and larger than the previous cars. It had a self- starter and bigger, better tires. JT was eleven or twelve years old when he had his first solo experience in this car. Mother was spending a week at Dawson Springs visiting her parents and Daddy was scheduled to go get her on Saturday and bring her home. As luck would have it, one of Daddy’s best customers had an emergency situation in which he badly needed some farm machinery repaired right, and Daddy decided that JT could make the trip just fine on his own. Wilkey, who would have been either seven or eight years old, went along for the ride.

There was construction in progress on the Russellville Road, the normal route, and JT knew that he would need to start the trip with a detour, down little country roads, until he came to Trenton, where he would reach a main road leading to Hopkinsville. He was already familiar with the little country paths and had no trouble reaching Trenton. Most people, at that time, were still traveling in wagons and buggies, so they didn’t see another car until they reached Trenton. However, between Trenton and Hopkinsville another car was spotted ahead of them and the only part of the trip that Wilkey vividly remembered occurred.

He begged JT to overtake the other car. JT wasn’t at all sure that he could do so, but was very willing to try. After about half an hour, they could tell that they were gaining on the other car, and became convinced that they could catch it and pass it. Sure enough, soon they were close enough to pass. THEN TRAGEDY STRUCK! Wilkey, who was beside himself with excitement and bouncing up and down on his seat in the open-air car, felt his straw hat lift off his head and fly down the road behind them. I have heard him tell the story many times, of his disappointment, and of the blueness of the air, as JT stopped the car, and Wilkey ran back down the road to retrieve  his hat. The opportunity to pass was forever lost.

They were compensated somewhat by reaching Hopkinsville with its busy streets. While going through the larger town, they spotted several makes of cars that they had never seen before and were very interested in observing. They drove on out of town to the Dawson Springs Road and continued on their journey. Just about dark, they reached their grandparent’s home, having spent something over six hours on the road.

Mama had some difficulty in accepting the fact that the two of them had made the trip alone. Later on, I imagine that Daddy may have experienced a little difficulty, also!

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