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The Family's First Car

The following was adapted from "The Land Between the Rivers" by John Paul Poston (my husband Tim's uncle). Paul recalls for us the first car his family ever owned.

In 1924 automobiles were becoming more and more popular and everybody seemed to be buying one. Although I'm sure we really couldn't afford it, Dad couldn't resist the temptation. He went over to Lake City and for $436.00 bought a 1924 Model T Touring Car, shipped from Detroit by rail in a wooden crate.

As the dealer uncrated and then assembled the car, he explained the different features to Dad. After brief driver's training and a test drive, Dad proudly drove the Model T home.

It was a beauty, black with a convertible top. When the top was up it had two rear windows about eight inches square, setting it apart from other cars. Two options that came with the car were storm curtains and black woolen coverlets. When it rained or was cold weather, the curtains were put up to make the temperature inside a bit more comfortable.

The Model T had only three working doors, one on the passenger side and two in the rear. The driver had to climb over a solid panel where a normal door would be today. This solid panel was designed to protect the lever that provided three necessary functions, high gear, the clutch, and the hand brake.

There were three pedals on the floor. Left was low gear, middle was reverse, and right was the brake. The car had a starter button, an option that cost extra. It also had a hand crank that hung idle in the front of the car under the radiator. When the starter wouldn't start the car (which happened fairly often), you had to engage the hand crank into the engine and give it a turn. Sometimes the crank would kick and sprain your arm, or even break it. My brother Merrill who did most of the cranking had a lot of bad luck on that job. It wasn't unusual to see him with his arm in a sling from cranking the car.

There were two levers on the steering wheel. The one on the left adjusted the spark of the coils which were under the dash, and the one on the right controlled the speed of the car. The car would run between 35 and 40 miles an hour when everything was adjusted just right.

The tires were the weakest part of the car. After a few hundred miles the tires would rim cut and go flat. Some cars had a spare tire but that was an option my dad didn't take. If our Model T had a flat tire, he would just take the tire off and drive home on the rim.

Herbert Hoover was elected president in 1928 and promised "two chickens in every pot and two cars in every garage," but that never happened. The Stock Market crashed in 1929 and things went downhill for the rest of the Hoover administration. By 1930 we just couldn't afford gasoline or parts to keep the Model T running and it was pushed under a shed and forgotten. Most cars were parked during the Depression. However, the ingenuity of people couldn't be denied. Off their car came two wheels, one axle, the springs and a cushioned seat, to be converted into a two-wheeled, one-horse (or one mule) cart called a "Hoover Cart." It was a common sight to see whole families driving to church in a Hoover cart with children hanging onto the sides.

Dad didn't convert our Model T into a Hoover cart, but in the fall of 1937 he cut the body of the car off and made it into a truck. Surprisingly, it cranked up fairly easy and ran quite well. We used the little truck for any hauling we needed to do, like taking tobacco to the market. Dad finally sold it in 1940 for $25.00 and a thousand tobacco sticks.

I hated to see the old Model T go. I had learned to drive in that car. I was too young to get a driver's license but it wasn't unusual to drive without one in those days there was only one highway patrolman in all of Florence County. When you got to be 14 years old all you had to do to get a license was go to the Highway Department in Florence and buy one for fifty cents. Your name, address, age, sex and color were stamped on a little copper plate that you hung on your key chain.

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