I see Ford still rules the automotive world. For the second year in a row the Ford Focus is the best-selling vehicle in the world, selling more than a million. Not only that, the Ford F-series pickup truck took third place and the Ford Fiesta captured sixth. History has a way of repeating itself … over and over again.
Nearly 100 years ago the sight of an automobile was something special. They’d been around for a while but it wasn’t until Henry Ford made cars available to the masses that the automobile became a familiar sight on the roadways of central Iowa.
A story in the July 12, 1917 Slater News dealing with the just-completed 4th of July celebration states: "A fellow volunteered to count the autos. He got as far as over eight hundred when he got utterly confused and gave it up as a difficult task."
Fords had become so popular there was even an ailment named after them: "Ford Arm" which described a broken arm caused by the backfire while hand-cranking a car’s engine.
Most of the local newspapers of 1917 were jammed full with car advertising ranging from the Paige to Cadillacs but it was the Ford that captured the headlines.
A couple of front page items from that year tell the story.
A FORD IS STRUCK BY AN INTERURBAN
OCT. 25, 1917 — A Ford lived up to its reputation over at Huxley last Friday when it collided with an interurban car, putting the big coach out of commission completely, making it necessary for the company to send for another car to haul it to the repair station while the Ford only needed a new wheel to speed away under its own power.
The rather unusual accident happened on the crossing just north of the depot. In the Ford were the two eldest boys of Mr. and Mrs. Nels T. Sydnes of west of Huxley, who, boy-like, had driven the car to town in the absence of their parents and were on their way home when they were struck a glancing blow by the interurban car as they were about to cross the tracks.
Fortunately neither of the boys were hurt nor was the Ford as badly damaged as one might think. The right wheel was smashed and the windshield went the same way but otherwise the car was unhurt and on putting on a new wheel it was ready to go again.
Not so with the interurban car, however. The air brakes were put out of commission and it was unable to go any further and a special car had to haul it to the company’s repair station.
A BIG BUICK COLLIDES WITH A FORD
NOV. 15, 1917 — What could have been a very serious auto accident occurred last Thursday forenoon at the crossing a mile south of Slater when Harry Carlson of Madrid, driving a big Buick, ran into a Ford driven by Roy Smith, a traveling salesman for a Des Moines cracker house.
Mr. Carlson was driving east and hit the Ford, which was going north, squarely in the side, throwing it and its occupants completely over, landing the car on its wheels again, leaving a decidedly broken up, sickly looking Ford.
Many lesser accidents have resulted in the death of one or more of the occupants but in this case they were more or less injured.
Mr. Smith was on his way to Slater and was accompanied by his sister and two sisters-in-law, the wives of men who had gone to the army – "war widows" he called them, but Smiths just the same.
Mr. Carlson stopped and gave them all the assistance possible, taking them to the Oley Ryen home just a short distance away where their wounds were given temporary treatment by Dr. Severson who was called. Later Mr. Carlson took them to Des Moines in his own car where they were cared for further.
A heavy fog was hanging at the time of the accident and it covered the windshield with a thick coating and these unusual conditions were probably responsible for the accident.
These mishaps are becoming more numerous each year and one hesitates to think what the future may bring.
If they only could have known!
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)