Days of Yore
as recounted by

Bill Day



Automobile - New Mode of Transportation
In days of yore a new mode of transportation, the automobile, was a constant source of delight to a public that was beginning to realize that a change in life was occurring.  The styles of this new mode were new and efficient then, but now they are priceless antiques of a former period.  The methods and facilities for servicing the motor car then were so different than they are now.

Mr. Bill Stevenson’s two gasoline pumps on the curb in front of his produce store on the Main Street in Haddonfield were big business then.  The fuel was hand pumped into clear glass five-gallon tanks mounted on siz feet high standards.  An auto stopping at the curb for gas would be served by a hose transferring the fuel by gravity form the glass bowl down into the car’s tank.  There were no gasoline stations as we have today, and all service work was performed in public garages.

There was a storage battery recharging shop on Haddon Avenue opposite Haddon Fire Company.  Auto batteries did not remain charged up as they do today.  Nearly every car owner had a spare battery that he kept ready for emergency.  Until his car needed it he ran his new tube radio with it.  The shopkeeper, Pep Fowler, always had twelve or more batteries lined up on his charger.  If a customer with a dead battery did not have a spare, a service battery was always available.

In wintertime, car radiators had alcohol added to their water to prevent freezing.  Constant checks were necessary as alcohol would boil away during the warmth of the day, and it would have to be replenished.

In 1931, an “A” model Ford could have new tires and tubes at an unbelievable cost.  Lee of Conshohococken at wholesale price would supply a tire with an inner tube for six dollars.  Of course, there was no state sales tax then to boost the price.

Remember the gasoline war in the 1930’s between the fuel companies and the price per gallon dropped to 11 cents per gallon?  The public was storing fuel at home in containers, and every time the car was used a stop would be made at a service station to refill the tank if only a gallon or tow were needed.  There was always the fear that the war would end suddenly and the bargain would end.

Not too many years ago the law required new license plates had to be on every vehicle on January first every year.  They were manufactured in the Trenton State Prison.

Remember the Vim motor truck chugging along about 1920 with its 18 inch wide single headlight mounted in the center of the radiator.  Tommy Turner, a Haddonfield contractor, was the proud owner of one.  The light was an accessory to be attached.   Remember the snappy Stutz BearCat roadster owned by Arthur Teggle, the iceman, in Haddonfield?  Under the chassis on both sides as an appliance that pumped air to inflate the tires when the motor was running.  That pump was frequently used in those days.

There were two electric cars in Haddonfield.  Dr. Clement had one, and Mrs. J. Fithian Tatem owned the other.  These cars looked exactly alike in the front and in the back, and were steered by a bar that pulled down across the driver'’ lap.  They did not go very fast, so no speed laws were ever violated.

Lou Round, a Haddonfield retiree, is remembered driving his fireman’s red Locomobile roadster before World War I.  The two long forward and reverse levers came out of the floorboards by the left leg, the rubber bulbed horn “Honked” when squeezed, and cutouts instead of doors in the sides made entrance and exit fairly easy.  What a prize it would be to possess that car today!

The Franklin Motor Car had no radiator but was air-cooled.  Its rounded front made it unique in appearance.

Mr. Doughty owned the Apperson Car Agency on the Main Street near the railroad in Haddonfield.  His gas pumps by the curb were well patronized.  The big Apperson touring car was a popular model with its two foldaway seats tucked into the backs of the front seat.  It had a car robe bar fastened to the back of the front seat.  What a treasure it would be to have one of these today.

The commonly heard expression, “It was so simple in the old days,” is so true when a comparison is made of the driver’s license law of today compared to the law that existed back in the era of 1910 to 1917.

Now, birth certificates, permits, appointments, written examinations, eye and driving test, are required before an applicant is granted a license to drive a motor vehicle.  It was not so in an earlier era.  A beginner driver, coached by and experienced driver, could take a car out on the highway and learn to drive it.  Then on any given day a trip down to sixth and Market Streets in Camden could be taken.  The motor vehicle office there was a real estate office.   A man sitting behind a desk asked the applicant if he knew how to operate a vehicle, what sort of car he would be driving, and where he would be driving it.  A license would then be issued at a cost of $1.00 or $2.00, the exact cost is not remembered.  A permit was unknown, and written, oral, or driving examination were not required.  Even proof of exact age was not necessary.  A retiree in Haddonfield recalls how he drove one of the first delivery trucks in town for the Ellis Meat Market when he secured his license in the fashion just described.  He drove a four-cylinder Flanders truck manufactured by the Studebaker Automobile Company in 1912.  It had a gar shift which it needed for the streets then, as they were unpaved.  When the snow ruts froze in the winter, it was difficult to get the truck out of the ruts to turn a corner, and it was just as difficult to maneuver the same corner in the mud ruts in the summer.. Homepage
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