Saturday, April 28, 2012

Free At Last!

In a 1911 letter home Marion Nicholson describes catching up with the Montgomerys who are in town to buy a new car, their second in two years. This may be a pic from that event. They are at Atwater Street.


I am writing Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl and I've got to the part where Edith Nicholson goes on a 6 hour car trip from Richmond, Quebec to Montreal in June 1911.

In a letter she describes all the places she passed through.

My job is to describe the experience.

Now, today, 6 hours on bumpy hills in a car with no shocks (I don't think) and in a tight corset would be torture, but for Edith it is euphoric.

That's the word I'll use.

The freedom of it! Before long trips were taken by train or by horse carriage. This car, going 14 miles an hour over the hills and dales of the Eastern Townships, must have thrilled the passengers, much like a long long ride at Dominion Park. And there was always the danger of breaking down to add spice to the occasion.

14 miles an hour is the speed limit in the country. 7 miles an hour in the city. (Horse drawn vehicles and autos were beginning here to fight over the road space, a fight which would continue until the late 1920's, when cars WON.



Ad for Piece Arrow. Car Rides were classy thing! No kidding, cars cost as much as a house.

A recent Salon.com article claims that statistics show that Americans at least are driving much less. The author of the article ascribed this to the Internet, saying young people would rather surf than drive.

(I thought maybe GPS's had something to do with it. Or Google maps. No getting lost. No spending hours driving all over town looking to buy some item. Etc ete.

Whatever the reason, the thrill is gone. The high price of gasoline doesn't help either, I'm sure.

In the 60's I went for a lot of car drives with my dad. It was his recreation. Cheap and he got out of the house. We had a little Austen Cambridge, but my father, a former ferry command pilot, drove fast, 80 miles an hour on the highway.

As his daughter, I wasn't afraid, although I do distinctly remember almost getting killed by an oncoming 16 wheeler as he passed a car on the highway.

But he swerved in on time, obviously.


Marion sits in her Uncle Clayton's car.It broke down a lot.

The T Can wasn't as crowded with trucks as it is today.

I liked looking out the window.  On long distance treks to the US for vacation, my Dad had a game. He had great long distance eyesight (Pilot!) so we called out the state or province of the licence plates ahead,the minute we could guess them. And then there was I Spy..

Today kids don't look out the window. They are too busy playing or communicating on their iPads, etc. Or watching movies.

We experience the world second hand today. Technology changes us.


Free at Last: In the 1910 era, men drove the cars, but by the 1920's women went it alone! Here's Flora second from last. Cars gave women and teens unprecedented freedom.