SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE STIRRUP AND THROTTLE

As exciting as the modern era is with its mind boggling advancements in technology, I doubt if there will ever be anything to equal the that amazing fifty year window in time between 1880 and 1930. If time travel were possible, you could transport an individual from Colonial America to the western frontier of New Mexico in 1880 and adaptation to the new surroundings would be relatively easy. You still traveled by horse, still farmed with mule and plow, still needed the services of a blacksmith, still used lamps or candles to ward of darkness, still had a life expectancy of around forty years, still hunted game (with some seriously improved firepower), and still used wagons to haul things from point “A” to point “B”.
Now, if you transported this individual into the city or a more urban setting there would be a bit of culture shock. Trains, the telegraph, and similar wonders would be truly mind boggling but the core of the society remained the same; blacksmiths, apothecary’s, hatters, tailors, tinsmiths, etc. 
The world of 1930 was as far removed from the world of 1880 as the moon is from San Francisco. Telephones, electric lights, airplanes, and automobiles transformed the very fabric of the American society and even its lexicon with words like motel or gas station.
For those of us who were stumped by the complexities of programming the VCR these are truly times of awe, of wonder, and of incredible stress. But imagine what it must have been like in 1930.
Consider the fact Wyatt Earp lived in Los Angeles during the 1920s and that Buffalo Bill Cody purchased a two cylinder Michigan in 1903. Imagine a man like Geronimo making the transition from nomadic warrior living a centuries old tribal life style to riding in automobiles and signing books at the world’s fair.
People who came west in covered wagons along the Santa Fe Trail were driving east on Route 66. People who endured ocean crossings that lasted weeks must have stood in awe to read of the Atlantic crossing by airplane in mere hours.
My stepfather, born in 1917, told me that as a young man in Iowa, he skipped school to see a plane that had crash landed in a corn field. He rode the pony he used for transportation to school to the crash site.
In ten short years the automobile had progressed from a fad everyone should see before it faded away, as Montgomery Ward saw it, to a multi million dollar a year industry. In one short decade the automobile had moved from bothersome curiosity to modern gold rush that most everyone wanted a part of.
Almost every town in America wanted to have an automobile manufacturing company. Enid, Oklahoma had the Geronimo, Phoenix, Arizona had the Copeland, Tulsa, Oklahoma had the Lone Star.
Companies abandoned decades old success in the hope of striking it rich with the automobile. A major manufacturer of bird cages and ice boxes transformed itself into Pierce-Arrow, one of the world’s most prestigious manufacturer of automobiles. A major plumbing supply company that had pioneered the method of affixing porcelain to cast iron was sacrificed for the creation of a company named Buick. The worlds largest manufacturer of horse drawn vehicles joined as partners with Thomas Edison to build an electric automobile and abandoned the manufacture of carriages for horseless carriages and the Studebaker became an automotive legend.
Livery stables and stage stations gave way to garages and bus stations. Inns and taverns succumbed to motels and road houses.
It was truly a heady time, those years when the world stood poised with one foot in the stirrup and one on the throttle. In retrospect, I suppose what really separates those exciting times of change with these exciting times of transition is the technology.
The modern incarnation of technology is cold and impersonal even though it links people together as never before. We sit in a lonely cubicle with the ghostly flicker of unnatural light casting our face in shadow as we impersonally chat and imagine a world of friends.
With the technology at the turn of the last century there was something magical as it inspired awe and enthusiasm, as well as a child like hope that through technology all things could be made well. Drive a 1916 Hudson Super Six and then drive a new hybrid. Both represent cutting edge technology but only one will quicken the spirit.

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jimhinckleysamerica

Jim Hinckley's America is a grand adventure on the back roads and two lane highways. It is an odyssey seasoned with fascinating people, and memory making discoveries. As made evident by the publication of fourteen books on subjects as diverse as diverse as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, The Illustrated History of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, Travel Route 66, Backroads of Arizona, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia, I enjoy sharing adventures and helping people plan for their own memory making journeys.

Thank you, shared adventures are the best adventures.

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