|Checker Model M from a book I wrote several years ago.
Death and mayhem, now that is an attention grabbing headline. Actually it is also a rather fitting descriptor for most of my holiday weekend as I spent the lions share of it engaged in writing about mayhem in the boardroom and blood in the streets. The current project will be a book for History Press that delves into the often violent world of the taxicab business, especially in the years before World War II.
It may not have been as violent as the battle for control of booze import and distribution during prohibition but the war over turf in the taxi business was quite brutal, especially in cities such as New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Drivers were beaten, offices and garages were bombed, cabs were burned, cars were bombed and used as battering rams, sabotage was an expected job hazard, cars were stolen and driven into the lake, passengers were held hostage, and there were numerous drive by shootings. Money or social status offered little protection as evidenced by the arson that destroyed the stables, with valuable horses belonging to John Hertz Sr., or the fire bombing of the home of Morris Markin, founder of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company.
From a financial perspective it wasn’t much safer in the boardroom. Theft, smoky backroom deals, stock manipulations, profit focused corporate raiders, hostile takeovers, swindles, extortion, theft, and sabotage were often merely part of doing business for the numerous companies that manufactured taxicabs.
Equally as fascinating is the ongoing conversations and exchange of correspondence pertaining to Route 66 and the African American community with Frank Norris of the National Park Service. I included some of this history in The Route 66 Encyclopedia and will include a bit more in the forthcoming Illustrated Route 66 Historic Atlas. What I would really like to do, however, is write a book about this obscure and often overlooked segment of Route 66 history.
The most recent conversation with Frank centered on motels in Kingman that would offer accommodations to African-Americans during the 1940’s and 1950’s, and the fascinating and inspirational story of Alberta Ellis, the proprietor of Alberta’s Hotel at 617 N. Benton Avenue in Springfield, Missouri from 1947 to about 1960.
Aside from digging into the dark side of life and obscure history, it was a relatively quiet and restful weekend.
On Sunday morning I tested progress of the healing process by walking to the store to return a video (Monuments Men) shortly after sunrise. There is a definite sign of improvement but it quickly became obvious that a bit more time will be needed. I don’t see the running of a marathon, or even a walk to work, in the immediate future.
On Saturday evening, my dearest friend and I enjoyed a simple barbecue. This time I grilled the buffalo burgers smothered in mushrooms, garlic, and onion. The verdict is that they were rather tasty.
With a gentle rain falling, and a pleasant breeze to assist in the turning of pages, I squeezed in time for a bit of reading on the back porch. This too was an adventure on the dark side as I am deep into the latest offering from John Sandford.
This series by Mr. Sandford rates high on my list. Well crafted characters, fascinating plot twists, and a voyeuristic look into the dark side of everyday life that lurks just beneath the thin veneer of civilized society ensures these books are an excellent read.
Counted among the things I lament is how many people don’t read books and how many children aren’t introduced to the joys of reading. What a pity.
I can’t imagine living a life detached from books. That would be like living in a world without salt or only shades of gray.
More years ago than I care to count, I was engaged in pursuing the life of my high riding heroes by playing cowboy on a ranch at the south end of the Mimbres River in New Mexico, just north of the Mexican border. The pay was beyond terrible ($8.00 per day plus board, room, and use of a truck to go to town once a month), the hours were long, the work was hard, and it was the most enjoyable job I have ever had.
My room in the bunkhouse had one light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and an old stove to burn wood for heat and to warm water for bathing or shaving. But I had access to the LIBRARY, a staggering collection of books, some more than a century old, in the main ranch house.
Most every Sunday, I would choose an interesting title, stash it and a hearty lunch in the saddlebags, saddle up, and then I would follow the ruts of the Butterfield Stage route to the ruins of the Faywood Hot Springs Resort where I would soak, read, and bask in the silence of the desert.
I discovered the harrowing adventures of James McKenna who rode the same trails I did more than a century before me, tales of John Lloyd Stephens adventures in central America, the story of Olive Oatman, the tall tales told by Marco Polo, the wisdom of Plutarch, the Federalist Papers, and countless other wonders.
The three day working holiday weekend was a welcome respite from what is proving to be a most trying time. Today, its the adventure of the day job on a Monday morning (always interesting). Then there is the ongoing search for gainful employment, and what seems to be the never ending task of assisting in the development of the Route 66 International Festival.
Still, in the grand scheme of things, we are doing well. Life is good. And, once I can walk to work again I am rather confident that it will be even better. And, on Wednesday morning, I should be able to provide some updates as there is a festival meeting scheduled for tomorrow night.
One more note. Later this week Dora Manley and her husband, Kurt, take to the road to promote the festival and to issue personal invitations to everyone she meets along the way. If you would like to display a poster, please let me know and I will try to get a stop added to the schedule.