Aside from death and taxes the one thing that we can all
be certain of is that, like it or not, things change. When was the last time you used a pay phone? When was the last time you wrote a letter? When was the last time you wrote a letter on a typewriter? When was the last time you used a map, a phone book, or crossed the desert at night to beat the heat?
In 1909, more than 828,000 horse-drawn vehicles rolled from American factories. That year automobile manufacturers set a new record with combined production totaling more than 128,000 vehicles. Fast forward two decades and a mere 4,000 horse drawn vehicles were manufactured. Meanwhile, in 1929, Ford manufactured more than 2,000,000 automobiles and trucks, and there were more than a dozen automobile companies rolling vehicles along assembly lines including Hudson, Oakland, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Studebaker, Auburn, Cord, Willys, Chrysler, Nash, Pierce-Arrow, Packard, and Checker.
Within that twenty year period new words such as motel were added to the lexicon, and we were introduced to tricolor traffic lights, the cloverleaf interchange, the US highway system, and automobiles with radios as well as the installment plan. By 1920, there were more American homes with automobiles in the driveway than homes with indoor plumbing.
The cover photo for today’s post that was provided by the Mohave Museum of History & Arts tells quite a story. The location is the corner of South Front Street, now Topeka Street, and Fourth Street in Kingman, Arizona on the National Old Trails Highway. In the hope of capturing a dollar or two of revenue from the ever increasing flow of travelers, Kingman, had a free campground. In the background is Desert Motors that opened in 1915 as a Maxwell, Chalmers, and Packard dealer and repair facility. The service station was the first one in town and the owners were Black and Ellis, former owners of a blacksmith shop. Even at this late date, automobiles often shared the streets of Kingman with twenty-mule teams.
Today, a long shuttered body shop has taken the place of the dealership. The gas station and the camp ground are a debris filled vacant lot. This section of both the National Old Trails Highway and an early alignment of Route 66, once major highways traveled by people chasing dreams, are dead end roads.
When overwhelmed by technology and the need to learn how to download and use a new program or convert a WAV file to MP3, which is quite often, I reflect on the world of a century ago and thumb through old photos such as this. Each photo is a window into a brief moment in time. Each photo is a window into a world that was in a state of transition. Each photo provides perspective. Then as well as now, people were confronted with the simple fact that times are a changing and that there are but two choices; live like your not afraid of dying, enjoy the ride and make a valiant attempt to stay in the saddle, or sit on the sidelines and become a relic. As frustrating as it is, I prefer the former over the latter. There will be bumps, bruises, and scars but it is never boring.
Old photos are also a source of fascination and an endless opportunity for story inspiration. Consider the photo of the Hotel Beale below. Look at the people going about their daily business, notice the fellow getting ready to hit the road. Check out the awnings, the advertisements, and the store front display windows. For the imaginative person there is an entire book in one photo.
There is another message to be found in old photos. Look at the photo above. The people you see on the streets are now faded memories for their elderly grandchildren.
If today’s post seems a bit somber, or even heavy, I do apologize. Word has been received that a very dear friend, Willem Bor, is quite ill. News such as this always inspires reflection on life in general, changing times, and how quickly time passes.
In the winter of 2015, with Dries Bessels as our guide and chauffeur, our first dinner in Europe – kip and curry rice – was in the home of Willem and Monique. Their gracious hospitality, a few language issues, and lots of laughter are cherished memories of ours. On that trip Monique acted like a protective mother hen for my dearest friend at the travel fair in Utrecht, and Willem, with a smile and a bit of teasing, helped me hurdle a few language issue induced barriers. And there was a most memorable evening at de Prael in Amsterdam.
This past summer at the first European Route 66 Festival in Germany, we did not have a chance to visit much. However, there was a laughter filled dinner or two, and opportunity to share smile inducing memories.
Willem and Monique and their generosity are also an important part of the Route 66 family. His models of Route 66 locations transcend mere dioramas, they are the artistry of a craftsman. The Bor’s are also founding members of the Dutch Route 66 Association. If you have time, drop this dear couple a note through the Facebook page for the Dutch Route 66 Association.
Mere words can not describe the emotions in times such as this, nor can they adequately provide solace. Times such as this only serve to sharpen the focus on the value of friends and the importance of embracing life, and living it to the fullest. Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero – seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.
Take care, mi amigos. Until we meet again, I hope you can join me on Friday mornings for the Facebook live program, and on the Jim Hinckley’s America podcast.