Transportation Then

Posted 7/21/19

This subject stands out to me as having made the greatest changes in my lifetime. I attribute this to the fact that from having very limited transportation except on a school bus or riding my thumb, …

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Transportation Then

Posted

This subject stands out to me as having made the greatest changes in my lifetime. I attribute this to the fact that from having very limited transportation except on a school bus or riding my thumb, walking was the sole way that I could go beyond the confines of my tiny world at the end of the road. School buses only carried me to and from school, and walking had a limited range to get me to a desired destination. My thumb, however, transported me thousands of miles. "Thumbing" was a standard means for one to travel at that time. To get to an early morning job that I had secured at the local five and dime store, I left before the school bus ran, as I had chores to do such as clean floors and shelves and roll out the front awning before the store opened at eight a.m. At that time hitchhiking was a reliable means of transportation. Much of the time I would be able to get repeated rides from individuals who made the trip to town every day at the time I was hitchhiking. After graduation I continued to use this method to travel both inside and out of the state. During that time I never felt threatened for my safety but did meet many interesting characters, but that is for another book. 

My dad always owned a vehicle; none were reliable enough to venture away any long distance. He always bought them used, and he had a knack for finding the ones that had the most use and were ready for retirement. On one occasion he lucked out and bought a Studebaker truck that was immune to abuse. All six of us kids would climb into the truck's bed, rain or shine, with Dad always doing the driving and away we would go. Mother never drove a mile in her life that I am aware of. That, too, was typical of the times in which I was raised. 

There was a nearby country store at the intersection which sold gasoline where our road left the main road. Gas was delivered to the cars by means of hand pumping the desired amount into an overhead marked tank and then fed into the gas tank of the car by gravity until the marked tank had emptied. It was a day to be remembered when pumps were installed that pulled the gas directly from the underground tanks that metered the gas as it went through the nozzle. Standard Oil filled the underground tanks, one with super and the other with regular leaded gasoline which was then pumped from two different tanks. The day when the tanks first came into service and we filled our car's tank from them for the first time, for some strange reason, remains stored in my memory bank. All of us kids wanted to be the first to put the nozzle in the car's gas tank opening and pump the gas, but Dad insisted on doing the honors. Transportation had reached another milestone in making travel by automobile more convenient. 

The condition of country roads was another factor that entered into the mix of determining whether or not a trip by automobile would be an enjoyable one. There were road crews who would try to get around to scraping a road once a year or so, but this did not prevent bad roads from playing havoc when they were muddy There were rural farmers who made extra spending .money by using their horses or mules to free a stuck vehicle. The expert drivers could usually hit the ruts in such a way as to pass through successfully, but others would fall victim to the mire that the road had become. 

Dust was another problem. After the roads had dried out, they became very dusty Most cars were not air tight and clothes being worn by those in the car would receive a dusty covering. There were no air conditioned cars, and if the windows were closed it· became very hot and stuffy inside, but if the windows were down another layer of dust would be deposited inside with every passing car that kicked up another round of dust. Dust also created a hazard as approaching cars were difficult to see though the dust, thus becoming the cause of many accidents. My father was involved in one such dust created accident. He had made the mistake of buying a tan colored car which the approaching driver did not see until it was too late to avoid contact. Those houses that stood alongside a dirt road were forced to endure a long summer of constant dusty conditions. The rains then brought muddy conditions, but this had more of an adverse effect on those traveling the roads than it did on the ones who lived beside it. At least the dust was settled until the next dry spell. 

Contact Wheeler Pounds at 3424 Kings Mill Rd, Oakman, AL 35579, or at wheelerpounds@gmail.com.