Source: North Manchester Journal, October 8, 1896

Three covered wagons filled with people and their goods passed through here Friday afternoon and as strange as it may appear the drivers of two of the teams could not tell us what county in Ohio they came from. Each referred to that "'feller' ahead there. He is boss." The "feller ahead" informed us that they came from Hardin county, Ohio, and had been eight days on the road making about twenty-five miles a day. He said further that they were going to Oregon, but did not know the name of the county in that state that they were going to. The exit of those people from Ohio will be no detriment in the point of intelligence to the Buckeye people by leaving. But what will the people of Oregon think of the newcomers.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1995

On the Road in 1929
By Allan D. White
© 1995

The late Sara Mertz Allen (1906-1994) supplemented her Manchester College art classes by attending summer art courses for credit at John Herron Art School (Indianapolis) and at Winona Lake during the summers of 1929 and 1930. These were, she recalled, classes in poster design and outdoor sketching.

Sally attended Manchester College 1924-1928 and upon graduation was hired to teach art and music at Burnettsville, near which she had been reared, and Idaville in rural White County. She was professor of art at Manchester College from 1930 until 1939 when her husband, Max, began his long career there as her successor. But that is another story!

In addition to their learning experiences the Herron and Winona Lake classes were places to meet a number of new friends from the membership of those courses. With one such couple whom Sally befriended it was suggested they take an outing into Brown county during the fourth of July break.

This kind of outing, for us in the year 1995, offers few automotive challenges, and most of our needs are met by fairly accessible accommodations. Indeed, we take for granted the fast food stores and service stations with their clean restrooms and seemingly never-ending supply of fuel in our competitive world, and we move about freely on well-paved and well-marked roads.

In 1929, however, such was not the case. Except for the slower pace of life, the expression, "Are we there yet?" had more meaning, relative to the difficulty of getting to and from at that time.

Sally related that she was driving a 1928 Chevy two-door, black of course, with a running board. She had bought it for $600. There was a baggage rack on the driver's side. When it was new, say, the first 500 miles, the car could only be driven only 30 miles per hour, but Sally and her sister, Ruth, initiated the new car by taking off, undaunted, for Oregon, Illinois, six miles from Mount Morris, where they visited an aunt and uncle.

The car was a four-cylinder model which used scarcely any gasoline when compared to today's six and eight cylinder motors.

The gas pump of the 1920s was a tall iron and glass column with a lever on the side. By pumping the hand lever back and forth, gasoline was raised from the reservoir into the wire-mesh reinforced glass cylinder near the top of the column. Then the amount of gas which you requested was released from the cylinder through the hose into the tank of your car.

When you needed to get to a town or locality with which you were not familiar, it was wise to ask instructions for the "best" way, because there was little or no signage and no maps to help you along the way. Since few of the roads had been improved (paved), one never knew in what condition they might be found. No two people in the car would agree on the oral instructions which they had heard, and family feuding might ensue!

If you had to go to the bathroom, among your options, quite unlike ours today, might be a country schoolhouse or church with its primitive, outdoor privy. That was not much of an option by our standards and even less so in cold weather!

The outing to Brown County, by the way, had a happy ending, even though the car went dead in front of a Brown County house with a rickety porch, described as "typical" of the times. There was no answer when Sally knocked at the door of the house, but another car with a man, a woman, and a child, came by and stopped to offer help.

The man opened the hood of Sally's car and, after nosing around, asked her if she had a hairpin. With Sally at his elbow, he proceeded to repair a disrupted connection using the simple wire hairpin! Later she surprised her passengers by "fixing" the car herself!

The art-class tourists were on their way again...on the road in 1929.

[Drawing by Allan White of the Rush Gasoline Pump, Rush Manufacturing Corp., Lafayette, Indiana]