Column: Worthington had some renowned cars for a renowned pilotWORTHINGTON — I was trying to remember if I ever rode in one of Henry Ford’s Model Ts. I think I never did.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I was trying to remember if I ever rode in one of Henry Ford’s Model Ts. I think I never did.
I saw a lot of Model Ts. I remember especially Frankie Andersons’s Model T delivery truck. Frankie delivered grocery orders up and down Worthington’s streets for Carl Weppler’s grocery and Harold Brown’s grocery. The date 1923 comes to mind for that delivery truck. Frankie toted groceries in wooden boxes that he could collapse when they were emptied.
I rode in Model A’s. I had a relative who owned a Model A. Worthington still had a few Model A’s right up to the end of World War II. I believe someone drove a restored Model A pickup in several Turkey Day parades.
By the outbreak of World War II, Ford was producing streamlined models that never appeared related to the early Fords. The 1940 Fords have a memorable V-shaped, chrome grill of close-spaced, parallel vertical strips. Mike Wolfe on “American Pickers” paid quite a bit of money — several hundred dollars — for one of those Ford grills lately.
The thing that got me started on these old cars was a young visitor who did not know the story of Amelia Earhart spending five summers of her girlhood at Worthington. This is why we should have some of those bronze historical markers that are popular in Sioux Falls and South Dakota. There is history we need to preserve. I thought everyone knew Amelia’s story, and I thought I never would include Amelia in another column.
There is a familiar tale of Amelia and her sister Muriel, along with the two M.P. Mann daughters, Grace and Genevieve, and — oh, others — on a cross-country trip to the Graham Lakes for a picnic. Less familiar is the story of how they got to the picnic site. Amelia and Muriel rode in an automobile for the first time. In her reminiscence, “Amelia, My Courageous Sister,” Muriel writes:
“…We celebrated Genevieve’s 16th birthday by having a picnic at a lake about 20 miles from Worthington. We usually … took the Manns’ buckboard to our picnics, and Amelia and I took turns riding the long-suffering [pony] Prince. This time, however, we made the journey in two touring cars, a REO and a Stoddard-Dayton. This was the first time any in our family rode in an automobile.
“We covered 20 miles in less than two hours because the roads were packed hard and we had no tire punctures to delay us. Clinton Mann, who drove the REO, took Amelia and me, sitting on the front seat beside him. He said he preferred not having to listen to a lady complain about the noise and smell of the engine. … Dad remarked, ‘An engine still hasn’t the sense a horse had about a hole in the road…’”
One thing especially interesting is that the Earharts and Manns were traveling in pretty fancy cars.
The Stoddard-Dayton was manufactured between 1906 and 1913 by the John Stoddard company. Stoddard Motor Co. The Dayton name had nothing to do with Minnesota’s Dayton family. Stoddard’s company was located in Dayton, Ohio.
If you see a photo of a Stoddard-Dayton (check the Internet) you will say, “I would like one of those!” It is a spiffy car, and it was a sensation in its time. A Stoddard-Dayton won the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909, averaging 57 miles per hour. By 1911, it was made the official Indy pace car. How a Stoddard-Dayton got to Worthington — how it came to roll cross-country from Worthington to Graham Lakes — remains unknown.
The REO in which the Earhart sisters rode front seat also was a classy, classic car. Ransom E. Olds owned the company that made Oldsmobiles. He sold that company and opened a new auto company at Lansing, Mich. He named his new auto plant the R. E. Olds Motor Car Company, but the Olds Motor Works owners objected. Ransom Olds bowed to their objections and began building cars with his initials: REO.
By 1907, the first summer the Earharts spent at Worthington, REO gross sales were $4.5 million. But how did a REO get to Worthington?
We only know the Manns drove fancy cars.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.