the BEACON Newspaper, Indiana beacon1-19 - Page 7

January 2019 THE BEACON Page 7A The Challenge of Change Anonymous Transportation was so different at the turn of the century. Long-range transpor- tation across the United States was by rail. Roads were short- range paths between destina- tions. While many rural roads existed, less than ten percent of them were more than just plain dirt. And then, change came. That change was the au- tomobile. Personal transporta- tion was instantly available by automobile so long as a path was available to a destination. In 1912, an Indiana vision- ary, Carl Fisher, proposed and started to build a 3,398-mile highway from New York City to San Francisco. He named the highway after his hero, President Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Highway was just plain unimproved dirt, but it provided a way for an automobile to travel across the United States. When completed, the normal trip by automobile took at least a month. As time went by, the highway was improved. The first modern improve- ment came in 1923 and was a stretch of highway 1.3 miles long in northern Indiana be- tween Dyer and Schererville in Lake County. The improved highway was forty feet wide, made of eight inches of con- crete, and could support 8,000 pounds per vehicle wheel. Still, almost all of the Lincoln Highway was unimproved dirt. The normal upgrade was to cover the highways with straw. A “strawed” highway kept down the dust and made it easier to slog through mud. In 1926, the U.S. Government began numbering highways. The Lincoln Highway was designated U.S. Highway 30. As highway construction made automobile travel more convenient, demand for automobiles grew. Auto- mobile companies became competitive and struggled for acceptance by the consumer. Promotional events became a common way to advertise and prove the reliability of automobiles. One such promotion was driving from coast to coast challenging the speed record. That challenge was taken by three men from Southeast Indiana. To set the record, three men were necessary. They would eat and sleep in the car while driving 24-hours a day. First was Wil- liam Harrington of Milan. Mr. Harrington owned a Chev- rolet dealership and garage in Moores Hill. He owned the car. He was sponsored by the Chevrolet Company. The second was Albert Kleine, also of Milan. Mr. Kleine was the garage’s mechanic, and his skill was necessary for completion of the trip. For the third man, they needed an in- trepid driver. They found that man in Norman Weatherford of Dillsboro. Mr. Weatherford delivered mail in a Chevrolet between Dillsboro and Bear Branch. He prided himself on “getting the mail through, regardless of conditions.” He forded raging streams and let no weather stop him. They were the perfect three to challenge the record. The Chevrolet Company ar- ranged for their dealerships throughout the United States to participate in the project. The dealers would provide stops for gasoline and would supply a basket of food to be eaten while driving. They drove a Chevrolet that had 13,000 miles on it. They took out the right front seat and made a bed on the right side of the car. One would drive, one would sit behind the driver, and one would sleep. Each would drive 100 miles and, then, shift positions. The route led from Baltimore, Maryland to Los Angeles, California. Most of the route followed Highway 30, the Lincoln Highway. Western Union was the official time- keeper. The Chevrolet Com- pany approached each state they would pass through and request an exemption from the speed limit. The exemp- tion was granted by each state with the exception of Indiana, which told them they were expected to obey the law. The trio drove from Indiana to Baltimore, Maryland where the challenge began at 12:01 AM on August 30, 1926. The driving was a challenge, but sometimes monotonous, at a normal speed of about 45 miles an hour. Their big- gest challenge seemed to be the weather. There was, abnormally, more rain than expected. That made those William Harrington and Albert Kleine of Milan, and Norman Weatherford of Dillsboro. “unstrawed” roads difficult and slowed them consider- ably. Still, they sped along until they were stopped and arrested in Indiana by the police for exceeding the speed limit. Proceeding with their speeding ticket in the glove compartment, they picked up speed after leaving Indiana and were still on schedule to set a record of 92 hours for the trip. Then, Kansas be- came a problem. Until then, they had only minor prob- lems affording quick repair. As they traveled in the dark of night through torrential Kansas rains, they hit an unseen drainage ditch cross- ing the road. Their windshield shattered and the two front tires blew out. They had no option but to limp, with the wind and rain in their faces, the next hundred miles to a Chevrolet dealership for help. Getting back on the road, they saw that their objec- tive was in jeopardy. They pressed on at the best speeds they could attain. The rest of the trip was less eventful, but they all agreed that Needles, California was the hottest place they had ever been in all their lives. They arrived at the Western Union office in Los Angeles at 4:56 AM on September 2, 1926. Adjust- ing for the difference in time zones, they made the trip in 100 hours and 55 minutes; not a record but the fastest trip ever made by an automobile in Chevrolet’s price range. The trip back to Indiana was less eventful and much more pleasurable. They took their time and did lots of sightsee- ing at national parks. They arrived home with exciting stories of their trip that are still related, especially as they are passed down through their families. As we admire astronauts who challenge traveling into space, a drive from coast to coast seems insignificant. Our challenges are shaped by the technologies that allow them. We look back and still admire the bravery of three Indiana men who challenged the rig- ors of a trip across the United States. They were as much heroes to us, then, as our astronauts are today. We still remember Bill Harrington, Albert Kleine, and Norman “Speedy” Weatherford. No Wait Immunizations, personal service. • Whooping Cough • Shingles • Pneumonia • Flu DeVille’s Dillsboro Drug Store 12836 North St. Dillsboro, IN 47018 812-432-5684 DeVille’s Rising Sun Pharmacy 223 Main St. Rising Sun, IN 47040 812-438-3400 DeVille’s Lawrenceburg Pharmacy and Medical Supply 401 W Eads Parkway, Suite 270 Lawrenceburg, IN 47025 812-537-1798 SHOP LOCAL and tell our advertisers you saw their ads in The BEACON!