Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rev. Thomas D. Clark: The Day His New Model-T Truck Met the Fence Post

Photograph: Rev. Thomas D. Clark and wife Ella Spence posing in their Model-T truck.

Henry Ford built the first automobile that most every person could afford. It was a reliable and easy to repair vehicle when it did break down. All over the country folks were buying this new auto, nicknamed the “Tin Lizzie.” And as the auto became cheaper to build, the prices dropped accordingly until it reached a low price of $260 during 1925.

With the advent of the Tin Lizzie, the horse and buggy days of Itawamba County were numbered. Many farm families across the county began saving their money and buying automobiles..

Rev. Thomas D. Clark was once such farmer who was also a Methodist minister. He made the long trek by wagon to Tupelo from eastern Itawamba County to purchase his long-awaited Model-T truck, although he had never driven an automobile before. The salesman who sold him the truck gave him a quick lesson on how to drive and probably instructed him how to stop the vehicle as well.

Unfortunately Thomas didn’t remember the stopping part of the cursory lesson. When Clark turned north off the old Bankhead Highway east of Tremont to return to his farm on the old dusty road, he passed his son’s farm. His grandchildren had been waiting and watching in the farmhouse yard with eager anticipation, wanting to catch a glimpse of their grandpa pass in his shiny new truck. Hearing the mechanical sounds of the engine off in the distance invading the silence, the excitement grew, but as Clark and his shiny new truck neared the house, he passed right by without even looking or waving to them. He quickly tipped his hat and kept right on driving full speed ahead with his complete thoughts on operating this modern piece of machinery, while leaving his grandchildren in a dusty cloud.

A few minutes later, when he finally made it to his farmhouse, he continued to drive around the house three times, trying his best to recall the quick lesson dealing with stopping the truck. Failing to recall that part of the quick driving lesson offered him by the salesman in Tupelo, he finally ran the truck into a solid cedar fence post. That stopped the truck just fine and didn’t damage his Tin Lizzie one bit. Trucks were built better then.

Adapted from an article by society member Nelda Clark Reeves that appeared in the June 1984 issue of Itawamba Settlers magazine, the quarterly membership magazine of the Itawamba Historical Society.

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