Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

You Had to be Your Own Mechanic

Early in the last century, auto clubs and road associations began to form. One of the first things they did was organize automobile routes, which they called “blazings.” Then they marked their blazings accordingly.

Ralph Arnold said that one of the first routes through Van Buren County was known as the “Cornbelt Highway Blazing” and was identified by a yellow stripe between two green stripes. Another route was the Blue Grass Road, which had a blue stripe between two white ones. Road signs were usually oval, made of wood, and were hand-painted. A map painted on a barn west of Stockport once showed part of the Blue Grass Route through that area.

Besides maps, early road atlases contained a great deal of information for the traveler, including accommodations available along the way. Since blacksmiths were becoming auto repairmen, these shops were sometimes listed. Garages, restaurants, hotels and rooming houses were advertised, often including their prices.

According to the 1912 Huebenger Atlas, the Brewer Hotel in Stockport offered rooms for $1.50 per person, per night. For the same popular price, you could also spend the night at Stumps or at Parks in Birmingham.

Farmington was advertised “on the Waubonsie Trail,” with three places to stay overnight. The Pilot House and Scotten’s were each priced at $2 while the Atchison only wanted $1.50 per person. Mechanics in Farmington could make new parts for automobiles, if necessary.

In the atlas was an interesting advertisement for “vulcanized” tires. Tires manufactured a century ago were far less tough and durable, thus the vulcanizing process improved them considerably. It cured the rubber with high heat and sulfur, making the tire springy and resistant to outside forces.

Even with “vulcanized tires,” it was still necessary for motorists to carry a tire-patching kit with them. Each kit contained a jack, a hand-operated tire pump, tube patches, tire boots and the proper tools used to remove the tire and replace it. Included also were tools for making minor vehicle repairs as each driver had to be his own mechanic.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick