MARBLE FALLS—As the Roaring Twenties neared to a not so roaring or glorious conclusion, Herbert Hoover was in the White House on a four-year pass. Babe Ruth was in the middle of his incomparable career as a Yankee. The Golden Age of Radio—with Hope and Crosby and Benny—was approaching, along, most unfortunately with The Great Depression.
Also on the road to a much longer life was the Ford Model A, built from 1928 to 1931 to replace the 20-year-old Model T. The cast of characters just mentioned and the events of the era are in libraries, book stores, and on the screen now, but the Model A continues to honk its way to a journey of an infinite number of miles.
“You’re in the memory business,” said Dave Whitaker of Colleyville in the Metroplex. “You can see a flood of memories—‘Oh, my dad had one’—come over people’s faces when they see your car.”
Dave and Rosemary Whitaker possess a 1931 Deluxe Phaeton, and it was one of a couple hundred Model A’s that were part of the Texas Tour, June 15-17.
Marble Falls was where Henry Ford would have seen his company’s creation in the dozens, while Johnson City was a bonus destination. You were catching a glimpse of time 80 years ago, as these representatives of a bygone era rested side-by-side in a portrait of Americana.
John Grivet parked his red 1931 car only a few yards from the boyhood home of Lyndon Johnson. “He accomplished a lot I guess,” said the man from Conroe. “He was not my favorite president—but he was president.”
Bill Todt of San Antonio observed in the shadow of Lady Bird Lane, “To think that he lived here and drove to the State Capitol. It’s exciting to be near a piece of history.”
When Todt was married, he boasted, “I drove my 1929 Model A to my wedding, Valentine’s Day, 1982.” Bought in 1971, “I had the car painted (blue) before the wedding, but not since. “Something borrowed, something blue….”
Ace Polson of Haslet, Texas, drove maybe the most unique vehicle of the Tour. Unique could be used for numerous members of this crowd, but Polson showed off a 1929 mail truck.
“I’ve probably had 20,000 pictures taken of it in the five years I’ve had it,” declared Polson. “A lot of postmen want to see it, and they want their Postmasters to see it.”
Is it comfortable? “Very uncomfortable, most uncomfortable you’ll ever drive—no power steering, no power brakes, no air conditioning.”
Why did he buy it? “No idea, just came to me one day.”
Jerry Cowan has a home below Inks Lake Dam in Llano County and an automobile more than eight decades old. His fascination with the hobby is, “I just had money I wanted to spend.” His Model A cost $12,000, and he’s put six or eight thousand into cosmetic and repair work.
“You take the back roads,” Cowan insists, “and you think it’s 1930.”
Right and Wrong
“I don’t know how to drive it,” Rosemary Whitaker says, “but it is a lot of fun. Our car (1931) was originally from Uruguay with the steering wheel on the right-hand side. Dave converted it to the left.
I asked the husband, “Is it safe?”
“No, Hell no, but that’s not going to stop us.”
When the weekend ended, it was back on the highways and the less-beaten tracks to return home.
The drivers would not hide their Model A’s in a garage. They might have errands to run tomorrow. Quite possibly, they would turn into a shopping mall, and the latest round of stares would engulf the antiques.
The onlookers would muse about the people who first drove these cars—what had become of them through a Depression and wars and good times, too? A picture of time long ago was right before them, but the truth about the travels of this car and its inhabitants would remain an eternal mystery.