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Bulloch History with Roger Allen

Bulloch ‘autoists’ here to stay

On October 29, 1914, J. A. Brannen reported that there were more than 400 autos in all of Bulloch County. Not everybody was thrilled with these new contrivances: an editorial reported that “farmers found that the cost of keeping an automobile in repair and operation is more than the cost of keeping horses to perform the same tasks.”  By 1915, even more rules had been written: the speed in town was now 8 mph, and 15 mph elsewhere; and it was declared that there was to be no “promiscuous use of horns for noise making” by their drivers. Policemen were stationed in the middle of major intersections, from whence they chastised those drivers who failed to obey the new rules.
    Furthermore, it was a law that all drivers were to keep to the side of the road – no one was to drive down the center of the road taking it all up for themselves. Furthermore, it was decided that there was to be no driving on Sundays, as part of the war conservation efforts. Those who disobeyed this rule found their names published in the Statesboro paper. In 1916, the “Autoists” were required to have rear lights on their cars that were operating at night. Owners of these autos had to do everything themselves at first. For some ten years all fuel had to be hauled from Savannah by wagon or train, and drivers were to carry their own supply at all times. If the vehicle broke down, most drivers had a box of some sort full of various parts to be replaced by them on the spot.
    As a matter of fact, the first “In and Out’ gas station was opened until April of 1920 right across the street from the famous Jaeckel Hotel. The issue of underage drivers soon began to appear: there was a $10 fine (quite a lot in those days), the car license tags were taken by the court, and a warrant would most likely be issued for the owner of the vehicle. In 1929, the town saw its first set of stop signs appear at major intersections. All drivers on paved roads had the right of way, and drivers on the dirt roads were to give way.
    When Bulloch County proposed building a new road through the Sinkhole District, 123 citizens signed a petition charging that this “building of special roads for the favored few” was unfair and should be stopped. Obviously, not everyone had accepted automobiles as a part of their daily lives.
    In 1917, the Central of Georgia Railroad started a new campaign: the Safety First" program. In order to see how many people in cars obeyed the railroads safety instructions for railroad crossings, they stationed observers at each crossing: The results: that day 2,828 cars and wagons crossed their lines, and not even one was seen stopping at the crossing before continuing on its merry way. The observers reported that not even one driver even bothered to look in either or both directions before crossing the tracks. To them, it was obvious Bulloch's motorists felt that they ruled the roads. Accidents between cars and trains remained a regular occurrence throughout the county.
    In 1938, it was decided that all cars in Statesboro must be registered with the city, at a cost of between $2 and $10 per year. At the same time, another 108 people began circulating another petition to permanently ban vehicles from the city at night. It also failed to pass. There were so many brands and types of automobiles for sale in Savannah (and Statesboro) that it defied description: There were Chalmers, Terraplanes, Velies, Kaisers, Overlands, Essexs, LaSalles, DeSotos, Willys, Coles, Everret-Metzger-Flanders, to name just a few. However, there were also the brands we know today: Fords, General Motors, and Chryslers. There were even a few Imports available: Simcas, Fiats, and Cortinas.
During the Depression, some Bulloch Countians showed their ingeniousness by building what became referred to as "Hoover Carts" wagon bodies mounted on used auto chassis, hauled by either one or a pair of mules. One thing was certain: Bulloch County's "Autoists" were here to stay.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger dodger53@hotmail.com

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