(Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the growth of roads and transportation in Georgia and Bulloch County beginning in 1807.)
In 1916, the “Autoists” were required to have rear lights on their cars, which were operating at night. Owners of these autos had to do everything themselves at first. For some 10 years, all fuel had to be hauled from Savannah by wagon or train.
If the vehicle broke down, most drivers had a box full of various parts to replace faulty components on the spot. As a matter of fact, the first "In and Out" gas station was opened in April 1920 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 the “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 railroad's safety instructions for railroad crossings, they stationed observers at each crossing.
The results: that day, 2,828 cars and wagons crossed. Not even one was seen stopping at the crossing before continuing on its merry way. The observers reported that not a single 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 for many years to come.
In 1938, it was decided that all cars in Statesboro must be registered with the city at a cost 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 and Everret-Metzger-Flanders, to name just a few.
However, there were also brands we know today: Fords, General Motors and Chryslers. There were even a few imports available: Simcas, Fiats and Cortinas.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.