The World Was Wider


Does everyone have a “magic moment” in childhood; so joyful it fosters a lifelong fascination?


When I was five years old and playing in the front yard, I was stunned by the awesome sight of an automobile passing by.  It was black and shiny with large rounded glass windows and it was being steered by Mrs. Smith, the richest lady in town.   She looked straight ahead as she guided the machine with a lever at her knee and a lavender chiffon hat perched on her head like a bird’s nest, much in the manner of Queen Mary.  From that moment on, I was smitten with automobiles.


It was the period between the end of the horse and buggy era and the time when the Red Baron was totaling his encounters that the products of Henry Ford were delighting everyone.


Our father traded in his motorcycle when his family could no longer fit into the sidecar, so the automobile became the source of our pride and joy.


No matter if one slid down muddy hills sideways or had to have lap robes on in the winter.  No matter if ruts were so deep there was little chance of passing another car or pedestrian or if dusty winds blew off hats and hair bows and cranking sometimes caused sprains or broken bones.  No matter, too, if the snapping on of isinglass side curtains that cut the view a bit-there was a moving panorama to be enjoyed-the-word-was-wider!


People on the sidewalks would wave greetings to passing automobiles.  Mr Criuikshank drove a large enough car to pile nine of the neighborhood kids in it, for a trip to a swimming hole.  On the way, folks would shout warnings to him, and he would yell back “It’s okay – I’ve got a big basket for all the pieces that drop off.”


When roads became better and a boxy Studebaker entered our lives, we liked to read the Burma Shave signs that marched along the side of the road.  ‘DON’T STICK YOUR ELBOW OUT SO FAR IT MAY GO HOME IN ANOTHER CAR’ or ‘TRAINS DON’T WANDER ALL OVER THE MAP CAUSE NOBODY SITS IN THE ENGINEER’S LAP, BURMA SHAVE.’


One day, when Mother stayed home, Dad got the car up to fifty miles an hour.  That was a double thrill because we knew that the racer, Barney Oldfield had won a cup at that speed.


Now with superhighways the “emphasis seems to be on the destination.”  However, I like to remember when the real fun was “just in getting there.”


Mary Elizabeth Mruzik

Pacific, Missouri