While browsing through the September 14, 1916, edition of The Sheridan Advance, I came across this article detailing the misadventure of some local band boys, a Cadillac, and a tuba. The article painted such a vivid picture that, as I read, I couldn’t help but imagine myself at the scene, the mother of one of those good-hearted, reckless band boys. I shook my head, smoothed my imaginary apron, and breathed a sigh of relief that everyone landed unscathed. Well, except for the tuba. I suppose young Robert had some explaining to do about the tuba.
DROVE AUTO IN PLATTE RIVER
Harry Hotaling drove the Hotaling Cadillac automobile in the river just east of Sheridan Friday afternoon. The only damage to the car was a broken front wheel. Besides the driver the occupants of the car were Robert Bell, Ashley Hotaling, and Halbert Kibbe, all band boys. None were hurt. Bell’s large B flat tuba was badly mashed.
The boys were driving the pilot car for the booster delegation that was touring the county advertising the tabernacle meeting at Grant City. They were not driving very fast–just about the way the average driver comes along the good roads of Platte bottom, but the driver says he was not attending to business as he should have been. As he came within a few rods of the bridge he noticed a car already crossing. His foot brakes failed him and some of the car decorations were in the way of his levers and he could not get to them. Rather than drive his car into Garfield Calkins, who was on the bridge, he drove over the bank into the river. The bank at this place is at least twenty feet high and steep. Hotaling jumped as the car left the bank. Kibbe and Bell managed to fall into the river and young Hotaling rode the car to the bottom and then deliberately stood up and took a high dive into the soothing waters of Platte. This quieted his nerves some. When the car left the bank it was headed northwest across the river. About half way down the left hind wheel of the car struck the bank and turned the car straight across the river, and this perhaps saved the machine from upsetting.
Calkins brought the boys to town immediately and Beezley took teams and men and pulled the car to his shop. A car might make the same flop a thousand times and kill all the occupants each time. The boys were indeed lucky to escape with their lives. Most drivers would prefer a collision.
I really don’t know what I love the most about this article. The author spoke with regretful amusement as he told the tale with both patient allowance made for the boys’ sense of high drama, and relief that they were not injured. I also love how the boys freely admitted to all the doofus errors that led to the accident. The failure of the brakes, the decorations in the way of the levers, the TUBA? I can just imagine the atmosphere inside that car. Add four teenaged boys in high spirits, and I’m sure they weren’t ‘attending to business’ at all. I adore the way Harry Hotaling chose to fly off the bank rather than risk smashing up someone else’s car (called an automobile back then–cars were trains). And I love how Ashley Hotaling dove into the Platte after plunging down the bank of the river. Well, why not? Might as well. And I love how Mr. Beezley organized efforts to go pull the Cadillac out of the river, with teams of horses, no less. So much for that Caddy, Mr. Hotaling.
But most of all, I love that this story made the front page of The Sheridan Advance, right next to the announcement for the Booster Ladies Meeting and the Rickabaugh and Wilson Colt Show. I think Sheridan, Missouri, sounds like a most excellent small town. I wish I could have visited it back in 1916.