By Lily Kongslien
Special to the Star Journal
As I sat in my back yard and watched the traffic streaming by, I could not help but compare our many modern means of getting around with the way our parents and grandparents traveled. An airplane in the sky overhead made me remember Steve Shalbreck, and his plane out at the old fair grounds area, which was off Coon Street, in the area where UPS is located now, and the treat it was to get a short ride over the city. A visit to our airport today proves many people depend on our air service to get around quickly and safely. Time is of the essence for most of us today; events in the world and the need for things to be done quickly make it necessary for fast transportation.
There seems to be more trucks on the streets and highways today. Years ago trucks were used by farmers, and the large trucks were not as plentiful because of the railroads we had then. Back then cars were not necessarily only used for recreational use but for business purposes and trips to the city for groceries and supplies. Coups, sedans and station wagons were the most popular vehicles along with the railroad that were used for long distance trips. There were stations located along the railroad tracks at every little town or village across the country. Passenger and freight trains were busy hauling not only passengers but log, coal, chemicals and general freight. The passenger trains would stop at any station along their route to pick up or discharge passengers. Back then the many paper mills depended on logs, which in those days were made into pulp at the mills. The mail was brought to stations along the route; how well I remember watching and helping Mable Thayer, Postmaster in McNaughton, get the heavy canvas bag of out-going mail up onto the hook so that if there was no reason for the train to stop at the station, the train personnel would catch the bag of mail as they whizzed by. The incoming mail bag was tossed on the station platform and it would be picked up and taken back to the store/post office and then sorted. This was done once a day during the week. Trains are now almost extinct and the large semis are used for hauling freight, buses and airplanes and private cars are used for transporting people to their destinations. Today in our fast world, TIME IS MONEY and we find the need for fast transportation.
Other means of getting from one place to another, such as motorcycles, bicycles, ATVs and snowmobiles are used by many even today for getting to their jobs and for recreational sport. Skiing in the winter today is mainly recreation, but years ago it meant a quick way of travel in the winter as we could cross rivers, lakes and creeks and get to our destination while having fun in the outdoors. Snowshoes did not get us places fast but they would keep us on top of heavy snow drifts. Walking was expected of all family members and the family car was not used if walking would get us to our destination even though it took much longer. Hitch-hiking was common and most people who owned cars were very willing to pick up people walking along the roads and highways. Rowing a boat or paddling a canoe was fun and provided excellent transportation if our destination was available by way of water.
Getting back to cars, keeping them in working condition was the owner’s problem; however, the uncomplicated cars of yesteryear did not require special tools – a screwdriver, hammer, some wire and lubricant of some sort. Back when the car replaced the horse and buggy, we thought we were really progressing! The horse needed oats to keep it going and the car needed gasoline. I believe we are all glad that the automobile replaced the horse and buggy of our grandparent’s day.
The next time you look up into the sky to watch a plane fly by or see a shiny new car go down the highway, let’s remember how far we’ve come in our transportation methods and be thankful we need to buy gas and not oats! In this modern day we are crowding more life into each moment, hour and day. Enjoy each moment!