The Long-Distance Romance

Last year the Washington Post carried an interesting article, “The Myth of the American Love Affair With Cars.” It quoted Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia, who says this alleged romantic relationship between American males and their tin Lizzies was actually “one of the biggest public relations coups of all time . . . always treated as folk wisdom . . . [but] everyone forgets it was invented as a public relations campaign.”

In their earliest iterations, automobiles were considered by both city-dwellers and rural folks as loud, obnoxious machines that scared horses they depended upon for transportation, endangered pedestrians and didn’t know how to share the road with streetcars, carriages and bicycles. That was bad enough; then it became necessary to upgrade the infrastructure demanded by increasing numbers of autos and multi-car families. By 1960, people became concerned that the planned interstate system was going to destroy neighborhoods (which it did). There were grassroots movements protesting the idea of altering the landscape and quality of life to accommodate all these machines. Joni Mitchell sang, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Norton says the idea of the so-called “love affair” was coined in response to these protests. After all, how can you argue against love? In 1961 DuPont owned 23 percent of General Motors; they also sponsored a television program called the DuPont Show of the Week. So they aired an episode, narrated by Groucho Marx, titled “Merrily We Roll Along,” which purported to tell “the story of America’s love affair with the automobile.”

The WP article concludes, “In the half century since then, we have largely rebuilt American communities to accommodate this love, retrofitting cities to make space for cars, bulldozing old buildings so that we can park them, constructing new communities where it’s not possible to get around without them.”

Well, whether the human+car love affair is fact or fabrication, certainty or supposition, I know one thing is true . . . the folks in my family sure loved to pose with their wheels.

Hollingworth sisters

The Hollingworth sisters, 2 cousins 1 rem

ray wild2

Ray Wild, grandfather

Martine yewell

Martine Yewell, 4 cousin 2 rem

jesse shirley

Jesse Shirley, 4 cousin 3 rem

samuel shirley

Samuel Shirley, 4 cousin 3 rem

joseph henry corbett

Joseph Henry Corbett, 3 cousin 1 rem

wm & Florence Collins

Florence Kelly Collins, 3 cousin 1 rem

roy broyles

Roy Broyles, 5 cousin 2 rem

owen branscum

Owen Branscum, 7 cousin

lolen owens

Lolen Owens, husb. of 4 cousin 2 rem

vernon meyerhoffr

Vernon Meyerhoeffer, 6 cousin 1 rem

foster bolin broyles

Foster Broyles, 6 cousin 1 rem

will yager2

Will Yager, 6 cousin 1 rem

dw35

Ezra Mae, Ann, David Wild, mother, s-i-l, brother

dw19

David Wild, brother

dw12

David Wild, brother

dw9

David & Jack Wild, brother, father

laila wild11

Laila Wild, aunt

erma wild4

Erma Wild, aunt

steve cox

Steve Cox, nephew

bill cox

Bill, Pam, Cindy & Steve Cox, b-in-law, nieces, nephew

One thought on “The Long-Distance Romance

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