VIGNETTE > Encountering an Automobile
The oral history of a resident born in 1904 documents an experience on the road to San Quentin in 1910. “My big sister went ahead on her pony, heard the putt-putt of a car way far away, came dashing back, laughing with joy, and said, ‘An automobile is coming, Papa.’ My father got red in the face, and reined in the horses, against the bank. My mother held tight to the baby and I held tight to her.
When the automobile got near us, he screamed, ‘How can you have such a dreadful thing with that awful odor? You just be careful! Don’t you get us off the road!’ Sometimes the horses would raise their whole bodies into the air. And they would whinny. And they would act up so badly that once in a while, one of the horses would get its foot on the shaft! And my father would get out. And he’d be swearing at the top of his lungs, and trying to get that horse off the shaft. Sometimes he had to take the harness off. He would yell and scream with fury at the modern age. And my mother would say, ‘Don’t let the children hear you speak like that!’”
For more on this story read: Helen Eells: A Trip to San Quentin Prison