Last night I was watching a Masterpiece Theater film which had Victoria, Queen of England, and her entourage, traveling to Scotland for a vacation, traveling by horse-drawn coach, inching across the landscape on unpaved roads which were little more than dirt paths. Traveling is so very different these days. And yet, those days of horse-drawn transportation were the rule, not the exception, in the days of not so long ago. How long ago were the 1880s or the year 1919?
So much change has taken place in the last 100 years that I suppose to some younger people "the old days" don't really seem real, and those ways of traveling must have been in some other world, not our world. But I'm thinking, those were very intelligent people, our forebearers, who back then, before automobiles and aircraft, before computers and smart phones, were living great lives, struggling with great issues, conceiving great enterprises, and aspiring to advance the quality of human life. We would not be where we are today but for the lives of those people who lived back then. We fool ourselves if we suppose that the technological advancements that we take for granted today automatically make us better people, or smarter people, or more important people, or that everything that those people thought and wrote and advocated for back then is unimportant for our new world today.
In 1919, our town of Pea Ridge was considerably different from the city we know today. It was, of course, much smaller.
The Pea Ridge business district was basically a two-block east/west strip which we now think of as "Old Downtown" on Pickens Street. The Pea Ridge residential district extended from the street we now call Pike Street southward to present day Patton Street. Only a few houses were located on today's McColluch Street. That would begin changing in the 1950s.
Pea Ridge 100 years ago had only three or four churches, all except possibly one being located on the street we call Davis Street today. The Pea Ridge College closed in 1916, so in 1919 the old college building was housing the new Pea Ridge Public High School, as well as the public primary school which had operated in the college building since 1884. By 1919, the downtown store buildings, which originally were of wood-frame construction, had been undergoing a decade of upgrading. Beginning with the construction of the original Bank of Pea Ridge building in 1911, the entire east block had undergone transformation, and all the store buildings from the main intersection east to the Tetrick Building had changed from wood-frame structures to concrete block. The beginnings of the transformation of the west block would come later, with the first red brick structure being built at the intersection in 1928. In 1919, Pea Ridge had two hotels, one located at the corner of today's Pickens and Davis streets, and one at the northwest corner of the main intersection. There were also two grocery stores in that "now old-fashioned" west block.
In 1919, on coming to town in Pea Ridge, one would still see many horses, many hitched to buggies or farm wagons, and others simply bearing saddles. We don't think the riders were wearing six-shooters, although we suppose that six-shooters were common out in the wild, wild west of the late 1800s. Since back 100 years ago Saturdays were "going to town days," horses and buggies would be tied up on both sides of the downtown street, and the parking lot located at the site of the main section of today's TH Rogers Hardware would have been full of farm wagons and waiting teams. But, in 1919, automobiles and motor trucks were beginning to show up in Pea Ridge in significant numbers. The age of motor vehicles was dawning and advancing quickly, and the era of horse-drawn transportation was beginning to fade. I am especially thinking today about great old makes of cars that are not around anymore. The automobile and truck industry has always seen many start-ups and company failures, but the last 50 years, and especially the last 20 years has seen the demise of some really long-time stalwart car-makers. For example, the Oldsmobile was around since the beginning of motorized vehicles. Now, Oldsmobiles are no longer being produced. In my generation, the Pontiac was a mainstay.
But the Pontiac is no more except for preserved vehicles rescued by enthusiasts. The same is true of the Plymouth, the DeSoto, the Studebaker, the Kaiser and Frasier, and the great, elegant old Packard, a grand, prestige car which ranked with Cadillac, Lincoln, LaSalle, Hudson, and other fine cars of the first half of the 1900s. Willys cars were once respected mid-range cars, and the Willys company produced the famous "Jeep" of World War II. Now, Jeep survives as a part of the Chrysler Corporation. Today's car market not only features the traditional American producers such as General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, but includes makes originating in other countries -- makes such as Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Mitsubishi, Nissan/Infiniti, Suburu, Isusu and others.
My cousin, Bill Sisk, and I, once tried to invent a new kind of car engine. I want to talk about that next time.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 621-1621.Editorial on 01/09/2019
Print Headline: Thinking back to 1919