Coming of the Automobile
You could safely refer to the years preceding 1918 as the horse and buggy days. There were few automobiles in our district at that time. Most people felt that the automobile was unproven and couldn't be depended on. Many were slow to accept the change from horse to horseless carriage, as a car was referred to during the pioneer years.
One of the first car dealers in the Elk Point district was C. J. Markstad. He operated a Ford agency as well as an International Harvester dealership in the old section of our hamlet (across the street and to the north of our present day Petro Canada Service Centre). The Ford cars he sold at that time were known as Model T Fords. The Ford was a popular make of car and Mr. Markstad sold many Fords to the residents of our hamlet as well as to many people in the surrounding areas. During the early years the Model T Ford was available in one color only - black. Some were equipped with a canvas top which could be raised or lowered according to weather conditions. These cars were equipped with a four cylinder motor which had to be cranked by hand before the motor would start. Later models came equipped with a foot starter. The fenders as well as the body were strongly built and they lasted for years.
In the early 1920s the cheapest Ford car was a runabout. It was sold for $395 F.O.B. Windsor, Ontario. In the west this model sold for about $500. If you desired a more luxurious model Ford you could choose either the two door or four door sedan priced at about $800.In 1928, Ford came out with the Model A. This model was ideal for country roads. Many other makes of cars other than the Fords were introduced to our district between the years of 1915 to 1930. Cars such as the Essex, the McLaughlin Buick, the Star, Pontiac, the Grey Dort, Oakland, the Hupmobile, the Durant, the Chevrolet, the Nash, Studebaker and Overland.
Some of the first residents who were early car owners in our district were: Oran Caskey, George Shortridge, 0. J. Fish, W. F. "Billy" Wolfe, C. J. Markstad, AIf Monkman, Charley Hood, C. A. Johnson, Martin Loftus and Tom Aarbo. You could safely say these people were the first ones in our district to accept the change in transportation. There weren’t many others who followed.
With the coming of the automobile, you had to have garages to repair and service these cars as well as to purchase gasoline. One of the earliest garages built in Elk Point was one built in the old section of our hamlet by Oran Caskey. He not only repaired all makes of cars, but sold gasoline as well as tires. C. J. Markstad offered a similar service across the street. In later years, William Soldan built a large garage across the street from the Markstad Store (1927). Before Elk Point was supplied with electricity, service stations and garages used hand operated gas pumps. The gas was pumped into an overhead ten gallon tank from a large underground storage tank and by pressing a nozzle, the gasoline would flow into your car tank by gravity. When electricity was later introduced to our hamlet these hand operated pumps were replaced with power pumps. Hand operated pumps were then relocated to areas which had no electricity.
During the early years of motoring it wasn't compulsory to carry public liability or property damage insurance. You could, however, obtain a personal automobile accident policy such as one advertised by the Canada Accident and Fire Assurance Company in 1926 for as little as $5 per year which provided personal insurance to the driver. One of the first car accidents in our district happened at our Highway 41 crossing in 1930. A Model T Ford driven by a St. Paul resident hit the rear end of a passing freight train. The Model T Ford was upended and the driver lost an ear lobe, otherwise he was unhurt. The amazing part of the accident was, upon impact, the flimsy Model T Ford derailed two flat cars. The little Ford car was pretty well demolished.
During the early years, most of our roads were dirt roads with a sprinkling of gravel. When it rained heavily you had a hard time staying on the road. Graveled roads kicked up a lot of dust which created a driving hazard. In the old days you generally tied your vehicle up after the first big snow storm. Roads weren't snowplowed like they are today. You simply jacked your car up and placed blocks of wood under the axles, taking the weight off your tires and there your car remained until springtime.
The automobile has come a long way since it was first introduced to our district during the early years. Present day improvements such as car heaters, block heaters, air conditioning and defrosters were unheard of at that time. Today, with roads being kept open all winter and with all the modern comforts a car provides, moving around is certainly no problem. The older car owners, however, remember when "It wasn't always this way.”