Museum exhibit portrays local history through automobiles Part I By Melody Moorehouse Editor's note: This is the first half of a two-part installment on the automobile gallery located at the Grant County Museum in Sheridan. A roar of the pipes, the wind in your hair. Most people can remember the majority of the cars they have owned during their lifetime and many can pick out a special vehicle or two that stand out as personal favorites. The same is true of the many cars and trucks located at the Grant County Museum in the automobile gallery. The vehicles are representative of several different eras and purposes, but what makes each one unique are the stories that developed behind the wheels. Their relation to the history of Grant County is what makes these particular vehicles special. If they could only talk... and some folks are glad they can't, Elwin Goolsby, director of the museum, said. The auto gallery is housed in the former storage room at the museum in Sheridan. Goolsby explained that a few vehicles had been donated to the care of the museum and were displayed in the main gallery which was becoming quite crowded. The storage room was revamped and turned into an auto exhibit to free up space in the central museum area. In addition to the vehicles themselves, the exhibit contains old gasoline pumps, oil cans, automobile advertisements, miscellaneous items relating to the auto industry and the personal history surrounding the vehicles. There's even a menagerie of toy cars and trucks that were rescued over a period of several years from the city dump by Goolsby as well as a collection of Avon automobiles. An additional six vehicles have been promised to the museum when space becomes available and the Shackleford family has donated several unrestored vehicles that are located on the museum grounds. More so than the cars and trucks themselves, it is the stories behind them that give them their color, Goolsby said. When you put humans in them, they become more special. One vehicle at the Grant County Museum that holds fond memories for many people in the community is the 1939 fire truck that was the countys first motorized firefighting automobile. The 6-cylinder Chevrolet truck was assembled by Premier Fire Apparatus Co. of Eureka Springs and purchased by the City of Sheridan in 1940. The people of Sheridan needed a fire truck. The city did have city water and hydrants, but many folks were out of luck if there was not a hydrant nearby. At least there were three fire carts around at the time, Goolsby said of the developing need for the truck. The fire carts were mobilized by big wagon wheels and contained a water hose. The carts were positioned in different areas around town. If there was a fire, the firefighters would run to the fire cart and pull it behind a car or truck and connect the hose to the nearest hydrant. There was not always a hydrant where one was needed, Goolsby said. Prior to that there was the bucket brigade In the late 1930s there was a movement in the community to change the way fires were fought. Many thought a fancy new truck would make it easier and a lot of folks wanted one, but then some thought it would be a waste of tax money Goolsby said. The people called for a vote and decided to allocate the money for the truck. This truck was the first motorized fire truck in all of Grant County. It was pretty and red and when it came into town it was amongst quite a bit of fanfare However, even with a new fire truck the vehicle could not single-handedly be responsible for putting out a fire. The firefighters had a bit to learn about the new truck and the first few occasions for which the truck was needed did not turn out to be shining examples Goolsby said. When you have a new, expensive toy, you want to take it out and play with it. Well, they needed a fire. The folklore is that there was a fire down town that was very near the fire station location at the former site on Oak Street in the vicinity of Larry Allens law office Goolsby said. I'm not saying there was a firebug at the fire station, but it was a strange coincidence. The volunteers got the new truck out into the street and couldnt get it to work or do a thing. Seems that they hadnt looked at the manual close enough so they put it back into the shed and brought out the carts Another problem volunteers experienced with the truck involved the shape of the vehicle. They got called out on a run out in the county. The truck was wide in the back and tapered in the front, sort of v-shaped. Unfortunately, the guys driving the truck forgot that important point and got it stuck between two trees and couldnt get it to the fire he said. So, the truck was not much service at first Another story Goolsby shared surrounding the truck had more to do with the firefighters and the identity of one volunteer that even today still has not been revealed. The museum director said a call came in near night time off the beaten path out in the county. Firefighters put the fire out, climbed back onto the truck and their other personal vehicles and returned to the station. After a head count, one fireman was noticed missing. The firemen returned to the scene. They were frantic. They didnt know what had happened. They took flashlights and began walking about calling for their fellow fire fighter... At first there was no sound, but after some time they heard a faint call for help in the distance Goolsby said. They searched until the voice became louder and they finally located him. He had fallen into a septic tank, and you can just imagine he was a pretty bad mess. The firefighters got him out, took him back to the station, and hosed him down. The firefighters made a pledge that day to never reveal his identity and to this day I still do not know who he was. Goolsby explained how firefighters knew when the fire truck was needed. Firefighting has come a long way. It was difficult then to notify the firemen, they didnt have pagers, scanners or the conveniences we have today. There was a large siren that made a loud, scary sound that sat on top of the Lem Jones grocery store where the old Headlight office was located. Across the street was the old telephone place that was located at the site of the former Murphy law office. There was a red button and a black button inside the telephone office. If there was a fire, residents called Mrs. Bailey at the telephone office and gave her the information. Shed push the On button to set off the siren Goolsby said. Firemen in the vicinity would hear the siren and contact the telephone office for directions. The first fireman to the station would get the fire truck and head to the scene. The others would follow in their personal vehicles. A lot of the memories firefighters had of the first truck were good ones, but a few experiences were not so great. Another call came in one day and firefighter B.A. Wilson headed to the station. He saw that the truck had already left the station, but he could see it going down the street where City Hall is located today. It was kind of slow, so he decided hed try and intercept it and catch a ride. B.A. got ahead of it and was waiting at the intersection of Bell and Main streets behind where Hardees is now located Goolsby said. ÒB.A. reached out and grabbed the handle on the back. The truck popped him up off his feet and he was hanging there by the handle. He fell and was knocked unconscious. When he came to Mrs. Mingea, who lived in a house nearby, was standing over him asking B.A. are you dead? B.A. ... are you dead He said no, not just yet but I'm sure he probably felt like it after that bump on the head. The truck that is housed at the museum was the sole fire truck in the county until a second vehicle was purchased in the 1950s. The first truck was retired in the late 1960s or early 1970s. After the trucks retirement, the vehicle was parked and began deteriorating. Some of the firemen began an effort to try and restore the truck and also had it repainted. Goolsby offered to raise the money needed to build a storage building for the vehicle at the former museum location on Highway 270. When the museum was relocated to the site on Shackleford Road, the fire truck made the transition as well and then found a permanent home in the auto exhibit. It was quite difficult to get in here. Id hate to have to try to move it now Goolsby said. But its another priceless treasure of Grant County. Its a reminder of the way things were and how far weve come, especially in the field of firefighting Special items related to firefighting are incorporated in the exhibit, including a 1955 photograph of the members of the Sheridan Volunteer Fire Department. Donating their time and skills were: Rayford Blake, J.E. Harvey, Horace Shorty Baxley, B.A. Wilson, Macon Goolsby, Paul Holloway, Jimmy Koon, Bruce Gartman, Pat Reed, Shufford DeMoss, Kenneth Ware and Vernon Poe. Part II By Melody Moorehouse Editors note: This is the second half of a two-part installment on the automobile gallery located at the Grant County Museum in Sheridan. An eclectic blend of cars and trucks have been parked together at the Grant County Museum to create an automobile exhibit representing various periods of local history. The automobiles range from personal vehicles to delivery vehicles that provided a vital service to the community, according to Elwin Goolsby, director of the museum. The service and interaction these cars and trucks had with the people of this community make them unique, Goolsby said. Not only are they beautifully restored vehicles, for the most part, but they represent our lifestyles and our society, both in Grant County and as a nation. Although not local to Grant County, a 1928 Model ÒAÓ Ford has found a home at the museum. The 4-cylinder, 40 horsepower truck was produced from 1928-1931 and replaced the Model ÒT.Ó Only 3,572,630 were built. The highest priced model was faster at 65 mph and sold for around $630. The truck also came in colors other than basic black. The specimen at the museum is bright red with black trim and was restored and donated by W. Frank Whittle of Benton. The truck does not have any real local history, but Mister Whittle was visiting one day and said he was not in good health. It had been recommended to him. I think by an accountant that instead of selling his treasures that he should consider giving them away, Goolsby said. He wanted to give this truck to the Grant County Museum. He said he had followed the museum since its infancy and had been impressed with what he had seen through the years. It was a generous thing he did. The truck is in excellent condition and is typical of those that were in the area. A vehicle with a lot of local flavor is a 1948 red Ford truck located just inside the entrance of the auto gallery. The truck was purchased in Grant County by the J.L. Williams family for use at the local sawmill and commissary. The truck was bought by the J.L. Williams family from their own Williams Motor Company and was used at their own J.L. Williams and Sons Sawmill in Sheridan. They were the main business in the area at the time, Goolsby said. They also owned a commissary that operated at the mill and sold everything from flour to shoes to the people who worked at the sawmill. If they worked there, they could trade there on credit, which was an important option to most families. The Williams family had the 6-cylinder truck customized to deliver groceries and goods. This was at a time you could call and order your groceries. The employees at the commissary would bundle your items up and deliver them right to your door, Goolsby said. It was a nice benefit that probably wouldn't work today. People are not very trusting and with good reason. There are a lot of people out there who are not too trustworthy and most of us won't even answer the door anymore. Modifications to the truck were made by a local blacksmith, Vernie Springer. The truck was outfitted with heavy bumpers and a frame and tarp to protect groceries during inclement weather. Rings were fashioned on the sides of the truck to carry big cans of coal oil. Earl Mosley was the manager of the commissary and hired many local boys to deliver groceries during the existence of the store. The commissary burned in the 1950s and the Williams family decided not to rebuild. Goolsby said Mosley decided he would build his own store and acquired the truck from the Williams family. Mosley's store Ñ Mosley Mercantile Ñ was located in the vicinity of where Motes MPE Inc. sits today. After Mosley retired, the truck sat in his yard for many years before finding a new home. Earl Mosley became my father-in-law and my wife Kay and I inherited the truck. The truck was parked under our carport over on Sunset for many years. Kay and I had several new vehicles that had to sit out in the driveway so we could protect the truck. Once we had room at the museum we gave the truck to the museum and I drove it over Goolsby said. It is a jewel in regard to historical value. The truck performed a valuable service to the community for many years The truck is constructed from heavy, durable metal and cost $700-$800 at the time. That sounds like a steal to us now, but back then that would probably be equal to about $50,000 today Goolsby said. A 1948 Willys Jeep purchased by the late Rev. Conrad N. Glover covered many miles in Grant County. Glover was a rural mail carrier from 1915-1951 and was also a Baptist minister. Prior to the jeep, Glover used a horse and buggy and Model ÒTÓ to carry the mail. The four-wheel drive vehicle was ordered from a dealer and was made by Willys-Overland Motors in Ohio. When the jeep arrived it had a canvas top so Glover ordered a special metal top for it the same year the vehicle was constructed. Goolsby said he had the opportunity to ride in the jeep one day while it was still in the possession of Glover. He decided he wanted to take me up Highway 35 to visit the site of a former gristmill. So he pulls up in the jeep, I climb in and we start up the highway Goolsby said. Well, hes on up in years and hes driving a little irregularly... into both lanes. He could see my discomfort and said slowly, Elwin, I can see your concern but dont worry. When I get on this side they get over on that side, and when I get on that side they get over on this side. The two men turned off the highway in the jeep onto a narrow road that Goolsby said looked like it went straight down. Unfortunately it began to rain and the men had to abandon their journey to the gristmill. He starts backing up an inch at a time. It was dark, thunder was rolling, rain was pelting. I didnt think wed ever get out of there and up that hill, but the jeep made it out just fine Goolsby said. After we made it out onto the highway, he asked me to run the windshield wipers. I looked and looked for the control. Finally he pointed it out to me. It was a handle on the inside that you had to turn back and forth by hand to control the blades. I can only imagine it was difficult to drive, operate the windshield wipers, and deliver mail at the same time. We made it back to the museum and he said wed try it again someday. Regrettably, the Reverend Glover became ill after that and we never made the trip back In 1982, the Rev. Glover wrote that he had owned 54 cars, five trucks and one Jeep and never had an accident. A few years ago, Glovers daughter, Mary Beth Glover-Wilson, donated the vehicle to the museum. A 1949 Studebaker is on loan to the county institution from the family of the late Okie T. Reynolds of Sheridan. The truck is powered by an 80 horsepower, 170 cubic inch motor coupled with a three-speed manual transmission. The vehicle belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Lester Fee who lived south of Sheridan below the Crossroads Community. Reynolds married the Fees daughter, Gladys, and Reynolds also took Mr. Fee to purchase the Studebaker. Mister Fee decided he needed a new truck and wanted to go to Malvern to see the Studebaker dealer Goolsby said. Mister Fee told the dealer hed buy the truck under certain conditions, one of which was the dealer would take the truck to the Grant County line and point it toward Sheridan. Okie T. told me his father-in-law didnt trust other drivers. In fact, Mister Fee drove the truck on the shoulders the majority of the time and it had gotten pretty scratched up by tree limbs, bushes and whatever was on the side of the road After Reynolds inherited the truck he had the vehicle restored. Reynolds and the Studebaker made regular appearances in local parades for many years. It's a good-looking truck Goolsby said. You see some of the same lines in todays truck models. The Studebaker was a popular truck, a good truck. Most people were impressed with its styling and it still looks good going down the highways A unique vehicle with roots in Grant County is the Arkla Handywagon. Only 95 of the one-quarter ton fiberglass trucks were built and the museum has the two surviving trucks in its possession. One is housed in the Arkla Museum gallery and the other has a home in the auto exhibit. The truck was built by Arkla-Gas from 1963-1967 and was named for employee Ed Handy. The idea for the truck was conceived by W.R. Witt Stephens and was engineered by Ray Thornton, both of Grant County. The experimental truck was designed as a service vehicle. Both trucks at the museum were restored by Arkla employees. Symbolizing a period when things were turbulent and muscle cars were king is a 1971 Chevrolet Super Malibu Chevelle 250 donated by Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Harrington of Prattsville. The Chevelle was one of the top cars of the 1960s and 1970s, Goolsby said. The blue and white car at the museum is equipped with a 350 8-cylinder engine. ÒI worked a lifetime for a car like this he added. ÒI guess almost every young man dreamed of owning a powerful muscle car. I was never able to own one, but I got to drive this one around to the back of the museum and park it when the Harringtons brought the car in. I cranked it up and just sat there a minute and listened to it run The car, I think, was difficult for them to part with. They came in one day and said theyd like to give us their car. After talking with them and thanking them, I parked the car. When I came back they were sitting there in the lobby with their heads down. They had driven the car over together and didnt have a way home. Our hostess gave them a ride back to their house Goolsby said the car represents a tumultuous era during the lives of American citizens and a time when many changes were made. Violent demonstrations were being held against the Vietnam War in 1971. Richard Nixon was president. Pant suits were the fashion and 18-year-olds were given the right to vote. All of the vehicles at the museum represent the good old days with the exception of one car that takes visitors back to the future Ñ a futuristic-looking Pulse Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle (GCRV). The Pulse GCRV was manufactured by Owosso Motor Car Co. in Owosso, Mich., in 1985. The in-line, two-seater has a motorcycle engine, 6-speed manual transmission and was rated at 70 mpg fuel economy. The car was donated to the museum by Leonard Hollinger of Little Rock, formerly of Grant County. Goolsby said information on the Pulse GCRV is still developing. We had some visitors in here a few weeks ago from Michigan. They had been here earlier and saw the car and the information regarding where the car was manufactured. They were surprised to learn it had been made in Michigan and said theyd try to find out more information Goolsby said. They returned recently and brought back literature, brochures, and publicity pictures. We learned the company went out of business because the man who was making the car was accused of stealing the design. I also got a phone call recently from a newspaper reporter near Owosso. He had heard about the car as well. Turns out there were less than 300 of the cars made and the Pulse model was also featured in the movie Back to the Future 2. The car does look like something from the future but is actually one from the past he continued. Hollinger purchased the car from an advertisement and had it delivered. Goolsby said the cost of the car was close to $10,000 and it had to be assembled from a kit. The car is kind of cylinder shaped. The front and back wheels work, but the two wheels on the side are like training wheels. Mister Hollinger said it was a fun car to drive, but it lacked air conditioning. When he had to drive with the top closed, hed nearly suffocate Goolsby said. He used to drive it around to visit relatives, and it would create quite a stir when it would come through town.