One of my ancestors, Abraham Lincoln Richter (1864-1944), had one of the first cars in the area. Abraham Richter was on the school board for Lake Shore school and owned land on the west side of Oakwood near where we live now. Houses at that time were few and far between, and trips in to town were fairly rare events that got documented in the paper in many cases.
My grandmother Mildred Eldridge, married to Abraham Richter’s son Wesley Richter had only just started to learn to drive when she passed away in her fifties. While learning to drive, she was taking a trip to Champaign for shopping with my aunts and father and was involved in an accident. That was really the last time she drove. She was later diagnosed with cancer, but she hadn’t ventured out to drive again after the accident before her illness. – The accident was along route 150 near the location that route 49 turns north.
While a teenager my dad’s first accident was wrecking a motorcycle on our road. It was pretty amazing he survived at the time. Without my grandmother still living, my father had to go stay with my Aunt Dorothy after being released to have care. Near the end when he would have brain scans, the doctors would mention the scar tissue from the accident. The year I was born he flipped a corvette totaling it. He loved to race and it had been modified for racing. My mother was pregnant with me and my father was with two of my cousins at the time. While at the hospital the nurses and doctor, came out assuming that my dad was running around with two young girls (not knowing they were nieces) and mentioned that they didn’t think they could keep the story from the paper. He also lost the front end of his car just a few yards from where we are living now.
The country roads tend to lend themselves to driving fast. Speed limits of 55 mph, houses miles apart, and very little traffic. Though Vermilion county itself was actually the first county in the nation to pass a bond to build a set of roads for farm to market. The movement began in 1913 to raise money for the roads – two million dollar bond issue. The road near us was labeled route 10 but became the current route 150.
Growing up my parents always made sure we had motor vehicles of all types. We learned to drive really early, practiced often, and could drive just about anything and anywhere. To start we had go-carts, including one my dad had modified for me that used a drill for a motor that ran with an extension cord. He would unplug it at any point if he felt that I was in danger – which on a farm took a lot. My dad moved on to two seat dune buggy’s in fiberglass, our own race tracks each year, snow mobiles, old cars, trucks, and whatever else he could find to let us try. By the time I was 16 I already was regularly driving a ram charger that was for me to drive. I remember the night of my 16th birthday right after going to get my license, I drove into town to babysit.