Just this week I was telling a young friend how sixty years ago roads were much more interesting and fun to drive than they are these days. Road builders sometimes placed hollows or ridges diagonally in their creations to deflect water and prevent erosion -- especially on hillsides. Wagon drivers used these places to give horses a welcomed rest when traveling long uphill or downhill grades. To drivers of early automobiles, they became known as "Thank-you-ma'ams." Driving over them at a good clip made one's head bob and one's body seem to curtsy as if formally thanking a lady for some favor.
As a boy of ten or so, I spent a few weeks every summer visiting my mother's family near Providence, Rhode Island. My great uncle Fred was a bachelor retired from the local textile mill. The local school children named him "Gum" because of his never-ending supply of chewing gum and Hershey bars. He had owned two cars in his lifetime -- a Model "T" that was before my time and a 1929 Model "A" Ford Town Sedan he bought new and owned until his death in 1956. It was in that "A" that I learned from an expert all about "thank-you-ma'ams."
Gum took his fliver for a drive almost every sunny weekday but seldom crossed the Rhode Island state line. He would tell of driving into Massachusetts once but not going back because people called cabinets "frappes" and, he reported, in Connecticut they called them "milkshakes." These were reasons enough to stay in Little Rhodey as far as Gum was concerned. Besides, there were plenty of interesting roads in his own state and he know all their paved and unpaved twists and straightaways. And, believe me, he took obvious pleasure in revealing them to a young lad who spent many pleasant summer hours riding on that mohair upholstered right front seat. I fondly and vividly remember peering over the gas tank and under the hinged open windshield waiting for the next heart-in-the-throat thrill of a "thank-you-ma'am."
Composed in 1988 and published in "The Restorer" (newsletter of Model 'A' Restorers Club) Nov/Dec 1988.
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