Originally created 06/20/03

Antique Ford parade spurs memories, tales



AIKEN - Ted Rabun watched a string of old Ford Model A's roll along Laurens Street during a Shade A Club parade in downtown Aiken on Thursday, and his mind took him back in time to a much different America.

The soft, sputtering sound from the old engines and the shine of chrome headlights triggered memories of the first time he drove a Model A. He was 13 and a mile outside of downtown McCormick when his grandfather put him behind the wheel.

"I said, 'I don't know what to do,"' recalled the 72-year-old, who lives in Aiken. "He said, 'I'm going to tell you how."'

It was an enduring moment for Mr. Rabun, an instance that isn't as likely to happen today. Everything is about speed: the cars, the computers, the cable television. Things also are more complicated, but the Model A - manufactured from late 1927 through 1931 - wasn't, Mr. Rabun said.

"You could tinker with them," he said. "All you needed was some good wire and some smarts and you could fix them yourself.

"You felt like you had more complete control. With the electricity and rare components (in today's cars), you don't so much repair as you do replace."

His reflections on yesteryear could provide some insight for younger generations, Mr. Rabun said.

"It's too bad a lot of small kids couldn't see this," he said after the last of the antique cars traveled past. "For them, history is what they read about, not what they see."

The crowds soon cleared after the parade ended, but Mr. Rabun stuck around. He chatted with a stranger, fondly describing how as a child he and friends would use pine lumber to sled down hills covered with straw.

"People seem more concerned about keeping busy," he said of today's society. "Back then, we sat down and played board games. We talked a lot.

"Back then, you were connected because you knew people. People were the connection."

At the other end of Laurens Street, Paul Blankenship and Roger Hudson discussed the Model A parked near them.

"They have great appeal," Mr. Blankenship commented. "They're so charming."

There was a sense of admiration in his voice for an era the old car represented. It was a place in history that literally demanded people take time to stop, Mr. Hudson said jokingly.

"You'd go to Savannah and back and you'd have 15 flat tires," he said.

MODEL A SHOW

More than 85 Model A's will be on display in the Augusta Museum of History parking lot from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday during the Model A Ford Club of America's Southeastern Divisional meeting. The museum is at 560 Reynolds St.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.