Whether it was going for speed at a big track like Indianapolis, or at an endurance event like the Weatherly Hill Climb, the competitions waged by man and machine have been with us from the time rubber began hitting the road during the late 1800s and early 20th century.
By 1910, automobile clubs were springing up across the country, fueling the interest in local towns that became pit stops for the endurance runs. That was the case when members of the Norristown Autmobile Club traveled through Tamaqua.
The visit by the Norristown motormen on May 18, 1910, gave a number of Tamaqua auto enthusiasts the bug to set up their own club. At the time, there were about 31 automobiles of various types around the town and another 10 more were ordered and expected to arrive by the end of summer.
These club trips also had wide-ranging positive effects on the nation's infrastructure The early vehicle traffic eventually led to better roads throughout the state, especially in the rural counties and more remote regions of the commonwealth.
A group of "local autoists" from Tamaqua certainly experienced the need for improved roads when they embarked on a trip that covered nearly 1,000 miles during mid-June of 1910. The journey which carried the two vehicles through parts of Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts was marked by rain – and muddy roads. On June 14, the Tamaqua Courier gave "a vivid description how one feels when spinning off miles on boggy roads and heavy rains."
The two cars reportedly performed remarkably well in the bad elements. The first car, a Franklin owned by S. G. Seligman, a merchant in town, didn't require a single repair stop, not even "to pump up the tires."
The second was a Peerless which was known for its strong hill-climbing ability. It was owned by John F. McGinty, who had run a brewery business in town from 1898-1909. An advertisement of the day from the Peerless Motor Car Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, boasted of the auto's "silence and comfort."
The first leg of the trip carried the two-car team to Binghamton, N.Y., and then Watkins Glen. A Courier reporter vividly gave his play-by-play of how the two cars managed over roads that were little more than quagmires.
"Now they were down deep in a rut on one side, now they were down on the other and now they skidded and were slewed crosswise, but always the engines snorted defiantly, the mud flew, the water splashed and slowly the cyclometer built up the sum of the miles," he wrote.
After crossing the Pennsylvania state line into New York, the motorists found some relief with a macadam road.
"It seemed a long, long time to our storm-tossed souls before they touched the good, firm bottom," the writer quipped of the pavement. "Even the engines seemed – well, delighted – and they chugged merrily. It's funny how soon you will forget bad roads when you are speeding over good ones. Then too, one can hardly estimate the relief it is to stop cussin' after you have been doing it in marathon fashion for about 10 hours."
Once the rain storms passed, the mood of the travelers also brightened.
One of the travelers remembered, "When a chicken scooted across our path, someone asked, 'Why does a chicken cross the road?,' not ladylike, but uproarouosly." Another traveler was impressed by the gentle rolling hills and green countryside near Owego.
"Some fellow has said that the Lord made nearly all the world in six days, rested on the seventh, and then took a week to make New York more beautiful than the rest," the Courier writer said.
The travellers found the roads in Massachusetts "exceptionally fine" and the party made good time, peeling off the miles "like a whittler peels off chips."
After one lunch stop, the writer continued his vivid description.
"At 3 o'clock the motors began to chug again and in a few hours the tires crunched the ground of another state – Connecticut."
On the return trip, the cars were ferried across the Hudson River at Peekskill Landing, travelled through Port Jervis and then back across the Pennsylvania line. At Stroudsburg, they ecnountered more rainstorms "over roads that kept the cars skidding most of the time."
The adventurers made their triumphant return to Tamaqua late on the night of June 18.
"With their cars dripping with mud but with everybody aboard in good health and happy, the party of Tamaqua automobilists, who have been flitting about in four states for the past week, arrived in town at about 10:30 last night," the Courier reported.