Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Henry Ford and the Genesis of Mass Production -- taken from my book, "The Automobile and American Life"

The Genesis of Mass Production at Highland Park
The offshoot of scientific management – mass production – was put into practice for the first time around 1913. Only later in 1926 did Ford articulate it as “focusing upon … the principles of power, accuracy, economy, system, continuity, and speed.” How mass production fit in with organization and the market was further articulated by Ford in this way:
The interpretation of these principles, through studies of operation and machine development and their coordination, is the conspicuous task of management. And the normal result is a productive organization that delivers in quantities a useful commodity of standard materials, workmanship and design at a minimal cost. The necessary, precedent condition of mass production is a capacity, latent or developed, of mass consumption, the ability to absorb large production. The two go together, and in the latter may be traced the reasons for the former.
The assembly line that followed, contrary to popular thought both then and now, was not simply the idea or the result of the efforts of Henry Ford alone. During a recent tour of Henry Ford’s Rouge, I watched a film on the history of mass production that gave total credit to Henry Ford for both the concept and implementation of this system of manufacturing. The film, shown every day to thousands of visitors, perpetuates a lie; for there were many unnamed individuals who contributed to what became mass production at the Ford Motor Company.
Indeed, James Flink summarized the story as one in which mass production developed upward from the shop floor rather than downward from Henry, with key individuals that included skilled tool makers like Carl Emde and staff members C. Harold Wills, Joseph Galamb, Charles Sorenson, Clarence Avery, William C. Klann, and P. E. Martin. It was this group and others, who through experiment and trial and error gradually perfected a way of making automobiles at the Highland Park factory. Fixed work benches, where the assembly of component parts took place, gave way to a series of positions along a moving line where one small component after another was added.
Scientific management had an enormous influence on the nature of American life during the early twentieth century, and nowhere was that more obvious than at the Ford’s Highland Park factory. It was there that by trial and error Ford and his team of engineers and mechanics developed the system of dragging a car chassis across the floor to stations where parts, brought by pulley, conveyor, or inclined plane were bolted on. Unlike the Model T itself, the assembly line took time to develop to a level of perfection, as numerous improvements to the line were implemented during the T’s 18-year production run. Ford applied four basic principles to increase efficiency: the work must be brought to the man; the work should be done waist high to eliminate lifting; waste motion, human or mechanical, must be minimized; and finally, each task must be reduced to utmost simplicity.
The impact of the assembly line at Ford was staggering, as the volume of production was unprecedented and cost reductions unparalleled. Once governed by skilled mechanics, the shop floor was conquered by scientific management and the assembly line. This process was nearly completed by 1914.
Joyce Shaw Peterson has described the creation of the assembly line as a series of processes that began with arranging production in an orderly sequence and ended with the development of overhead conveyors. By 1913 an assembly line operated at Ford, and by 1916, helped by Ford’s openness to journalists and visitors, it was institutionalized in various forms throughout the automobile industry. The gradual perfection of the assembly line inaugurated a second phase of automobile production between 1908 and 1925, and which produced the Model T in volume. It entailed rigid standardization, extensive division and subdivision of tasks, and progressive line production. It was an inflexible process, as opposed to a more flexible mass production system that emerged in the late 1920s. Under Fordism, semiskilled/unskilled workers operated highly specialized machines. In 1910, nearly 75 percent of all jobs were classified as skilled work, but by 1924 expert work declined to 5 to 10 percent. The development of machine technology was crucial to control of the production process because it eliminated the need for strength or training. James Flink explained that, “Fordism meant that neither physical strength nor the long apprenticeship required for becoming a competent craftsmen were any long prerequisites for industrial employment. The creativity and experience on the job that had been valued in the craftsmen were considered liabilities in the assembly-line worker.” Furthermore, Flink lamented that “the American myth of unlimited individual social mobility, based on ability and the ideal of the self-made man, became a frustrating impossibility for the assembly-line worker.” Dexterity, speed, and concentration replaced craft and experience.
By 1913, a majority of workers were semiskilled or unskilled and operated a highly specialized machine that nearly eliminated the “human element.” The process is evinced in Arnold and Faroute’s observations in Ford Methods and the Ford Shops: “When the moving-assembly line was placed in work with 29 men, splitting the one man operations into 29 operations, the 29 men began turning out 132 magneto assemblies per hour, or 1,188 per 9-hour day, one man’s time producing one fly-wheel magneto assembly in 13 minutes 10 seconds, a saving of 7 minutes time on each assembly or more than one-third of the best one-man time.”
In addition to descriptions of the production process, Arnold and Faroute took iconic photographs of Ford’s workers, but their “classic” observations were about machines, not laborers. In a description of “Assembling the Steering and Front Axle,” they wrote, “there are two operations to be performed: (1) to press the arm in its seat in the sub-axle hub boss; (2) to screw the nut on the threaded end of the steering arm.” No attempt was made to describe the three men in the photograph.
The assembly line initiated what scholar Harry Braverman has called the “degradation of work.” Braverman’s thesis was subsequently modified and pursued by sociologist David Gartman in Auto Slavery: The Labor Process in the American Automobile Industry, 1897-1950. Gartman asserted that the assembly line was born of class antagonisms rather than a technological rationality. Motivated by the “narcotic” of profit, capitalists wrestled production away from the craftsman. The craftsmen, having lost the ability to control pace and accuracy, became vulnerable to exploitation. Labor was reduced to repetitive, mindless motions. To vindicate his thesis, Garman distinguished between “repressive” capitalist and “non-repressive” natural controls of labor. Finally, bureaucracy and occupations were created to buttress the capitalist order, and gave birth to the modern corporation.
Marxist sociologists have enhanced the view of the assembly line, but historians have revealed that what happened at Ford’s plants was a complex social process. The reactions of workers to monotonous labor defy simple Marxist explanations. Historian Joyce Shaw Peterson wrote:
Scholars analyzing the labor process in capitalist industry have sometimes seen the progressive deskilling of jobs as synonymous with the degradation of labor. There is no question that deskilling characterized the development of the automobile industry during its successful emergence as a “giant enterprise.” The question concerns how that deskilling was experienced by the workers themselves, whether as progress, or loss, or something else entirely. No single answer to this question is possible. Those workers for whom deskilling was experienced as degradation . . . were those who personally lost the need for their particular skills and saw their pride in workmanship diminished as machines took over their jobs and their own autonomy was diminished by a division of skills and increased management planning. For these auto workers degradation was very real, diminishing their pride and status and undoubtedly contributed to making them the most militant and union conscious of their fellows. Such workers comprised a minority of the workforce. Much more common was the experience of the auto worker for whom machine tending replaced simple heavy labor or the semi variegation of farm work. Not only could such workers make more money as automobile workers, but they also experienced their work itself as more modern and sometimes identified with the skill of their machines and indeed with their own skill in running them.
Personal responses to working on the assembly line are difficult to assess historically, but whatever took place on the microscopic scale, Fordism transformed the social relations of the macroscopic work place. The individual became anonymous, and the division of labor reduced tasks to mindless repetitive actions. Peterson noted that visitors lamented at the monotonous labor, but the worker’s response was “complicated, as it could not be a simple choice between monotonous, repetitive tasks, and challenging interesting work . . . no such choice was offered.”
While the assembly line contributed to the “degradation of work,” the opportunity to labor brought workers from Southern and Eastern Europe, the American South, and Mexico to the Midwestern United States. This opportunity was particularly powerful for Mexicans and African Americans. In 1900, the population of Detroit was half native-born Whites, and half immigrants from northern and western Europe. By 1913, the workforce included Russians, Poles, Croats, Hungarians, and Italians. The workforce also came to include social outcasts. In 1919, “the Ford Motor Company employed hundreds of ex-convicts and 9,563 ‘substandard men’ – a group that included amputees, the blind, deaf-mutes, epileptics, and about 1,000 tubercular employees.” In contrast to Gartman, Meyer argued that “between 1908‑1913 Ford officials gradually discovered that workers required just as much attention as machines and the flow of materials.” The droves of workers were not “completely plastic and malleable,” and “as Ford mass production became a reality, Ford officials and managers gradually uncovered a massive labor problem.”
To stabilize his workforce, Ford announced the $5 dollar day. “This was not a simple wage increase,” wrote Stephen Meyer “but a sophisticated profit-sharing scheme to transform the social and cultural lives of immigrant workers and to inculcate the life-style, personal habits, and social discipline for modern factory life.” Ford used methods inspired by the Progressivism of the early twentieth century to stipulate how families should take care of their homes and how single men should take care of themselves. From 1914 to 1921 Ford embarked on a social experiment steeped in a paternalism that aimed to “Americanize” the immigrant workforce. While immigrants were willing to work in coal mines, iron and steel mills, meatpacking plants, and tanneries, in addition to automobile factories, they lacked industrial experience. When WWI ended the flow of European immigrants into Ford factories, recruitment of Black and White rural Americans became the norm.
Ford aimed to eliminate the lackluster “dude employee,” who talked and walked more than he worked. The application of scientific management to achieve mass production required a regulated “human element.” From 1920-1923 the assembly line underwent a “speed-up.” The pace of the assembly line was grueling, and in addition, smiling, laughing, and sitting were prohibited. But factories were safe, ventilated, and well lit. Nevins and Hill observed that, “as in all mass production industries of the time, they were the rules of an army, not of a cooperative community.” Joyce Shaw Peterson argued that while Ford was union free from 1903 to 1933, workers used turnover rates, absenteeism, restriction of output, and walkouts to convey disapproval. Autoworkers accepted the high wages, adopted the new habits, and endured the degraded labor.
Historians have given a fair amount of attention to Black labor in the automobile industry. The demographic shift inspired by Ford’s factories provided reason for Blacks to migrate to Northern industrial centers. In 1917 Packard employed 1,100 Blacks, but Ford quickly overtook Packard and employed 5,000 Blacks in 1923 and 10,000 by 1926. Despite Henry Ford’s personal racial outlook that Blacks were racially inferior and should remain segregated, his factories were interpreted as places of inspired racial uplift. Ford felt that the superior race was obligated to facilitate the uplift of subordinate races with philanthropic services, and this earned him a reputation as a friend of the Black race. Yet, life for Black workers in Detroit remained mixed.
Joyce Shaw Peterson historicized the new Black industrial community forged in Detroit. Despite high wages, most African Americans were segregated at the plant and in life outside of it. When Peterson inquired, “Apart from their existence inside the factory walls, what kind of life did black auto workers find in Detroit?” she answered with frustrating segregation, higher rates of disease, and overcrowded housing. In an industrial city the comforts of the home were paramount to the ability to endure monotonous and dirty work. Peterson noted that “migrants confronted the ironic situation of earning much better wages than they ever had before and still being unable to rent decent lodgings.” For Blacks, “segregated housing patterns . . . not only were blows to comfort, pride, self-esteem and family life; they could also kill.” Peterson concluded that more racial tension existed in Detroit due to residential patterns and competition for housing than over jobs. Beyond the factory and housing, entertainment facilities, and recreational activities provided by the companies, such as sports leagues; were segregated. Peterson noted that, “by far the most important social institutions were black churches,” which “became the most vital institution trying to both integrate rural blacks into the urban atmosphere and cement and develop a sense of racial community.”
In Black Detroit August Meier and Elliot Rudwick noted, “the income of Ford’s Black workers was the cornerstone for the prosperity of the black community’s business and professional people.” Blacks “were employed in the laboratories and drafting rooms; as bricklayers, crane operators, and mechanics; and . . . as electricians and tool-and-die makers.” James C. Price became an expert in purchasing abrasives and diamonds. Eugene J. Collins became head of the die casting department in 1924, and was later named the first Negro foreman. Meier and Rudwick point out that, “Ford established his own contacts among key black leaders, especially among the clergy.” Ford’s paternalism extended to local African American communities. This won Ford praise from African Americans, so much so that “black workers at Ford felt themselves superior, and wore their company badges to church on Sunday.”
African Americans comprised a significant portion of Ford’s workforce. James Flink pointed out that, “Ford’s black workers were concentrated at the Rouge, where by 1926 they number 10,000 and constituted about 10 percent of the work force.” At the Rouge, African-Americans were concentrated in “the most dangerous, dirty, and disagreeable jobs – chiefly in paint spraying and foundry work.” Blacks were employed in positions that required the greatest physical exertion, the highest accident rates, and most exposure to health hazards. Despite the racial victories of foremen like Eugene J. Collins, most Blacks were forced into hazardous jobs in separate parts of the factory.
Ford countered the critics of mass production in his own time in his 1926 article on the topic in Encyclopedia Britannica. He argued that
The need for skilled artisans and creative genius is greater under mass production than without it. In entering the shops of the Ford Motor Co., for example, one passes through great departments of skilled mechanics who are not engaged in production, but in the construction and maintenance of the machinery of production. Details of from 5,000 to 10,000 highly skilled artisans at strategic points throughout the shops were not commonly witnessed in the days preceding mass production. It has been debated whether there is less or more skill as a consequence of mass production. The present writer’s opinion [Ford’s] is that there is more. The common work of the world has always been done by unskilled labor, but the common work of the world in modern times is not as common as it was formerly. Fordism completed a revolution in the making of things that originated with the notion of interchangeable parts first proposed by Eli Whitney in 1798. Combining the practice of interchangeable parts as employed in nineteenth century armories with that of the moving disassembly line in the meat packing industry and techniques involving metal stamping from the bicycle industry, the assembly line led to what is called deskilling and monotony. But Fordism had its advantages. Fifteen million Model Ts were produced by 1927, and profits exceeded $7 billion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A History of Speed Traps in the U.S.

Hi folks -- sorry for being so quiet lately. I have just been overwhelmed with work, the result of having 85 students in three classes.
I am beginning to discuss one-on-one term paper topics with my students. I have one young lady doing a paper on advertising and women during the 1960s and 1970s, and this morning I met with Megan Slaybach concerning a topic I really wanted someone to pursue, namely a history of speed traps. I had noticed this summer that there were quite a few entries during the 1920s in the New York Times on speed traps, and since Meghan is interested in law school, I thought this topic might work for her. In addition to NYT articles, there are also a number of articles listed in Readers' Guide Retrospective and also Lexis Nexis Academic, including important cases that went to the several state Supreme Courts. So we will see how it all shakes out. I noted that the first reference in the NYT was dated 1908; thus, it is a long standing and contentious issue to say the least.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dayton Concours, September 19, 2010 -- photos of some very special cars

Lots of old men with money here. If you are looking for a sugar-daddy, this might be the right place!

This is the car I judged to be the best in Class C. Among other things, it had correct Firestone "gum-dipped" tires!

Well, not everybody looks like a sugar daddy here! More people should try to get in shape with the PX-90 system.

A nice group of motorcycle entrants

$100,000 invested in this car. I would rather invest in a conco in Del Mar, CA, but then it is not my money!

Hi folks -- the Dayton Concours took place again at Carillon Park, a super setting for the display of historically significant vehicles. The weather was about as good as it could get, and from all appearances the crowds were large, with many of the beautiful people of Dayton and surrounding area showing up to look at the cars and also be seen.

I ended up judging 7 American cars, 1946-1968, and it was a tough job considering the quality of the entrants. My top choice was the 1956 Ford Crown Victoria with factory air, a terrific example with no significant flaws. judging is always difficult because your task is to find scratches, discoloration, inappropriate parts, etc. on cars that usually are far better than anything you personally own or drive. many of these folks have put in countless hours and often tens (or actually 100s) of thousands of dollars to show their cars. It is their money!

Thanks to friend and former colleague Ed Garten for these photos!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Molly Higgins "auto-biography" -- a 1992 Lexus and 1997 Buick LeSabre Custom

a wrecked Lexus, not Molly's! This one is further gone.
Molly Higgins
September 9, 2010
I love my car. At first I didn’t understand why I loved my previous car a dark green 1992 Lexus LS 400 or why I love my 1997 Buick LeSabre Custom. And then a realization hit. Like every other teenager out there I finally realized why I loved my car so much. Freedom. I didn’t have to say exactly where I was going, who I would be with or what I was doing anymore. My parents were just going to have to suck it up and take what I told them. It couldn’t get that much more wonderful for my 16 through 18 year old self. Then I realized that once college hit I would no longer have my car, which is a very sad thought for a freedom loving, car obsessed 18-year-old fresh out of high school. I really enjoyed that last summer of driving freedom. I drove all over my hometown and even helped my mom drive to Florida that year. Then I learned that driving through Atlanta, Georgia at rush hour was a HORRIBLE thing and that I should have definitely listened to my parents when they told me to drive through Atlanta at like 3:00 am.
As the summer drew to a close and the school year began at times I still missed my Lexus but I survived by taking the Wal-mart bus or bumming a ride off of a friend. Then winter break came about and I had my keys back for three weeks. I drove everywhere yet again and enjoyed every minute of my around town driving. One night I was coming home from a friend’s house. The drive from my friends’ house to my house is maybe ten minutes or less especially at 11:00 pm. I was fiddling with the radio and trying to appease my pet peeve of driving in a silent car when I went off the road and hit four boulders a tree and a road sign, landing maybe 25 feet from the edge of a waterfall that dropped into the river. That, I will have to say was the scariest moment of my life. Apparently a Domino’s pizza guy had seen the incident and stopped with a big flashlight to help me find my glasses and my phone so I could call for help. (I always over tip my Domino’s pizza guys. That man was a blessing.) I called my parents and they helped me get my car out and go home but that was the end of the Lexus.
Now without a car and summer quickly approaching I was very upset. I had ruined my Lexus, a gift from my favorite uncle the year I turned 16 and was now without a way to work or to my friends I was in essence grounded. As the summer went by I was miserable. The ruined Lexus sat in my driveway and taunted me. In August, my two best friends called me up and asked my dad and I to stop by the house. They said they had a surprise for me. I asked my dad to come over with me and as we pulled up I saw a brand new cherry red Cadillac. It was gorgeous. Parked right next to the Cadillac was their dad’s old car a burgundy Buick. Their dad immediately handed the title of the Buick over to me and said, “Here, I know you don’t have a car anymore and I think this should fix your problem.” I was ecstatic.
I still have that car and it is beautiful to me. It has taken me to Dayton and to Youngstown. It is my baby and I spoil it accordingly. So, I love my car. And in all honesty I don’t think it matters what type of car I have. It is more important that it takes me places and frees me from the control that annoys me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Student Auto-Biography -- Alex Bowling an his Travels: his Dad's 1969 Buick Skylark Convertible

Alex Bowling

Dr. Heitmann

HST 485

Sept. 3, 2010

My “Auto” Biography

My life behind the wheel began much earlier than most other people. My first time in the driver’s seat was at the age of three. My mom left the car running while she ran back inside my house for a moment. Something compelled me to get out of my bucket seat and hop behind the wheel. I shifted my mom’s minivan into drive and the car lurched forward into our brick garage. Amazingly, my mom did not notice that the car was leaning against the brick wall when she returned. So when she got in the car, I reluctantly confessed what had happened. The damage to both was minimal but I received a stern lecture about touching things in the car. Unfortunately, several years later one of my friends happened to fall and hit his head on the sharp corner that I created that day. He had to get numerous stitches in the back of his head but fully recovered.

Some of my earliest memories are of my dad’s green Buick Le Sabre. Green was my favorite color and I loved how smooth the ride was, especially compared to our old minivan. I was heartbroken when my dad repainted the car red and I actually refused to ride in it for a short time. My dad had always had a knack for Buicks. One of his most prized possessions is his 1969 Buick Skylark convertible. It is has all of the original parts, except a tape-deck stereo that he installed himself. I have so many wonderful memories with that car. It was the mode of transportation for important sporting events and several parades. Gallons and gallons of ice cream have been consumed in that car while cruising around the historical districts of Louisville, Kentucky. I have even been lucky enough to take a few dates out in it. I always push my dad’s buttons by telling him that as soon as the Skylark is mine, I am going to put some huge chrome rims on the car and fit it with some sub-woofers. I would never do such a thing, but it always drives my dad crazy. If I am lucky enough to inherit the car someday, I plan to keep it as original as possible.

I bought my first car, a 1996 Grand Cherokee Laredo, from my uncle in 2006. The jeep already had 212,000 miles on it so needless to say, it wasn’t too expensive. Today the odometer reads 253,000 miles. The Grand Cherokees from the mid to late 1990’s are notoriously durable and long-lasting. Excluding the obvious components such as tires, everything on the car is completely original. I take great pride in a clean and organized car and I am proud of the extensive mileage that it has accumulated. I have been in one fender-bender accident with my car which didn’t cause serious damage. Unfortunately, I have a pronounced lead foot and I have amassed a total of three speeding tickets. The first two were undoubtedly justified, but I must present my case for the third and latest speeding ticket. I was pulled over in Boone County, Kentucky last year while driving home for Christmas Break. I had been in my only fender bender about an hour earlier and one of my headlights was shattered. After I was pulled over, I explained to the officer that my headlight was out because of the recent accident. After listening to my explanation, he returned with a ticket for five over. A police chief I know told me that in twenty-five years of service, he had never heard of a ticket for five over. I believe that this policeman just had a quota to meet and he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to fine someone that he pulled over. On a lighter note, I have a copious amount of positive memories in my jeep. All of the places I have traveled and people that I have transported in my jeep have had a significant effect on my life. I thoroughly enjoy spending time in my car, even if I am by myself just listening to music. I wish that the cruising around associated with earlier generations was a more viable option for a poor college student who pays for his own gas. All things considered, I love my Grand Cherokee and I plan on driving it until it reaches the end of its rope.

Some of my favorite memories involving cars were family vacations. Two years ago my family rented a Ford Edge and drove up Highway 1 along the California coast. It was quite possibly the most breath-taking car ride of my life. The view of the Pacific Ocean, steep cliffs, thick forests, and sandy beaches is something that I will never forget. This past summer my family flew out to Park City, Utah to experience the mountain west. From our base in Park City, we drove to Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Forest; two of the most picturesque destinations in the United States. Not all of my car rides have been so invigorating though. Almost every summer during my adolescence, my family drove down to Hilton head, South Carolina. It is still my favorite vacation destination, but I always dreaded the car ride there and back. Driving through the Smoky Mountains always made my stomach twist and churn. I was routinely carsick, which made for a very unpleasant trip. Thankfully, I have grown out of my carsick phase and winding roads no longer bother me.

Two of the most pivotal trips of my life were dependent on an automobile. In high school, I volunteered to help with the Katrina cleanup. A local church rented three extended vans and packed about twelve kids in each of them. It was a fourteen hour drive to New Orleans and we drove straight through the night. I only slept for about an hour because of the cramped conditions and the anticipation of the task ahead of us. I will never forget the conversations that we all shared and the things that we encountered on that trip. Our group gutted several houses in a Vietnamese neighborhood wearing full body suites to protect against the mold build up and other bacteria. We drove to the 9th Ward and observed one of the breaches in the levee. It was one of the most moving and influential road trips of my life. Another momentous trip in my lifetime was my trip to China and Tibet in the summer of 2007. I went with a group of student from my high school Chinese class. We obviously flew around much of the country but several of the tours we embarked upon were by bus. The most spectacular of these was our trip to the Kambala Pass in Tibet. At an altitude of 16,000 feet, it is nearly as tall as the base camp for Mount Everest. From the pass, the Himalayas were visible in the distance. There was a holy lake in the valley between the mountains that is one of Tibet’s holiest lakes. It was the most intense shade of blue that I have ever seen in nature. The three hour drive up to the pass was heart wrenching. Our group was in a huge tour bus that was almost the exact width of the road. It was a one way road and the only way down was on the other side of the mountain. I was sitting on the side that was nearest to the edge and closest to the drop off that was 1,000 feet or more at times. It was difficult to look over the edge for too long. The local driver had a deadline to meet so every turn was like a roller coaster ride. It was without a doubt the scariest automobile ride that I have ever experienced.

I am absolutely amazed, as I reflect on this paper, that automobiles have played a significant role in my life. Some of my best memories were in automobiles as well as a few of my worst. I have no doubt that i have spent months of my life in automobiles and I will probably spend many more in them as well. They are vital to everyday American life and I believe that they will continue to be for generations.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jordan Kramer: A DMV Driver's Test and A Jam on the Autobahn

Jordan Kramer
Hst 485
To this day I can recall the feelings of excitement and unease as I waited for my name to be called to take down the beast known as the driving test. With my nerves eating away from within thoughts of fleeing the DMV began to get the better of me. However before I had my chance to make a break for it my name was called and the journey was about to begin. Yet before it could I again found myself waiting, this time in my dad’s suburban for my show down between man and machine.
As the driving instructor strolled towards me in what seemed slow motion the anxiety I was feeling turned into fear. A twenty-foot walk seemed to last hours as she slowly sipped her coffee and flicked her hair to the side. Shaking with nerves I thought to myself, I am so screwed. As soon as she entered the car I knew she was not excited to be there as well. With a pointed towards the horizon and a sigh of dismay I was off to prove I was competent.
After a blown stop sign and one perfect parallel parking job she looked over and with a smile she said, “work on the stop signs, but you got it.” I knew I had over come the dreaded driving test and in my excitement I threw up a fist pump to really seal the deal. Ever since that brisk February day the road has treated me well, even though my time on here has been a limited one. Unlike many I know I was not blessed by the car gods and did not receive a car with bow on my sixteenth birthday.
As I said earlier my time on the road has been limited because of the lack of wheel I possessed. I was occasionally granted the delight of cursing down the open road in my mom’s grand caravan and that was still a rarity. Although my time has been limited that does not mean I haven’t felt the wind in my hair and seen the occasional dead deer off to the side. That is far from the truth, although lacking in hours on the road it does not mean I have not made the trips.
My most vivid and cherished memory of driving would have to be last spring when the Kramer clan took a trip to Europe. I am sure many are saying what does that have to do with anything, but it has to do with everything. See on this trip my family and I decided to visit the land of our ancestors and return to Deutschland. During this two-week escapade across the German countryside we were able to go wild and drive on the famous autobahn, this was an experience in itself.
As my two brothers and I cram into the back row of our rented Mercedes M-class we were gitty with excitement, but it would be short lived. As my father took the controls and would not stop raving about how much he loved the car our excursion began. With the windows down and hitting speeds between 100mph to 150 mph we could not be happier. After about an hour of enjoying the open road the traffic began to get heavier and heavier until we are eventually at a stand still. As this is happening I am thinking to myself what is this crap, I thought this was the autobahn with no rules and pure speed. I was soon to find out that although there are no limits on the road there are limits to the cars that we drive.
As people began pouring out of their cars I remember saying there really are no rules on this puppy. So following by example my family and I made our way out onto the autobahn, but this time on foot. As we were standing there not knowing a lick of German my father somehow befriended a truck driver who spoke broken English. For a side note here my father has the unique ability of being able to talk to anyone about anything. As my father attempted to have a conversation, which was even challenging for the man who could talk to walls my brothers and I took advantage of the situation. We began to battle for title of top soccer player in the family on the side of the autobahn. They were extremely intense matches of one on one first to score stays on and the other grabs some pine.
As our battles for family domination were underway my father somehow discovered a truck had overturned and it was going to be awhile. This meant little to me at the point because I could not allow for my younger brother to dethrone me as champion of the Kramer’s. After jiving for top spot in the family for 2 hours I was eventually unseated by my crafty younger brother and as soon as my glorious reign had come to an end we spotted traffic begin to move. As we pilled back into the car our adventure across Germany continued. As many can say they have enjoyed the limitless roads of the autobahn, only few can say they played soccer against one’s brothers on the side of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ian Freeman -- A Memorable Road trip to New York City: What a Guy will do to see a Girl!

Ian Freeman

Dr. Heitman

September 1, 2010

HST 486


I met my girlfriend at the beginning of my sophomore year. She sat across from me in sociology and after several weeks of class I was lucky enough to bump into her at a party. I had consumed a couple cans of liquid courage that night and mustered up enough nerve to say something to her. We clicked instantly and spent the rest of the night talking. The next day I asked her if she wanted to go to dinner. She said yes and we had an amazing time. I ended the night by walking her back to her dorm room, kissing her goodnight and walked back to my room feeling like a million bucks. We continued to see each other through our sophomore year. Everything was amazing but as summer approached, a single problem began to rear its ugly head. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio. My girlfriend lived hundreds of miles away on Long Island in New York.

As the spring term ended we decided to try our hand at a long term relationship and agreed that each of us would try to visit the other as often as possible. This was no big deal for her; she had money and was going to fly out to visit me. I, on the other hand, was working as a janitor and dead broke. Without the money to buy a plane ticket the only way I would be able to visit my girl was to drive. The decision to drive was not an easy one for me. I had been on long car trips before but never alone. I had also never met her parents and the thought of spending five days in her house was not helping my nerves.

Although I was nervous I knew I liked this girl and decided to pack up my car and hit the road. The trip was going to take me eight hours. Seven hours of driving through the seemingly uninhabited region of Pennsylvania surround I-80 and an hour trying to navigate freeways crammed shoulder to shoulder on my way through New York City. I woke up bright and began my journey.

The drive through Pennsylvania was extremely uneventful. The roads were so desolate that at times I felt I could have fallen asleep and still made it through in one piece. By noon I was getting hungry and decided to stop for lunch at McDonalds in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. After lunch I got back in my car and expected to jump right back onto I-80 but realized that there was no on-ramp in sight. I panicked and desperately drove around for about a half hour until I finally decided to stop and ask a local for directions. I pulled into a Shell station and sheepishly asked the man behind the counter how I could get back to the freeway. He laughed, explaining that this happens all the time, and gave me directions back to I-80.

I had been in Pennsylvania for hours and was beginning to think of the stretch of I-80 that ran through it as the most boring place on Earth to drive. By the time I stopped for lunch I wondered if it would ever end. After finding my way out of Stroudsburg I realized that Pennsylvania was finally over. After driving 310 mile through it I finally reached the great state of New Jersey. Driving through New Jersey is a dream. It is three lanes all the way to New York and the average speed is around eighty mile per hour. I was so elated about being done with Pennsylvania that the drive through New Jersey seemed to fly and before I knew it I was sitting in traffic waiting to cross the George Washington bridge.

My first impression of the traffic on the bride was that it was a complete mess. It took me at least a half hour to drive about four miles. On my subsequent journeys, however, I would learn that this was really not that bad. Once I crossed the George Washington I had to drive on one of the most congested freeways in the world (The Cross Bronx) to the Throgs Neck Bridge which would take me to Long Island. The traffic going through the Bronx is ridiculous. This was my first time in New York and I was nervous about being aggressive. I had already been lost once and I did not want to get lost here. I sat in the right lane and probably only broke forty miles per hour once. However, my cautious driving paid off as I finally made it across the bridge and onto Long Island. The last leg of my journey was a piece of cake. When I got to my girlfriends house she was waiting for me and gave me big hug and kiss making the whole drive worthwhile.

I’ve been out to New York a lot since this first trip, but out of all of them this one in particular sticks out for me. It was the first time I had ever driven more than three hours by myself. When it was over I felt accomplished. I felt as if making this drive made me more of a “man” or more of an adult. I have been lucky enough to take road trips all over the country with my family and my dad always did all of the driving. I always wondered how he could drive all these long hours without stopping. This trip showed me how. My girlfriend always says that I should just fly out to come see her and I always decline. I honestly love driving the eight hours by myself to visit her. I have really come to appreciate the feeling I get of being alone in a car with the music playing and the windows down. It gives me a feeling of peace and a chance to reflect and think about things and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Photo: August 1930
Photo: September 1930


Eighty years ago, the first week in September, Henry Ford attended the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria, Germany. That famous passion play performed by the residents of Oberammergau every ten years (except for two times) since 1638 started to attract international guests by 1900. The attendance list was a contemporary "Who's Who" -- royalty from Russia, France, Sweden, England, Italy, Austro-Hungary, Prussia, and Denmark. Auguste Eiffel, Graf Zeppelin, artists, poets, theater celebrities, church dignities, and American millionaires like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt.
But only a few days before Ford attended the play, another guest was in attendance -- Adolph Hitler. While there is no historical evidence that the two met during this time the coincidence is remarkable.

Hitler hung Ford's picture on his wall and wrote in Mein Kampf that Ford was a great man who had confronted Jewish power; he quoted Ford's book "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem" extensively. That book basically blamed Jews for all of the problems of the world. The International Jew is still reprinted and much admired by neo-Nazis and White Supremacists even today.
Some of Ford's early quotes seem to be something straight out of Hitler's mouth: "The international financiers are behind all war. They are what is called the International Jew - German Jews, French Jews, English Jews, American Jews . . . the Jew is a threat." Hitler told a Detroit News reporter in 1933 that he regarded "Henry Ford as my inspiration." Following Hitler's assumption of power, Ford is reported to have sent Hitler 50,000 Deutsch Marks every year on his birthday.
While anti-Semitism persisted in the the Passion Play until 1970, it reached its most painful pitch by the 1930 performance. In 1934, Oberammergau scheduled a special performance to commemorate the 300-year anniversary of the Passion Play. In 1638 the Passion Play was initated following the village's survival from the Black Plague. But by 1934 a new plague was on hand to harass the villagers--Nazism. In an effort to make his Bavarian subjects look like Aryans rather than Jews while playing their biblical roles, Hitler appointed his Bavarian State Minister, Esser, High Commissioner for Tourist Traffic and ordered him to preside over the Passion Play committee. But the villagers refused to modify their makeup and costumes, though they paraded agreeably, regularly "heiling" Hitler.

During August, 1934, the audience paid tribute to Field Marshal von Hindenburg on the occasion of his death and to Hitler when he attended a performance. Hitler was said to be inspired only by the character of Pilate, whom history records as a brutal Roman governor, but whom Hitler exalted by commenting: "There he stands like a firm rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry."

Some speculate that Henry Ford may have feared Jews as competition to his business. Thus he peddled racism as a tool to defeat a business enemy. He called the motion picture industry, along with the music and liquor business, organizations controlled by Jews. Of the American film industry Ford wrote, " . . . Americans every day place themselves voluntarily within range of a Jewish life, love, and labor ... . . there are two families in this world, and on one the darkness dwells."
Although Ford later renounced his anti-semitic writings, he remained an admirer of Nazi Germany and sought to keep America out of World War II.
The attached photos include Henry Ford walking down the street following his attendance at the 1930 Passion Play as well as a photo of Hitler that was taken, also in 1930, where is is greeting some Passion Play cast members.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Andrew Zemany and his "Lost" Chevy Tahoe -- UD Student "Auto" - Biography

Upon receiving this assignment I found myself racking my brain for a story that holds an important place in my past but could also prevent the reader from dozing off. What would I write about would it be my first time behind the wheel of the beast of a vehicle that was my mother’s Chevy Tahoe. Or would it be my traumatic experience of my first real accident as a young driver. In the end I took the third option which you can judge for yourself upon its exciting conclusion.
It all began two years ago my sophomore year in college. I remember like it was yesterday or at least the day before yesterday. My freshman experience at the University of Dayton at had not been a joyous one when it came to my truck, parking and the crowded streets of Dayton. As a freshman I was not allowed the privilege of a parking pass so I was forced to secretly and skillfully stash my truck along and around the streets of Dayton and Oakwood. By second semester I had even found a location in Irving commons that was free from the risk of tickets that you took along Irving Avenue. The problem with that locale was that it was a hike from my dorm making it inconvenient to use my truck as I pleased. So when I moved on to my sophomore year I readily bought a parking pass in the first available lot S2.
It was a decent location to park my truck, not too far from my classes. It was also not too far from my apartment, and it was right in the center of everything. At the time I was just thrilled to be able to have my truck back from time to time. A little walk was worth the safety and ease of the S2 lot. I didn’t have to deal with the drunken drivers of the student ghetto who routinely removed mirrors of trucks as they swerved their way through Keifaber and Lowes. I also did not have to worry about receiving another ticket from the campus or Dayton police. At the time it was a perfect situation.
My story really begins one night as my friend who I will call Chaz asked to borrow my truck to take out his newly acquired girlfriend. Being the good friend that I am I didn’t hesitate handing over the keys, with the one stipulation of parking my truck in the parking lot instead of any of the streets. Chad agreed and took her out that night. The next day he gave me back the keys and I forgot about much of the incident as the monotony of classes continued the next week.
As the next weekend rolled around I went out for the night like any normal college student. I had been drinking for a good while when a few of my friends announced they were going out to the movies. The thought of a bag of popcorn convinced me on the spot and I tagged along to see a film. We arrived at the movies and I ended up sleeping through the entirety of the film. When I awoke it was time to go so I got and left the theatre that night. The next morning I again woke in my room and reached for my cell phone and it was nowhere to be found. I scoured the levels and crevices of my small room and it was nowhere to be found.
After a few minutes of no luck I began to think back to the night before and it finally hit me. I had dropped my phone under my seat at the movies. The thought of my phone just sitting at the theatre made me very uncomfortable. I very quickly got my keys and headed down to the S2 parking lot and walked the whole lot from end to end but my truck was nowhere to be found. I looked and looked and it was obvious that it was not parked in that lot. My thoughts returned to Chaz borrowing my truck. I called up my friend and asked him where my truck was parked. He began to then explain to me that he parked it on Lowes even though I had told him beforehand to park my vehicle in the parking lot. I was a little upset that he had not followed my directions, however my thoughts returned to my phone so I let it pass.
I then proceeded to walk the full length of Lowes to again no avail. I again called Chaz on the phone and he repeatedly told me that he had parked it right on Lowes. After a short conversation in which I explained that it was nowhere to be found he quickly joined me down on the street in search of my truck. The first thought that came to mind was that someone had stolen my truck. It wasn’t the nicest or the most expensive truck however I had grown pretty attached to it since I bought it my junior year of high school. The idea that it was stolen scared me and I went back to my room and called the police who showed up within a few minutes. They took down my information and were about to start a report when they received information that the city had my car impounded.
Impounded! I was surprised how could that happen I thought to myself. Well it turns out it had been parked in a no parking zone for several days where it accrued several tickets until it was towed and impounded downtown. The news of all of this made me pretty upset I had already lost my phone today and now my car was somewhere in downtown Dayton and now I was going to have to pay for all of the tickets my friend earned me as he ignored my directions and parked on the street. I wasn’t taking any of this -- I made it clear that Chaz was going to pay for everything. He had opportunities to avoid the whole situation; however he was lazy and parked my car right next to our apartment building instead of walking a few minutes.
In the end my friend Joe drove me over to the movie theater and to my surprise I found my keys exactly underneath my seat. It was a great end to one of the longest most frustrating days of my life. The next day would get my truck back from the city after two hundred dollars worth of tickets and fees. Chaz did pay me back and felt very bad about the whole situation. Looking back at the whole story now it seems pretty humorous. I spent the whole day running around try to find my keys and my car and nothing could have been worse at the time. When I think about it all now it was a learning experience. Sometimes you have to figure out who you can trust with your things. I would let Chaz borrow my truck again after that fiasco. However I would always ridicule him for the events that
So there you have it my favorite yet miserable moment in my driving career. I believe it still counts even no real driving was involved. I hope I kept you entertained and didn’t lose anyone along the way. The impounding of my truck continues to live on in the back of my mind as well in the minds of many of my friends.