Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Lady, The Chauffeur and the Locomobile

We are very blessed to be living in an area that is so full of history -- and a very wide array of history that spans over 300 years. This post features a modern woman from 1910 who is a role model even a century later. I learned about her cross country travels from Becky, the grand-niece of "the chauffeur," Harold Brooks.

Harriet White married Clark Fischer, owner of the Eagle Anvil Company in Trenton, NJ. Three years later, he died in a train crash, she survived the crash. She took over his business -- quite a daring thing for a woman to do at the onset of the 20th century at a time when women were not even allowed to vote. The men scoffed at her, but she soon turned the business into a huge success.

Fast forward a few years to 1909. She decides to embark on a journey that would take her around the world. Picture life in 1909. The Orville brothers had successfully flown an airplane only 7 years earlier. Many places did not have roads. The "war to end all wars" had not happened. The Titanic was just beginning to be built. Cars could drive at 10-15 MPH. To say life was a bit different, would be an understatement.

A quick question to see who is paying attention: Why didn't she just take a train? Answer: her husband had died in a train crash and she was afraid of traveling by train.

Harriet White Fischer did know how to drive, but she brought along her chauffeur (Harold Brooks), a chef (she still wanted to dine in style) and a lady servant. Brooks was in charge of the logistics for the trip and for maintaining the car. Fortunately while he did have to change the tires about 20 times, nothing else went wrong with the car.

He also took over 200 glass slides during the trip. Over the past century, these slides were transferred to more modern slides. In the 1970s (?) his family recorded him describing the slides as he told his side of the story. That is what I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing at the Benjamin Temple House in Ewing, NJ. 

Brooks took a picture or two at every crucial point during the trip -- the loading of the car into a boat, an airplane they saw in France, pictures at different stops, and at different sticky situations. I could learn a lot from him -- sometimes less is better. In today's digital age, I would take 200 pictures just of the car in a crate to get the right image. His relatively few slides told the highlights of an adventure that lasted over a year.

Another lesson ... record people's stories in order that the next generation may enjoy them. Mrs. Fischer was well-known locally, but not a household name today. Her adventures live on.

A lesson from Mrs. Fischer -- follow your dreams and go on adventures. You never regret the things you did do, only the missed opportunities.

Go out there and have some adventures, then write about them so they are never forgotten.

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