Should the United States issue a commemorative silver dollar to honor the Model T Ford and mark centennial of the Highland Park Plant, where the automobile assembly line made its mark on American life and on the rest of the world starting in 1910?
My answer is an emphatic yes. It is a significant event. It is worthy of commemoration. It is also a reminder as the Presidential dollar series gets going that American history wasn?t made just by Presidents and generals, but by ordinary Americans who did extraordinary things, much to the betterment of all.
Perhaps I am influenced in my opinion by my colleagues on the staff of Old Cars Weekly. Perhaps it is my memories associated with Ford. My loyalty to one auto company or another has not been firm, but Ford reminds me of a number of things.
My father bought a brand new 1958 Ford. I got to go along on the day he picked it up. I wasn?t even three years old then. He was either a brave man or he didn?t have a baby sitter. It was a day in early spring. The sun shone, but the trees had no leaves.
I remember that we drove by my grandmother?s house. I waved. She waved. She was out on the front sidewalk sweeping when we arrived. Imagine such coordination in an era without the cellphone. Imagine the tidy housekeeping. My grandmother was determined to keep the sidewalks almost as clean as her kitchen.
That?s one reason I think the Model T should be honored. It got the era of automobile mass production going and it made it possible for many, if not all, American families to get a car eventually, including mine. Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather ever drove. Nowadays with three-and four-car garages, the idea that cars might not be available is hard to grasp. That is just one more reason for a Model T commemorative.
In the interests of fairness I should probably point out that my father bought a brand new Chevy in 1952. He also owned Chryslers. Nowadays, he is back to Ford.
My work here has also made memories relating to cars. I remember when then-owner Chet Krause drove up to the breakroom door in his 1978 Lincoln Continental with the diamond in the window to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company. He then proceeded to give staffers rides in it.
I remember the 100th anniversary of Ford as an event at the 2003 Iola Old Car Show. It was something.
Of course, Ford isn?t always in the spotlight at the show in Iola. The other carmakers get their turn also, but I am cherry-picking my memories here to honor Ford.
This commemorative is not simply for one automobile company. It represents all. Some might be tempted to suggest that we do a generic automobile commemorative. There is much appeal in that, but it eliminates the opportunity to teach real history. If we want a commemorative to mark the anniversary of General Motors becoming the largest auto maker in the world, I am for it. Do you we like Walter Chrysler and his well engineered cars? I will support that, too.
The automobile industry is significant to American history. The auto assembly line is proof that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. This event was taught in my history books right along with the 1914 decision to raise the pay of workers to the unheard of $5 a day, thereby introducing everyone to the concept that well-paid workers turn into consumers and those consumers spend their money to help other businesses become successful.
If you want to go all the way back to Eli Whitney and interchangeable parts in the 1790s, you can do that, too.
American history is rich with people and events that have made our way of life what it is. It isn?t easy to create out of this idea, like 50 states quarters and Presidents, but it is a story that should be told in coin form to help Americans not forget what made us great.