Pampa’s First Cars

The first car in Pampa was owned by Dr. V.E. von Brunow who came in the fall of 1903 to be the town’s first doctor. The car, a beautiful red Velie, was a one-cylinder job guided with a steering bar instead of a wheel. When the car was in running condition, Dr. Brunow tore over the rough wagon paths and frightened most horses within range of hearing or sight.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

The doctor, being German, could not say the letter “V.” One day Beryl Wynne Vicars saw him working on his car and asked what he was doing. Dr. Brunow replied, “I’m putting waseline on the walves of the Wealie.”

The second car in Pampa was purchased in 1906 by Charles L. Thomas, who with his brother Sam, drilled many of the early water wells in and around Pampa . C.L. and S.S. Thomas were brothers of John V. Thomas who taught school in Pampa (1905-06 and 1906-07) and of Josephine Thomas, long-time principal (1928-1952) of Horace Mann Elementary School.

The Pampa Press, May 28, 1936, gave an account of the Thomas vehicle which had two cylinders but was still guided by a bar.

“If the Zeppelin Hindenberg were to land at the Pampa airport tomorrow and a thousand Pampans have the opportunity to enjoy a flight, the occasion would probably not supply half as many thrills for Pampans of 1936, as did C. L. Thomas’ black five-passenger Knox in 1907. On the memorable Fourth of July of that year, more than 500 citizens had their first automobile ride back in the days when cars ‘buttoned in the back’ as did the vehicle of Mr. Thomas’, which he purchased at Higgins.

“Mr. Thomas’ car had the air-cooled principle, later sky-rocketed by Franklin . To get in the car, one had to step through a door at the back. The car displayed the number 2, it being the second in Pampa .

“No licenses were required for the registration of automobiles when Mr. Thomas registered his car, back in 1906. All that was needed was to report ownership of an automobile at the courthouse, pay a fee of 50 cents and receive a number to be displayed on the car.”

The third car in Pampa probably belonged to S. S. Thomas. A record of disbursements of White Deer Lands shows that on March 18, 1908, a payment of $10.00 was made to S. S. Thomas for the use of two autos during an election. The previous day an election had been held to consider “location of county seat.” The vote was Lefors – 245; Alanreed – 63; McLean – 187.

On March 22, 1908, White Deer Lands paid $1,203.83 to Buick Auto Company, Kansas City , Missouri , for a Model F touring car ordered by T. D. Hobart. On his order dated March 9, Hobart requested wine color, glass folding front, Atwood generator, red running gears, one extra outside tire with two extra inner tubes, one extra spark plug and one pair of tire chains.

Because of the peculiar arrangement of the chain high on the sides of the front, the car was called “the manure spreader” by early residents.

Siler Faulkner, County and District Clerk of Gray County, wrote to Hobart on March 25, 1908:

“I got the data for the registration of the auto but did not have to have the number of the machine. Use number “4,” which number you will display in a conspicious place on the machine so that the registered number shows who violates the speed law or rate.”

Popular makes of cars in the early days were the Velie and the Reo. Some residents of the early 1920s had Franklins with isinglass curtains which were secured with toggle fasteners in times of bad weather.

Early cars were started with hand-cranks (and a few well chosen words, in many cases). Dr. Walter Purviance, who came to Pampa in 1910 and was a colleague of Dr. Brunow for a time, said he was once called to help get the older doctors’s car started for a call on a patient. The car, Dr. Purviance said, required a lot of doctoring too.

Even with cars, travel was limited in those days. Ungraded roads with chugholes and high centers were prohibitive to any sort of comfortable driving. Ladies had to veil themselves for protection against dust and wind when riding in the topless vehicles.

The road situation was so provoking that Dr. Brunow acquired a grader from some source and graded his own road, the first in the county. On March 3, 1908, White Deer Lands paid him $127.20 for grading streets in Pampa .

In Gray County Heritage Edwin S. Vicars recalled an unusual occurrence. Brady Cobb, who lived near White Deer, became impatient because Dr. Brunow had not come promptly to attend to his ailing wife. He got in his new Oldsmobile and started toward Pampa. At the same time, late in the afternoon, Dr. Brunow in his sporty Velie was hurrying toward the home of Brady Cobb. On the narrow road, near Kingsmill, the only two cars on the road in Gray County had a head-on collision.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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