Crash on Independence

Wreck at Indepence and Henderson c 1964This minor three-car wreck near the corner of Independence and Henderson is interesting not because of the crash, but for what’s going on around it. This shot, for example, shows E.C. Robinson Lumber Company in the background. A quick peek at Google Earth shows that the main building is still there, but some of the ones behind it are gone. (Click on the photo to make it large enough to see the details.)

There’s a Greyhound bus parked at the bus depot, and a sign for Budget Laundry & Cleaners is behind it. There’s a boy’s bike with fenders and a rear rack propped up on its kickstand on the sidewalk. On the rack is a baseball mitt. The railroad tracks hadn’t been removed yet.

I apologize for the quality of the film: this frame has some fog flare on the left, and some of the other shots have more spots and flaws that I felt like fixing.

Wrecks as a spectator sport

Wreck at Indepence and Henderson c 1964Cape Girardeans love their wrecks. The sound of a crash will bring folks out to enjoy the excitement. I have to admit that it was a family ritual to swing by James’ Wrecker on the way home from church to see who had come to grief over the weekend. Mother, of course, could never resist the siren call (literally) of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. When I come home I have to tell her that I don’t have to chase those flashing lights in my retirement. I think that disappoints her.

Even I was shocked, though, when I worked a car being pulled out of a river in the wee hours of the morning in Ohio. Water was still pouring out of it and the driver, a young woman who had served me a spaghetti dinner at a local diner that evening was still behind the wheel. I have no idea where a crowd could have come from at that hour of the morning, but the capper was when someone lifted a toddler up so he could see inside the car. THAT busted even Cape standards.

Probably happened in 1964

Wreck at Indepence and Henderson c 1964The tag on this car says 1965, and some other photos on the roll were of a football game with a plane towing a banner urging attendees to vote for AuH2O in 1964. That leads me to believe that the fenderbender was in the fall of 1964.

I see my station wagon

Wreck at Indepence and Henderson c 1964I see my 1959 Buick LaSabe station wagon off on the right. (I mention that only because there is an active group of collectors who search for any photo or mention of that vehicle they can find.) The body language of the spectators is fascinating.

Curator Jessica and I are considering doing a workshop at the Athens County Historical Society Museum to encourage local photographers to both scour their old photos for ones that have historical significance and to encourage them to document their surroundings on an ongoing basis. As in this case, a wreck that wasn’t even worth putting in the paper contains elements that show what life was like in Cape in the mid-1960s.



9 Replies to “Crash on Independence”

  1. Before I reached adult-hood most of the vehicle accidents in our area involved or affected people that we knew. We also were obliged to view and memorize the details for the retelling when meeting those not able to be there. Any good neighbor would, at that time, get involved. Besides, what was on tv? Certainly nothing as exciting as the incident depicted here.

    1. Dick, you’re onto something here. Those who were privileged to witness the event spent hours comparing notes with other witnesses so they could deduce the actual cause of the crash.

      Estimates of how much it would cost to repair the damage who be exchanged. Skid marks, the dirt that falls from a vehicle at the point of impact and broken glass would be analyzed by people who were probably as good as most investigators of the time.

      Of course, the fresh crash would cause past crashes to be brought up and compared in detail.

      Any injuries would take the excitement to the next level. That afternoon, everyone would rush to pick up The Missourian to find out how many mistakes they made in their account.

      You’ve nailed it.

  2. One of the things that strikes me in the first photo is the percentage of Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth vehicles in the picture compared to other makes.

  3. These photos are dense with documented culture. In one shot you have structural, fashion, signage, business, and landscape documentation. These photos have interest, and they are important archives.

  4. I saw this crash happen. My dad and I were in the west bound lane of Independence about four vehicles behind the two that got hit. If I remember correctly it was on a Saturday morning after a SEMO Homecoming parade.

    1. That would tie in with the football photos that are on the rest of the roll. Who’d have thought someone who saw the wreck would see the photos (and remember what happened).

      I couldn’t remember the wreck and I shot it. (Of course, except for a few that show up in nightmares, they all tend to run together (pun not intended).)

  5. The garage of the house the car ran into was my grandmother’s house and the house my mom and her two sisters grew up in. If you enlarge the second picture, you can see my grandmother carrying groceries and as she would have said “minding my own business” and not paying a bit of attention to what is happening. Grandma lived in that house until she passed away in 1994 and our family continues to holds on to our precious memories.

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