Thursday, July 2, 2015

Women Can Drive Gasoline Engine Cars. . .Bye Bye Electric Cars, 1905-1915

A great story about Anita's historic trip -

. . .For the most part they were content for a year or two to drive within the confines of the city limits. But one morning in the summer of 1915 the nation awoke to read that a lovely cinema favorite was about to attempt the most daring motor trip that a lone and unprotected female had yet undertaken.

The lady’s name was Anita King, more commonly called “The Paramount Girl,” for at that time all movie stars had trick soubriquets of that kind.

It seemed that Miss King, a daring stunt girl in her day, had been grieving over the death of her younger sister and had decided to get away from the tinsel of Hollywood for a while. She wanted to be alone to think out life’s problems. So she had decided to take a solitary motor trip from Los Angeles to New York, via the Lincoln Highway.

The Kissel Motor Car Company, of Hartford, Wisconsin, kindly offered to lend her a Kisselkar for her lonely jaunt to New York, and the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles, both anxious to send messages to the mayor of New York, asked Miss King to deliver same for them. This information was all painted on the side of Miss King’s Kisselkar so that she would not have to stop along the way and answer questions.

As she left Los Angeles, Miss King wore a suede motoring coat, a suede racing helmet, goggles and a dazzling smile. Paramount’s press agents followed Miss King at a respectful distance, and also preceded her, through the unadvertised courtesy of the Kissel Motor Car Company.

There was not a day of Miss King’s famous crossing of the continent that was not fraught with danger or excitement. It was positively as thrilling as a movie script.

In a lonely mountain pass she stopped to pick up a strange man on foot. He tried to molest her and steal her car. She quickly covered him with a small pearl-handled revolver and could easily have shot him between the eyes. But woman’s intuition told her that this poor unfortunate man was a victim of circumstances. Instead of shooting him she gave him a lecture, drove him on to the next town and turned him loose without saying a word to the authorities.

Then came the Great Salt Desert. Halfway across she found herself lost on its salt-encrusted expanse. With all the water boiled out of her radiator and her last drop of drinking water gone, it looked as though Miss King was a goner. She stumbled out onto the hot desert sands and fell fainting beside her faithful Kisselkar.
“The Paramount Girl,” Anita King’s Kesselkar.
She knew not how long she lay thus in the broiling sun, but when she came to she was in the shade of a Joshua tree, strong arms were holding her, and cool water was trickling down her throat. She had been rescued by three desert prospectors. They filled her radiator and sent her on her way, followed closely by her press representative and two photographers, who had been recording this thrilling life drama from behind a near-by giant cactus plant.

But according to Miss King her “real big lasting thrill of the trip came on a lonely rain-swept hill in Wyoming.” Miss King had been driving all day and was passing a farm when she saw a young girl waving to her to stop. But let the reporter for ‘Sunset’ magazine describe what took place, egged on by the Paramount publicity department:

“A girl of about sixteen came running through the gate and up to the car, breathless, wide-eyed, pale.

“‘Oh,’ she gasped, ‘I thought you wasn’t going to stop!’

“‘I wasn’t,’ answered Miss King unamiably.

“‘But I’ve been waiting for two days,’ protested the little girl. ‘They said you’d come by, two days ago, and I’ve been watching all the time. And I haven’t slept a wink for fear you might go by in the night.’

“The child’s distraught appearance confirmed the statement.

“‘But why have you been so foolish?’ said Miss King.

“‘No,’ said the girl. ‘It isn’t foolish. It’s life and death. I can’t stand it any longer. I have to go.’ She clung to the car, and looked up appealingly into the puzzled eyes of the Paramount Girl. ‘Oh, please take me with you!’

“‘Why, child,’ cried Miss King. ‘What in the world do you mean?’

“Then followed, in the drizzle of that darkening afternoon, the impassioned recital of a little drama which is being enacted in countless homes all over the country, though Anita King had never understood it until then. The story of the screen-struck little girl to whom the humdrum routine of home had become unbearable under the spur of a newborn ambition to be a motion picture star.

“Impatience of the home which had become a prison, a naive assurance that ‘the pictures’ meant life’s real opportunity, despair at the dull parental wits that could not understand. Anita King listened to the flood of eager words from the white-faced youngster on the running board. And as she listened, her soul awoke to a responsibility. . .”

So Miss King told the girl that Hollywood was no place for her; stay home, marry and have kiddies, she advised, then she got back in her Kisselkar and was off again in the rain and mud.

There wasn’t much subtlety to Hollywood publicity in those days and probably there didn’t need to be, for millions of women from coast to coast waited and watched for Anita King, with her Mary Pickford curls and her girlish figure, to come barreling down the road or the boulevard in her big Kisselkar.

Some saw her with their own eyes and some had to read about her in the newspapers, but surely there was not a woman in the country but envied Miss King her derring-do and her ability to drive a six-cylinder 60-horsepower Kisselkar across the country without the help of a man.

When The Paramount Girl finally reached New York and drove down Broadway, the throngs along the curb cheered for her long and loud, and very soon the women of America had their husband’s cars by the steering wheel and were plotting a course straight down emancipation road. The following year the automobile industry doubled its output.
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