I’ve been away a while, and have not had an opportunity to work up any stories from Our Town. But I came across this compelling photograph in the Clarkson Museum, and I am hoping someone can shed some light on it.
Can you guess the subject of this unlabeled photo? I am almost certain I know what it is, and I also have a pretty good hunch where it happened.
I’ve enlarged the images of the men in the photo, in case someone can identify them. Notice that the three on the left are wearing identical overalls.
Don’t waste any time sending in your answer! The first person to identify the photo will win a delicious cheeseburger and gems dinner from the Purple Palace Drive-In!
While you are thinking about the photo, enjoy a couple of hair-raising, related stories from bygone days:
From the June 2, 1921 issue of the Colfax County Press –
While returning to Clarkson from a dance at the B.F. Jaroska farm nine miles north of town, Saturday evening, Emil Pavlis and Paul Havel, young Stanton county farmers, came near losing their lives in a terrible automobile accident. Driving along at a fair rate of speed in a large Nash touring car, the young men endured a race with a party of boys also returning from the dance and as both cars were powerful machines, the drivers experienced no difficulty in increasing the mileage and realizing a terrific velocity. As Messrs. Pavlis and Havel were about to approach the bridge near the Frank Brabec farm, five and a half miles north of Clarkson, they struck the railing of the bridge and landed directly in the creek. The other party with whom the boys were supposed to have been racing after, seeing the car had disappeared, went back, and by raising the over-turned car, rescued Mr. Havel from his perilous situation. Those who witnessed the accident regard it as a miracle that the boys escaped death or much more severe injury and both may consider themselves lucky that they are among the living. The car was badly wrecked and to bring it back into its former state will require an expenditure of several hundred dollars.
From the April 7, 1921 issue of the Colfax County Press –
Last week we no more than finished telling our readers of the automobile accident in Howells when it was reported that a much more costly and horrible accident occurred at the large bridge spanning Maple Creek on the east boundary of Clarkson, on the road more commonly known as the Fremont-Albion highway. It may be said frankly that this adventure as far as known to us, is the only one of its kind happening in this part of the country.
After the close of the day’s work, Edward Zelenda and Jos. Vacin both employed at Prazak Motor Co.’s garage, decided to go to Howells to see the remains of the automobile wreck which occurred there on Tuesday of last week, and while returning in a large Nash touring car, owned by Mr. Zelenda, they were suddenly overtaken on the road by Rudolph Nagengast, son of Albert Nagengast of near Howells, who endeavored to pass their car at the foot of the bridge. In doing so the young man overestimated the distance to the approach and instead of passing the car he squarely struck the bow of the bridge, completely knocking off the structure upon which the bridge was suspended. Traveling at a terrific speed, the car upon colliding with the bridge, turned completely around in a right about direction and was faced to the east. In this act it is understood that the vehicle in making the turn must have also struck the north side of the bow and by breaking off the principle supports, the bridge collapsed.
Luckily, Mr. Zelenda’s car succeeded in getting across before the bridge was destroyed and landed forcibly on an embankment a short distance west of the bridge, both occupants escaping injury. Hearing the terrible noise that followed the crash, both of the boys were stunned with fright but soon revived from the shock and ran to a neighbor’s house from where they called for help.
In the meanwhile the noise of the falling iron and timber was heard all over town and soon scores of cars and multitudes of people were seen hurrying to the bridge to witness the accident.
Upon striking the suspension of the bridge, Nagengast was thrown from his seat and hurled through the air to a distance of several yards, landing in the mire a short ways from the fallen bridge, where he was soon found in an unconscious condition. He was hurriedly taken to Dr. Knight’s office rooms where he was given first aid. An examination later revealed that his injury was not dangerous and upon recommendation of the physician, the injured man was taken to the home of his parents that very same evening.
Nagengast’s auto, a powerful 8-cylinder Willys-Knight touring car, is a total wreck as the result of the accident and beyond repair, while the Nash car suffered only a broken axle and a badly smashed fender and running board, caused by ramming the embankment.
In relating the story of how the collision happened, we are informed that Messrs. Zelenda and Vacin had the right-of-way, knowing nothing of being followed by a speeding automobile until but a short distance before the bridge when the attempt was made to pass them. It is alleged that the Nagengast car traveled at a velocity estimated fully at 50 miles an hour, striking the bridge.
As soon as the main trusses gave away the east portion of the bridge sank rapidly to a depth of about 10 feet, leaving the west side on its moorings in a semi-angle position of 75 degrees. Whether or not the county will make an effort to ascertain who the responsible party was or to attempt to collect the damages perpetrated on the taxpayers by the destruction of the bridge is not decided at this time.
The bridge was erected only a few years ago and upheld heavy traffic of all kinds since its erection without any harm to the structure. It is another ill-fated story added to the rapidly growing list of accidents caused by speed demons of the country whose trail ends no sooner until death imposes its penalty.
The wreckage of the bridge is now being removed and will be replaced by new reinforced concrete bridge at a large cost. Before the completion of the bridge, traffic will be detoured a mile south and it is expected that the new bridge will be turned over to its cause in a course of a few weeks.