Saturday, October 02, 2021

The topless Ford and other scandals

1921 Model T Ford touring car (Wikipedia image)

Back in early October, 1921, the largest series of revival meetings ever to raise Lucas County protestants of the born-again variety to a high state of collective religious excitement was in progress at the Tabernacle, a temporary building constructed by the city's Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Christian and United Brethren churches on the current site of the Hotel Charitone. 

An estimated 10,000 sinners a week flocked to the Tabernacle between Sept. 11 and Oct. 23 to hear Alphonso King "A.K." Harper, of Fairfield, and other members of the Businessmen's Gospel Team preach at least once daily and on some days, more often. You can read more about the revival meetings here, in a post entitled "Charitone Corner, Part 4: Washed in the Blood."

John Sellers drove in from Benton Township in his new Model T Ford touring car to attend on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 4, and was forced by the fact the square was full to park a block northeast, at the intersection of Eighth Street and Roland, where the Swedish Lutheran and United Brethren churches faced off across the intersection.

When he returned to his vehicle a couple of hours later he discovered that its top had been stolen --- an act of thievery carried out so nonchalantly that a woman relaxing on the front porch of the United Brethren parsonage at the time hadn't realized what she was witnessing. 

Here's how the story was reported on the front page of The Herald-Patriot of Oct. 6:


The limit of automobile thievery was reached in Chariton Tuesday evening when the top was taken from a new Ford touring car at the corner of Eighth street and Roland avenue. The car belonged to John Sellers. He had parked it on the corner opposite the Lutheran church while he went to the tabernacle meeting.

Mrs. Frank Wilkins, sitting on the porch of the parsonage of the United Brethren church, saw three men drive up to the corner. They got out, went in different directions, probably to see if the coast was clear, went back to the car, took the top off, loaded it on their car and drove south on Eighth street. They worked so openly that Mrs. Wilkins did not realize there was anything wrong about it. When Mr. Sellers returned from the meeting he found his car, but minus the top.

On the same night, the auto top thieves stole a tire off the car left standing on the street by Bert Powell. The thieves ought to have a full equipment before long.

It is also reported that some young men have been driving about the streets evenings, inviting and urging young girls to drive with them; girls with whom they have no acquaintance. One young lady was thus accosted twice on different evenings, by the same parties and had the wit to take note of the car number. This is known and the matter may be followed up. Girls should be warned that these young men mean nothing good, and all cases should be reported with the number of the car, and the culprits severely punished.


I could find no indication in subsequent editions that the thieves ever were apprehended --- most likely the top and other auto parts were driven into Des Moines and sold. Did the editor's warning about the dastardly intentions of young whippersnappers cruising the streets have an effect? I don't know.

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