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Automobiles in the Progressive and New Eras
The Goodings Talk About the Imapct of the Automobile

According to the WPA interviewer, Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Gooding were husband and wife. The interview is contained in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. They lived in a two-story residence on the north side of Bratton Street, Winnsboro, South Carolina. Ella Gooding was 80 years of age, her husband was 82 when they were interviewed in 1938. What effects on their local community did the Goodings attribute to the automobile? How persuasive are their observations?

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Mr. Gooding: "I have never cared for any other occupation than that of farming, nor any other method of locomotion than that of horseback riding and buggy riding. I bought an automobile once, but I soon returned to the use of my horse and buggy, which I use everyday. . . ."

Mrs. Gooding: "Visiting in my girlhood among neighbors was frequent and more cordial and enjoyable than now. We would go in the morning about ten o'clock, have dinner, and remain until after tea before leaving

"How do I account for the decline of neighborly visiting? I think, in a great measure, the decline has been due to the multiplication of church circles, social clubs, and automobile rides. Each church denomination has four or five circles that meet once a week. Literary and music clubs and card parties have their meetings, and automobile rides are taken to surrounding towns, which may be reached by good roads. Then, too, the fixed changes of a household have to be taken into consideration, such as electricity, automobile upkeep, and gas. All this precludes the thought of frequent lavish entertainment.

"One of the regrettable changes, I observe, is the seeming lack of respect and consideration shown by young people toward their parents and old people. Boys and men do not exercise the same courtly manner toward girls and women as they formerly did. Just one incident to explain myself: Young men drive up to a young lady's home in an automobile, honk the horn, and sit until the young lady comes down to the automobile door. Men do not even observe the courtesy to get out of the car and help the girl inside. In my youth, such an engagement would be made first by a written note. If accepted, the man would go to the home, get out, walk to the door, ring the bell, and accompany the young lady down the walk to the automobile, open the door, and assist her inside and see that she was comfortably seated."
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View the entire interview from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.