While transcribing old letters written by my great-grandparents, Peter C. and Ella Christensen, I came across the following story, related by Pete to their daughter Lillian in a letter dated Dec. 20, 1946. Pete and Ella had just moved to Gardena, California from Huron, South Dakota, where their daughter and her family still lived.
“I suppose Mother told you about our bad luck with the car, but I know she really didn’t know how it happened so I’ll tell you, ha ha. We went out to Silver Lake, that is where my sister Katrine is living. We stayed there all night as we didn’t have our gas and electricity turned on. So in the morning we went out to our car, it was parked on a hillside, almost a mountain. The brake alone would stop it from going down hill so I left it in low gear. You know it was foggy in the evening so the windshield was clouded over. I got a rag and started to clean it off. Mother climbed in the car. And first thing I knew the car started down hill, very slowly at first. She tried to get out but was afraid to let go of the car. There she was half out and half in, and I had to pull hard on her to make her let go. It’s a wonder she did not get hurt. You know when she got in the car she pushed the lever with her legs and got it out of gear. Next time I’m going to leave it in reverse. The car went across the street and dropped about 10 ft then over another garage and a drop almost straight down of about 20 ft and landed up against a house. It made a big dent in the wall of the house. I’m glad it was not a brick wall. The car never even turned over. A Ford can really take it. Estimated damage to car $180.00 The man who owns the house claims damage to house and lot $3000. A darn good thing I had insurance, don’t you think? It cost $25 to get the car hoisted up to the street again with a crane and 2 trucks. I was able to run the car after it was pulled up. It had one crumpled fender, two damaged running boards, 3 broken windows, broken grill and bent bumper. I’m sure it could never do that again, and be able to run.”
He went on to describe “city driving”:
“You should try to drive a car in San Diego or Los Angeles. They pass you on both sides and if you have to make a right or left turn, and aren’t in the right place it’s just too bad. They are smashing cars every day. I don’t want a new car for awhile. “