Centennial Salute

By Malan, Allan; Malan, Deanna | The Saturday Evening Post, September/October 1996 | Go to article overview

Centennial Salute


Malan, Allan, Malan, Deanna, The Saturday Evening Post


What better place to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American automobile than at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village?

According to legend, wishes come true if you hold your breath while crossing a covered bridge. But you don't have to find a covered bridge if you're wishing for a great place to visit. The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest American indoor-outdoor museum complex, is a historic theme park that lets you step back in time for a taste of history you won't forget.

Henry Ford must have crossed many covered bridges, because many of his wishes came true. His resourcefulness and innovation inspired his inventions and led to his vision to build a museum that housed artifacts which influenced American life. A man ahead of his time, Ford was driven to create a village that preserved the history of the most innovative people of the times. His meticulous attention to detail and focus on education live on through the new exhibits and restorations.

The year 1996 marks the centennial of the automobile and America's love affair with its creation. To commemorate its past, present, and future, the museum will roll out Ford's 1896 Quadricycle, his original car. Legend has it the sight of a steam-powered traction engine in the late 1800s sparked Ford's interest in machinery and his vision of a self-propelled vehicle. Perhaps greater than the invention was his idea of utilizing the mass-production system to make the auto affordable.

From the beginning, part of America's fascination with the automobile involved its style. On display is a series of cars showing the evolution of design. Beginning with the horseless carriage, the lowering, lengthening, and widening of the automotive body generated an aesthetically appealing fashion plate.

The automobile gave Americans mobility and changed their lifestyle forever. When U.S. families took to the road, they demanded a variety of new services that soon sprang up. In the museum you can travel back to early fast-food restaurants, step aboard Lamy's Diner (circa 1946) where your waitress will hustle your menu selection to the short-order cook, or stop by McDonald's Golden Arch and buy a 15-cent hamburger. If you prefer more elegant dining, motor on to the orange-roofed Howard Johnson's.

Next, gas up at the nearest red-star Texaco "Filling" Station. A Texaco Sky Chief, dressed in white shirt and pants, a black bow tie, and militarystyle cap, will welcome you. He will fill up your tank while children use the spotless "registered" restroom. With stomachs and gas tank full, you travel on. As evening approaches, you spot the starburst sign of the Holiday Inn, the latest trend in motoring hotels (motels). After registering, top off your evening with a double feature at the drive-in movie. This vicarious trip concludes your drive through the history of 20th-century life.

Greenfield Village encompasses Ford's second vision with its many elements of a New England town: the village green, chapel, town hall, craft shops, and residences. Ford created this prototype of an American village in 1929 that has since been copied throughout the country. This village represents the achievements of selfreliant people whose values Ford embraced. He summarized these If You Go ..

* Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village is in Dearborn, Michigan, 12 miles west of downtown Detroit.

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