By Tommy Supak

Our daughter in law, Bobby Jo Supak, is a fourth grade teacher in Burton, and her very attentive class of 12 students was studying the forms of transportation that were used during the 1920’s. Bobby Jo asked me to drive my 1916 touring car to the Burton school so her class could see first hand what the early cars looked like. The students took notes and asked many questions about the car. They were very curious and had studied their class material quite well. They even covered the related topic of period clothing.

Well, to make a long story short, I was amazed at some of the questions the students asked. This is a sampling of some of their concerns:

  • Why does the car have such skinny wheels?
  • Why do the wheels have wood in them?
  • Why does your car have only 3 doors?
  • What are all those pedals for?
  • Why do you have 2 turn signals?
  • How fast can you go?
  • And the list goes on.

After talking and answering questions, I was really getting caught up in the moment and asked the class if they would like to see how easy it was for me to crank the car. Eveyone agreed they wanted to see how the car could be hand cranked. I told them the important steps in preparation for stating the car.

  • Step 1 - turn of the gas.
  • Step 2 - retard the spark (one of the turn signals they asked about)
  • Step 3 - set the throttle ( the other turn signal)
  • Step 4 - choke the engine
  • Step 5 - crank the engine . . . crank the engine more . . . crank it even more. Gota' stop cranking . . . out of breath!

How many times has it happened that you can do something like this at home a thousand times and it works every time. But get out in front of an audience, and sure enough --- it does not work. Do you ever wonder why?

Did any of you notice in the steps that it took to start the Model T that I failed to mention to turn on the key? This is most important! I'll blame it on the kids for asking all those questions. Yes, after I remembered to turn on the key, the car started.

Do you know how many fourth graders you can get in a Model T? The answer is 12. However, I was corrected by Ben Hardeman who told me that his record is 23!

Despite the cranking issue, the kids loved the car, especially when each of them got a chance to honk the horn. If you are ever asked the help out the teachers and tell the kids about your hobby, please do so. The kids love it, and it is also a very rewarding personal experience.

Burton Model T lesson Burton Model T lesson

Photos: Bottom left: Mrs. Supak's class sit inside Tommy's car. Bottom right: Tommy answers questions about his Model T with a group of fourth grade students.