Henderson County, Kentucky History


When horseless carriages began to outnumber pedestrians on city streets, local lawmakers quickly recognized a need to regulate this new mode of travel.

In an apparent spirit of cooperation, city officials in late July 1923 sat down with a committee of Automobile Club members to revise a 7-year-old traffic ordinance.

The ordinance "has many good points and some that are not so good, but all of which were applicable to conditions at the time it was adopted," the Henderson Morning Gleaner reported on August 1.

Mayor HALL and commissioners CUNNINGHAM and HAAG - who were evidently so well-known that the newspaper deemed it unnecessary to publish their first names - met with club members Vance EVANS, George D. GIVENS, Rudy M. NUNN and George L. KICE.

"Nothing of course was finally settled by this meeting except to formulate the ground work for the draft of a complete ordinance suitable to this municipality," the newspaper said in its tiresome prose. "All agreements at this meeting on particular phases of the ordinance are simply embryonic and should be treated as such in the perusal of this article."

The disclaimer aside, the little committee was said to have dissected each section of the lengthy ordinance, wrangling for hours over speed limits and other rules that would govern parking and the use of headlights and dimmers.

"The matter of making turns, or lights and dimmers, motions of the hands or arms to indicate turns, of parking, or mail trucks and ambulances having right of way, came in for considerable debate," the newspaper said.

The group eventually decided motorists should travel at a speed of 10 to 15 mph in the business district and could accelerate to as much as 20 mph in a residential district.

"Also for the school zone 10 to 15 miles an hour was agreed on," the newspaper said. "George GIVENS thought it should be more than 10 miles an hour."

The committee left intact a section that warned pedestrians to "be careful and not 'Jay-walk' and to constantly be on the lookout."

The committee was also forced to deal with another, more delicate, matter. While automobiles had doubtlessly allowed people to travel more quickly and comfortably than ever before, they had also made it more difficult for them to visit each other discreetly;

"Parking cars in front of residences all night came in for some talk," the newspaper reported. "Vance EVANS said: 'You can't enforce that, because some fellow may be there calling on his best girl.'

"It was then suggested that a supplementary ordinance be passed to prevent the owner of the car from parking in the parlor until such a late hour. Rudy NUNN chimed in and said, 'You can't always tell when anyone is parked in the parlor, because they usually have on the dimmers.'

"The said clause was ordered cut out."

Reprinted with Permission
Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Henderson, KY, Saturday, March 30, 1996

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS