John Butte, 71, a retired Caterpillar executive from Dunlap, Ill., on the 1926 “Bradford Model T Girls” Ford, as told to A.J. Baime.
People talk about how the Model T changed the world. To me, this story is an example of how that happened.
From 1934 to 1942, every summer a group of women in their 20s from Bradford, Ill., would take a trip in a Model T they called the Silver Streak. Growing up, I first learned about these trips because my mother, Regina Fennell Butte, went on one in 1939 to the New York World’s Fair, and my aunt, Eleanor Butte, went on two. The trips were organized by Darlene Dorgan, who ran a beauty parlor in Bradford and who owned the Model T. There was no air conditioning, and she enjoyed going north for cooler weather every summer.
Now it wasn’t common for young women to take off unescorted, but these girls had spirit. At one point, Darlene claimed they went 71,000 miles in this Model T, visiting 44 of the 48 states. I have doubted the veracity of that statement as the car had no odometer. How they kept track, I have no idea.