Wednesday, October 21, 2015

No Brakes!

Many people remember the year 1957, when there were three accidents involving vehicles - two trucks and one tractor - hurtling down West Hill Road and crashing into buildings in the hamlet of Deansboro.

The first was in July of that year. Two men, who worked for Donald Hinman, were travelling down West Hill on a tractor which was pulling a trailer of empty baskets and bags, intended for bean picking. The tractor went out of control, skidded 250 feet, snapped off a utility pole, and overturned. The tractor and trailer were demolished; the two men were thrown from the vehicle and taken to Faxton Hospital. One, Ernest Henderson of Belle Glade, Florida, died the next day of a fractured skull. The other man, Willie Bond of Troy, Alabama, remained in the hospital, according to the Utica Daily Press, suffering from "critical injuries."

The next accident was in August, 1957. Then, damage of more than $20,000, was estimated when a tractor trailer truck loaded with 616 bushels of beans lost its brakes coming down West Hill Road and crashed into the plate glass window of Claude Hinman's (later D'Agostino's) garage at the corner of Rts. 12B and 315. The driver, Robert West, 21, was taken to St. Elizabeth's Hospital where is was confined pending X-rays. His passenger L.C, Thrasher of Deansboro, was treated for bruises and then released. According to the Daily Press of August 8, West said he was driving east down the West Hill Road when his brakes failed. He started blowing his horn to avoid striking any traffic. The tractor trailer, owned by George Littleton of Pompano, Florida, was demolished. Beans were strewn about the sales place inside and out. Fuel oil was splashed in the street and the Deansboro Fire Department flushed and then sanded the street. John Pughe, who was driving his car at the foot of the hill, narrowly escaped being run into.  John Lewis, of Oriskany Falls, Mrs. Lewis and their five children were traveling west out of the Waterville Road. His car was damaged on the left front fender and door when the tractor trailer caught a portion of the car but the occupants did not report any injury. Crowds which gathered at the scene handicapped officials and others who salvaged the beans. The Utica Daily Press reported that  the beans, all 18 1/4 tons, were salvaged and loaded into another tractor trailer. The beans had been picked on the Donald Hinman farm.

The third accident that year was in November. A tractor trailer, loaded with 20 tons of calcium chloride, intended for the town highway department, went out of control again coming down West Hill Road at about 3:00 a.m.  This time, the truck smashed into three buildings off Route 315 in Deansboro, shearing off the corner of what was then Ralph's General Store (now the Superette), demolishing Allyn Earl's hardware store just below, and coming to a halt after striking a storage building behind that and spilling its cargo. Eloise Beerhalter (then Harrington) hurried to investigate and found the driver, Richard Arnold, who had climbed out from the truck unhurt walking up the driveway. They called the state police, who responded almost immediately. News of the accident was around early, as farmers starting coming up to the Hinman Milk Station (now Linfield Auto Repair and Final Touch) just below Allyn Earl's, before sunrise. School children, who wait for the bus on the corner, shifted further down the road in front of the old post office (on Route 315) to watch.The spectators complained of the bitter wind, but were nevertheless numerous, and hampered the cleanup efforts.  Pictures of this accident were preserved by Eleanor Dawes, and she very kindly loaned them for this blog. 1. Lower side of Earl's store after accident. 2. Town of Marshall crew getting ready to clean up debris. 3. View of the whole scene after accident 4. View of damage done to rear of Ralph's General Store. 5. Overturned truck on rear of Earl's store. 6. West side of Earl's store showing where the truck hit corner.
Not quite as dangerous but still a "near calamity" happened in 1959 at the  Kiddie Parade at the Firemen's Field Days, when the brakes on Dottie Winslow's bike failed, and she sped down West Hill Road, across Main Street, and into Hinman's Garage. She was given much credit for avoiding a baby carriage. Dottie spent the night in the hospital, but received no serious injury. Although she was awarded a prize for the "fastest bike" her sister Betty Winslow Ford remembers she was most upset because the bike was new.

There haven't been any accidents since then, although a near miss occurred this past winter (2014) when a tractor trailer was coming down West Hill Road from Route 26 and encountered slippery conditions. When the driver realized he was losing control of his rig, he drove it into a ditch, rather than jeopardize people traveling on Route 12B. The trailer swung around and smashed into a tree on Harry Goodson's property. The tree had to be subsequently cut down. The driver was "shaken up," Harry said, but wasn't injured.

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