December 14, 2018
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Uphill Push

A look back at the Thanksgiving Day Stringtown Hill Auto Climb
Images provided by Stan Schmitt.

For years Thanksgiving Day has been linked with sports. In Evansville, that has not been an exception.

On Nov. 11, 1911, the Courier reported “Evansville automobilists have something to look forward to on Thanksgiving Day besides satisfying their appetites. In addition to the spread at home the honk-honk artists will be treated to something new. The appetizer has been planned by the Evansville Auto Club. The treat will be in the shape of a real-hill climbing contest. The scene will be on Stringtown Road hill. This hill is the best adapted for this stunt within many miles of the city. The ascent from the foot to the summit is at least half a mile.”

The race would be from a standing start at Pigeon Creek climbing more than 125 feet to the finish line at Rose Hill Cemetery. The cars would be classified by engine size, with a special free-for-all category, and one for automobiles driven by ladies. Arrangements were made with the county commissioners to close the road from 2 to 4 p.m. and local militiamen were secured for patrol duty.

On the day of the race a crowd lined the gravel road, which had been graded and had its holes filled for the event. Twenty-nine automobiles, both individually and company owned, competed for the cup donated by the Courier.

The fastest time of the day, 48.5 seconds, was clocked by Charles French driving a Cole (Cole Motor Car Company manufactured cars out of Indianapolis from 1908 to 1925). Miss Vetris Currey, driving a big gray Cadillac, was cheered when she posted the fastest women’s time and also beat the time of the other garage driven Cadillac.

The annual Thanksgiving Day Hill Climb was repeated with even larger crowds in 1912. In 1913, it was decided to change the event to a speed contest. A mile-long course was laid out on Lincoln Avenue from Boeke Road to the State Hospital. Bad weather forced the cancellation of the race and brought about an end to the Evansville Thanksgiving Day auto traditions.

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