Clabe Wilson’s Vehicles

Horse and Buggy

When Clabe Wilson dated Leora Goff, he drove a horse and carriage. Their first date was to a Chautauqua in 1913 at Panora, Iowa.

Clabe and Leora Wilson, newlyweds in 1914, Panora, Iowa

Clabe picked up Leora from Grandmother Jordan’s at Monteith to spend the day at Dexfield Park near Dexter. They took the horse and buggy, but while it commenced to sprinkle while they were there. The roads were mud so they had to leave in a hurry.

Model T Ford

Clabe bought his first car in 1917, when they lived near Glendon, Iowa, where he worked at the brick and tile plant. They bought it second-hand from a neighbor for some $400.

Clabe had a Model T when they lived SE of Dexter, late 1920s, but I don’t know if it was the same one. Twins Dale and Darlene are on it here.

The family, with all seven children, drove to Dexfield Park to enjoy Independence Day 1927.

Driving from Dexter, people encountered Dexfield Hill, the steepest hill in Dallas County. A Model-T filled with people, with its gravity fed gas tank in the back, motored downhill to the park easily. But returning uphill at night was tricky. Sometimes they’d have to back up the hill in reverse, with the headlights shining down the road. It was a wonderful day to get away from the farm and chores and the landlord.

Model T Truck

At some point he got a Model T truck, built about 1923-25. These photos are both from 1929. The first one (oh, how I wish it were plainer), taken in January, shows Donald and Delbert about to go to Des Moines to join the Navy. The brought home a sled for their three younger brothers.

That September, one of the boys thought the truck looked too high, so Clabe took a whack at it with a hammer, stunning them at first. Then they all laughed. He cut down the back of the seat seat and half the windshield. Sports roadster!

Clabe brought home load of coal with it, $3.25/ ton, cheaper than wood that fall. He earned “government wood” instead, a load for a day’s work. 

1937 Buick

When they moved to a farm near Minburn, Iowa, the Wilsons didn’t have a vehicle. when they were paid as tenant farmers, he and two older sons pooled their money and bought this 1937 Buick.

Germany invaded the USSR the same day the Wilson brothers drove the “smoking” wine-colored Buick to the Des Moines airport for the Air Olympics–Danny, Junior, Delbert, and 

Ready to go to the Air Olympics in Des Moines, June, 1941. Minburn, Iowa.

1942 Plymouth

While Donald Wilson was home in November 1941, AWOL, his family traded off their “old smoking Buick” for a brand-new gray, 1942 Plymouth four-door, 95-horsepower, Special Deluxe sedan with concealed running boards.

Clabe and Leora Wilson with their Plymouth. Perry, Iowa, spring 1945. There are three wings on Leora’s coat, so Junior had earned his wings. This was when they took Junior to the train the last time, so Clabe drove it home from Des Moines for the first time.

Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook, also as an audiobook, narrated by Paul Berge.

It’s also the story behind the Wilson brothers featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa. All five served. Only two came home.


    • I actually understand Clabe’s reactions more than Leora’s. Was it because her mother needed someone to live with by then? That grandbabies were being added to her flock? I was too small to know her in those worst years for her, but what a delight she was as a grandmother. I just finished the second draft of her Depression Era stories. They were in poverty, on welfare, Clabe took whatever meager government jobs he could, but there’s redemption at the end–the job managing that Minburn farm. GP, I so appreciate your note. Bless you.

  1. This was a fun post. Vehicles were such an important part of a family’s history in those early days. I’m glad to hear you’re making good progress on Leora’s Depression Era stories!

  2. It’s interesting to trace a family through their vehicles. I suppose you can see when money was tight and not so much. Or when necessity required a purchase on credit. I absolutely adore the first photo from the wedding. Clabe looks so dapper and Leora so beautiful.

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