View from the Lake

This article submitted by Linda Lorentzen on 7/14/98.

I sat impatiently waiting to cross Highway 55 at the intersection of Highways 55 and 23. It was probably less than two minutes of waiting before a sufficient gap appeared between two cars to allow me to cross. But time seems to stand still when you need to get to the grocery store and want to get back to the lake. In recent years I have noticed that the amount of traffic through Paynesville has increased; the traffic light installed in town is testimony to the additional automobile travel. In the early part of this century the citizens also dealt with problems related to automobiles.

In 1903, New Paynesville residents had four automobiles. The Press reported, ďIt is doubtful if a village the size of New Paynesville in the state exceeds this number.Ē Dr. Niven, New Paynesvilleís dentist, purchased an Oldsmobile to use in his practice. He traveled throughout the central part of Minnesota to see his patients.

The state legislature passed a law in 1903 which required automobiles to be registered. Dr. Pilon was the first owner to comply with the law. He paid two dollars for the registration and was required to paint in large figures the license number on the back of his vehicle. He chose to paint the number one.

By 1908 the village set a speed limit for automobiles. ďThe speed limit, prescribed at eight miles an hour for the joy chariots within the village limits is being knocked silly almost every hour of the day. When someone gets severely hurt the law will become a living reality, though the poor kid will probably be a dead one.Ē

A petition was submitted to the members of the village council by residents concerned with reckless and illegal driving of automobiles. The residents wanted a minimum of two officers with dedicated duty of enforcement of automobile rules. ď...the legal manner of equipping and driving said machines, the law of the road and the places and manner in which said machines shall be handled and left, the hours within which lights should be displayed, where on the machines the lights should be placed and such other matters in connection therewith as may be needed to make all persons advised of the rules.Ē

Once the rules were explained, then arrests and prosecution were proposed to promote some order in the village.

The village board continued to deal with speeding complaints into 1922. Speeding had increased on the main streets and the side streets where many of the children played. They proposed that if the speeding continued, each car violating the limit would be tagged, the owner would appear before a judge and receive a fine. ďStrict attention must be paid to the parking of cars on main street, driving to the right, parking to the right, and not turning in the middle of the road.Ē Another common practice was for drivers to drive at night without using lights.

While some things have changed since the early 1900s in automobile use, others have not changed. For the most part we all understand the rules of the road. We turn where we are supposed to turn, park in acceptable spots, and try not to speed through town or around the lake. We no longer have to paint the license numbers on our cars or remember to bring lights along if traveling at night. But most important many of us without our automobiles would be unable to enjoy a view from the lake.

Information for this article was taken from the following issues of The Paynesville Press: May 14, 1903; July 16, 1903; April 29, 1909; August 19, 1915; May 11, 1922; and August 24, 1922.

Return to Archives