Issue 2-16-14 Website - page 11

The Revenge Of Henry Ford
by Lynne Belluscio
This was going to be part
of my April 1st article. Then I
asked Terry at the
to hold the presses and put this
in this week instead.
When I attended the DOT
meeting at the Town Hall and
learned about their proposal
for “calming traffic” on Main
Street by making four lanes
into two lanes, I really thought
it was an April Fools’ Day
joke. When they finished going
over the new bicycle lanes, and
the reduced traffic pattern, I
expected them to say, “We’re
just fooling. April Fools!”
But that didn’t happen and
the situation got worse after
hearing from the LeRoy Police
who didn’t know what DOT
had planned and had questions
that had no answers; the Fire
Department that said that
they couldn’t get emergency
vehicles out; the ambulance
who gave statistics that showed
that they had a lot of calls that
required them to exit onto West
Main Street, through what was
now going to be a solid line of
traffic. The Central School was
concerned about slow moving
school buses, that no one could
get around and the hazard for
students. The farmers and the
truckers all expressed concern
about getting through town.
At this point I figured that
people would start avoiding
LeRoy completely, just like
most of us who avoid using
Route 5 going into Batavia,
now that the DOT has “calmed”
traffic there. And then there
were the folks on Main Street,
who figured with the new traffic
pattern, they had little chance
of getting in and out of their
The folks of LeRoy deserve
a lot of credit. It was a great
public forum. Everyone was
polite, concise, and expressed
their concerns matter-of-factly.
But after the meeting, we all
wondered what was going to
happen. It just didn’t make any
sense why the DOT would even
suggest the plan. And then it
dawned on me. It was
the curse of Henry
On August 1, 1922,
Henry Ford – actually
his chauffeur, George
Burns was arrested
for speeding, as they
were heading west on
Route 5. Ford had to
pay a $30 bond and
was required to report
several days later for
a jury trial.
Ford was really
mad. It was said that
Henry didn’t like to
argue, but he enjoyed
a good fight. First
he claimed that the
letters on the speed
zone sign were 1/8
inch too small. When
that didn’t work,
he claimed that the
arresting officer, Ray
Dampier, was outside
the Village limits
and thus beyond his
jurisdiction. Dampier
claimed that Ford was
traveling 43 miles per hour and
the Village speed was 15 miles
per hour. Ford countered with
the argument, that they had sped
up after they left the Village
limits and Dampier couldn’t
prove their speed.
Ford was convinced that
LeRoy was a speed trap. And
indeed it was. New York State
had agreed to let the local
municipalities collect the
money from the speeding tickets
and most communities, LeRoy
included, didn’t waste any time
arresting people for speeding - -
especially strangers. Ford was
just one of many strangers who
received a speeding ticket.
Ford had his secretary write
to the president of the Jell-O
Company to tell him that
commerce and business in
LeRoy was hampered by the
traffic. That no one in their
right mind would want to come
to LeRoy for fear of receiving
a traffic ticket. Ford suggested
that LeRoy was nothing more
than a one-horse town, and that
the policeman was incompetent
and that the mayor was in
collusion with the police and
the judge didn’t deserve to hold
the position.
Ford got nowhere. He enlisted
the help of the Automobile
Club of Buffalo and the Ford
dealers to see if he could exert
pressure on LeRoy. When none
of that worked, he erected signs
at the edge of town with huge
letters that declared: SPEED
TOWN. Someone stole the
signs, and Henry had them put
back up.
In April, 1923, it was reported
that the Retail Merchants of
LeRoy had held a meeting
and that the subject of traffic
through LeRoy was discussed.
“Tourists passing thru LeRoy ...
would not be molested; that the
traffic officer would be paid a
salary and especially instructed
that he was not to hide behind
fences, in alleys and places of
that kind to pounce out upon the
public and make arrests.”
Apparently Ford was placated
- - or was he? I think that Henry
wasn’t finished with his fight
with LeRoy and sooner or
later he was going to get even,
even if he had to wait ninety
years. I could almost hear him
chuckle as the DOT made
its presentation. Well, we’ve
learned that the DOT has had a
change of heart. The new traffic
patterns aren’t going into effect.
Main Street will be resurfaced
and there will still be four lanes
on Main Street. So Henry, you
lose this round.
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