Quintessential Barrington

Marvin’s Main Street Moments

Old Wheels and New Wheels Collide in a Changing Barrington


by Barbara L. Benson

His name is rarely heard nowadays, but Marvin Snyder was a unique chronicler of early days in Barrington. A grandson of Julia and Edward Lamey, his style of writing colorfully recalls his youth in the growing turn-of-the-century community. A contributor to Tales of Old Barrington in 1976, he then retired to Sun City, Arizona. From there he kept up a delightful correspondence, putting us right at home on an earlier Main Street with his wryly worded observations:

Some guests were sitting on the long front veranda of Linus R. Lines, better known as Charlie Lines’ commercial three-story brick hotel on dusty east Main Street on a hot July day, and watched while the perspiring motorist spun the starter crank time after time in front of the hotel out there in the street. Finally, when the spark took hold and the engine ripped, snorted, and howled into life, the motorist sprung into his car and blatted his bulb horn and took off. One of the men looked at the others on the veranda, and stopped chewing his tobacco for a second and spit into the spittoon beside his chair and said, “Sure is one hell of a contraption. Snorts like a horse, yaps like a dog, and blasts like a bull.”

At first, the farmers and freighters cussed the autos and so did the owners of the fancy buggys and carriage horses. There was good reason, because some took no thought of the effect [that] the sight and sound of their love chariots had on unsophisticated horses. The first autos caused more than one runaway team to spill its driver and smash the vehicle it was hauling and more than one motorist had his life threatened. The horse people and the motor people did some feudin in the first few years of the horseless carriage. Now the horses have begun to high-hat the humans by riding around in gas buggy trailers. The thing their predecessors so greatly feared. It is an example of the adaptability of animals to their environment.

Following a description of early kerosene headlamps on the new automobiles, those lamps becoming dimmer the slower the vehicle traveled, and dirt roads allowing maximum speeds of only 15-20 miles per hour, Snyder had this to say:

Those were the days before 1914 when there were no paved roads running in or out of Barrington to keep dirt out of the traveler’s eyes. Old Ike Fox had the other car buffs beaten when he mounted his new claxon horn on his car which makes a noise like a dog fight and will scare the bark off a dogwood tree. One of the greatest problems of the pioneer autoists was keeping the horse from climbing trees when a goggled, inhuman looking person wearing a long white duster coat drove a clanking snorting cross between a buggy and a prairie schooner anywhere near them.

In his words, one can see, hear, and smell the streets of that earlier Barrington.

Barbara L. Benson grew up in Kent, England, and later moved to New York. She settled in Barrington and has walked with our history ever since she first arrived here in 1980.