First Car In Town In 1916; Lined Main In 1918

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Courtesy photo

It takes a big crew of car enthusiasts to present the Rim Country Classic Auto Club’s annual Beeline Cruise-In. The 2012 Beeline Car Show Committee includes: back row, from left, Carl Curtis (show set-up and photographer); John Cailey (vendors); Steve Fowler (co-chair, trophies and advertising); Nate Johnson (co-chair and registration); Ken Gunderson (parking, trophy line-up); Larry Bertram (Friday night activities); Harv Pierman (club Web master); front row, from left, Judy Curtis (show photographer); Mary Cailey (Friday cruise); Margie Fowler (Car Show chairman and advertising); Shirley Bertram (Friday night activities); Boyd Miller (show cleanup); Larry Trotter (T-shirts and art work). Not pictured Patty Johnson (co-chair and registration); John and MJ Hall (sponsors); Dick and Sue Hedman (participant gift and goodie bags); Bobi Beveridge (hospitality booth and raffles); Sam and Deb Schwalm (ballot counting); Terry Zoulek (RCCAC board treasurer).

Walter Lovelady recalled that Jesse “Jess” Chilson brought the first car into Payson in 1916. It was a Marmon and was considered the “Cadillac” of the day.

Jess drove his car up the Apache Trail from Phoenix, across Roosevelt Dam and followed the road along the south side of Roosevelt Lake that had been used by freighters during the building of the dam. He then used wagon roads and cow trails until hooking up with the old Reno Road at Camp Reno and continued his drive up Wild Rye Creek, passing by Snowstorm Mountain and entering Payson from the west.

Walter Lovelady, who had a Copper Top Ford, and David Goodfellow were also among the first to bring cars into Payson via the same route.

It wasn’t until 1938 that a car was driven from Phoenix, by Saguaro Lake, through Reno Pass and into Payson. Both routes were long and difficult. In fact, locals coined the phrase “Crooked as the road to Globe” to describe someone of questionable character.

During the latter 1920s and 1930s, cars lined Main Street in Payson serving as both fencing and bleachers for the Payson Rodeo. Many of these cars had to be backed up Ox Bow Hill as the hill was too steep for the gravity-fed gas tanks of the day.

For many years it was an eight-hour drive to Phoenix and many a car waited additional hours for the flooded waters of Gold Creek, Sycamore Creek or Slate Creek to recede so they could cross. Many more cars overheated climbing Slate Creek Hill while crossing the Mazatzals.

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File photo

The first car came to Payson in 1916, but by 1918, as evidenced above, there were enough in town to create an arena for the August rodeo.

Into the early 1950s, locals would recognize a strange car in town. No one made the trips to or from Phoenix or Globe without good reason.

Finally in 1958, the Beeline Highway was paved and Payson joined the rest of the state with the latest in automotive transportation and modern highways.

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