Cumberland Times-News

James Rada - Looking Back

June 1, 2013

Locomobile and the curse of the black cat

In mid-April of 1926, E. J. Gustafson and his sister, Anne Holrege, set out from Chicago driving a new Locomobile roadster. They planned on enjoying a pleasant, leisurely vacation driving through the northeast United States to Connecticut to get a new set of rear fenders for the roadster.

That was until a black cat crossed their path a short distance outside of Chicago. The small cat had certainly been more afraid of Gustafson and his sister in that powerful automobile than they had been of the cat. In fact, they laughed when one of them recalled the superstition that bad luck follows when a black cat crosses your path.

Within the next week, a series of 13 unfortunate events plagued Gustafson and his sister. The incidents included seven punctures, losing a pocket-book and finding it again, Gustafson spraining his ankle, breaking a mirror at the Biltmore Hotel in New York, losing the car’s license plate, someone stealing a tire from the rack on the rear of the car, and last but not least, an accident in Frostburg.

The Cumberland Sunday Times reported on April 25 that Gustafson and his sister, driving in the Locomobile, had crashed into a Kelly-Springfield test car at the intersection of Grant and Union streets in Frostburg.

“‘More trouble,’ said Gustafson, whose fender and body of a new car was badly damaged, intimating that this was the thirteenth unlucky incident that had occurred since he and his sister left home last week for Connecticut to get a new set of rear fenders. The fenders on his car were in worse condition on his return trip than when he left home, he said,” the Cumberland Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper didn’t note who was at fault in the accident, but the damage was not serious enough to keep the brother and sister in town. However, it certainly proved fortunate that Gustafson had already been going to replace the rear fenders.

Though the accident in Frostburg was the last in the string of bad luck incidents, it wasn’t the worst, according to Holrege.

“Losing a wallet with $135 in it and finding it in New York within four hours time. Can you imagine it? My brother and I stopped at the Metropolitan Motor Club for an interview with one of the officials and in the lobby stopped to make a purchase of some sweets. He laid his pocket-book down and four hours later in a Broadway lunch room missed it when he went to pay for lunch,” the newspaper reported Holrege saying.

They called the motor club several times inquiring about the wallet and finally returned there for their only piece of good luck during the trip. Gustafson found his wallet and they could continue on their jinxed journey.

Gustafson and Holrege said that they hadn’t been superstitious at the start of their journey, but they were later. Hopefully, no one told them that breaking a mirror is supposed to bring you seven years’ bad luck.

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James Rada - Looking Back
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