History/News/Commentary from K. Scott Teeters

Merrily We Roll Along – 1961 “Project XX” Documentary About The Early Days of the Automobile

Dateline: 9.26.11
Were it not for this, there’d have been no sports cars and no Corvettes!

The other night I had the extreme pleasure of watching another of the series of outstanding documentaries from Project XX. The “XX” doesn’t stand for 2/3s of a XXX rating, it refers to the Roman numerals “XX” for the number “20” as in 20th century. As a baby boomer that doesn’t remember a time when there was no television, I vividly remember a certain fascination with the “20th century.” It was a nice, round, even number. It seemed modern, advanced, exotic. After all, it was the beginning of the space age, and we had electricity, telephones, jet airplanes, submarines, indoor plumbing (what’a relief!), computers (the government had a few), and cars – LOTS of fast cars!

While I never saw any of the Project XX programs when they aired, it was probably a matter of I just didn’t happen to see them. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, TV programs tended to run only once. Towards the late ‘60s, “summer reruns” became the norm, so you had a second chance if you missed a show. But if you still missed a show, you were out of luck, as video recording didn’t arrive until the late ‘70s. But when video tape and later DVDs came along, there was a rush to get as much old TV programming back into the marketplace. And today, with the internet and online services, such as Netflix, most of the Project XX series is available to watch any time.

 

And Groucho says, "Say the magic word and win a new Corvette!" Just KIDDING! He never said that.

“Merrily We Roll Along” is narrated by Groucho Marx, one of the original snarkey comedians. The program takes you all the way back to the beginning, to the days when there were so few roads to drive the new fangled buggies on, there was a logical argument against owning one! “Where you gonna drive that thing?” Groucho takes you through the days of cars being the play toys of the rich, to Henry Ford’s great equalizer, the mass-produced Model T. As antiquated as a car from 1960 looks today, the autocar from 1910 looked totally primitive. The program ends with aerial views of what was then considered “modern superhighways” with overpasses and cloverleafs. What struck me was how relatively few cars were on those roads!

If you love cars, and I know you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this, you’re in for a treat! The only catch is that you’ll need a Netflix subscription. If you are a subscriber, the program is available as a “Watch Instantly” selection and you can find the program by using the Netflix search feature. I checked YouTube. com and to date, no one has uploaded the program. If you are not a Netflix subscriber, check back with YouTube from time to time, as new videos are added every day.

In recent history, the last 150 years, there have been a dozen of so inventions and gizmos that have had a profound effect on America and the world. The automobile is arguably one of the top three or four. Hope you enjoy “Merrily We Roll Along” as much as I did! – Scott

PS – Ford’s Model T was the iPad of its day. In 2010 when Apple’s iPad came out, just over one million units were sold in the first month! Pretty impressive for a $500 gizmo. When Ford’s Model T came out in 1908, the price was $825, and enormous price back then. During the first year of production, for sold over 10,000 units. By 1912, the price was down to $575.  (imagine how you would have felt if you had paid the original price!) And by 1914, Ford had 48% of the car market!


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