Generations of Dempsters have made a Model-T not only a staple of Orchard’s annual parade, but also a six-decade family tradition.
As Duard Dempster and grandson, Brandon, tossed candy and waved to the streets full of people Sunday afternoon, it was clear the Orchard man was in his element.
“I like throwing candy and seeing everyone,” said Duard, who inherited the Model-T in 1989 and remembers every detail of the car’s history, as well as much of the community’s.
His parents, Oliver and Esther, moved to Orchard in 1926 from the Laurel area, where they raised two daughters, Neva (Pearson) and Shirley (Erb), and a son, Duard.
Oliver bought the Model T in 1955 for $350 because it was similar to what he and Esther had when they first married. But it was far from the condition it is in now.
“It was in bad shape,” Duard said. “The seats were all rotted. He went and bought upholstry from a place in Indiana. Mom and Dad took the seats all apart and re-upholstered it.”
Duard and his wife, Lois, who died in April, enjoyed having the car in the local parade.
“It’s been in the Orchard parade pretty much every year since Dad owned it, except when I was sick,” Duard said. “I go through the parades and throw out candy.”
Among his parade memories is actually that of a rare outing not in Orchard. Duard said his father asked him to drive the car home from the parade in Neligh, but the fan belt broke and he wasn’t sure how to get it home.
“(Dad) told me to drive it steady at a low speed, and it wouldn’t get hot. So I drove it all the way home without a fan belt, and I drove it about 20 mph,” Duard remembered.
He made it home safety and now rarely drives faster than 20 mph. But he’s had it higher over the years.
“We tried it one time hauling a car, and 42 is about as fast as it can go,” he said.
Years ago, Duard said he used to give rides to people who were visiting Green Gables, but now he only drives the car during the Orchard Celebration. He enjoyed a night on the town Friday during Cruise Night and again on Sunday for the parade.
Each time he drove it into Orchard, rather than hauling it, because he enjoys sitting behind the wheel of the vintage automobile.
Duard said he doesn’t know what the mileage is because “it only has one gauge, and that tells you if the battery is charged.”
The gas tank, he said, is under the front seat, and the battery is along the floor boards of the back seat.
Duard said it wasn’t uncommon for people in a Model-T to run out of gas while going up hill because the gas flowed down to the carburetor.
“Some used to say they had more power backing uphill, but the reason they backed up hill was so they didn’t run out of gas,” he said.