Even though PEI had an early introduction to automobiles (“early” as in 1865, when Rustico’s parish priest imported a steam powered carriage!15.), it didn’t exactly embrace them. Cars started off on the wrong foot in PEI, and were widely perceived as destructive play-toys for the wealthy. They were loud, frightening for horses and damaging for roads, so when people objected to them the government listened. PEI became the sole region in North America to legislate a ban on motor vehicles; it lasted from 1908 until 1913. When cars finally started to gain acceptance, it was gradual. Communities were allowed to set their own rules, allowing cars on the road Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example.16.
When cars first arrived in PEI, they were of limited benefit since they could only be driven in the few months when the roads were fit. People in lot 64 used their imagination to put them to use as much as possible though. Royal White recalled17. one instance when his neighbour Clarence Nicolle took his car out on the ice to cast his smelt nets. Unfortunately, he went astray and drove onto thin ice; the car fell through and he got out, but the story doesn’t end there! Being a resourceful fellow, he hooked an anchor onto the front of the car and dragged the car out of the water, then took it to a building to take it apart and dry it out. He put it back together, and it was fine! It was a model T Ford, and it lived up to its indestructible reputation that day.
Although they weren’t very useful for fishing, cars were a great improvement when it came to healthcare. For years the areas doctors had been travelling around from home to home, and they covered a tremendous amount of ground. Roy Clow remembered how Dr.Brehaut handled the winter travel:
Albert Johnston used ta drive ‘im in the winter time with the horse and sleigh and they, they’d go out in the worst storms, all kinds o’ roads he’d never refuse to go to a place you know, lots o’ places he’d go to I heard the people says, n.. that din’t have any money an’ when he left, he’d leave five er ten dollars on the table. And he always had a teddy er two of moonshine… he loved drinkin’ moonshine… and every time he came to our place, goin’ to Gasperaux er somewhere, he’d call into our place n’ put the horse in and give ‘im a feed and sometimes take our horse down n’ back and he have a fresh horse to go back. But in the winter time, he said that’s what kep’ his feet warm, a good drink o moonshine n’ hot water an sugar…18.
Many people in the community would help the local doctors do their rounds. After all, they often owed money, which the doctor would seldom collect on. When cars came in, they allowed doctors to cover more ground in less time, obviously a huge advantage in dire situations. Dr. Bonnell, Dr. Brehaut, and Dr. MacIntyre (whose main practice was in Montague, although he did surgeries in Murray River and Murray Harbour with Dr. Brehaut) still have an almost mythical status for those who knew them; Milton Buell is fairly certain that it was Brehaut who was driving the first car he ever saw. “It seemed so strange…,”19. he recalled. Buell also said that Dr. Brehaut was “… a missionary!3. If anyone ever deserved a metal of honour or whatever you call it we have now in Canada, he was one person who shoulda’ got it.” One of Dr. Brehauts cars, an old Pontiac Coupe, is now in the Car Life Museum.
Paved roads started to appear in the 1930’s. This innovation made cars infinitely more useful, but the great depression was still going strong so cars didn’t take off quite yet. The 40’s and 50’s were prosperous years, and lot 64 was teeming with cars by 1960. By the end of the 60’s, the passenger train was gone, completely eclipsed by car travel. The new ease of movement into and out of the area meant big changes.