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Alfred & Jakobine: What a ride it was

By Staff | Nov 20, 2009

From left, Alfred Hobbs and his son Niels with their dog Alpo during a stop in Shepherdstown. The father-son team traveled across America in a 1935 British taxi. Photo by Todd Cotgreave

Thanks to everyone that came out to the Opera House to meet Alfred Hobbs, his son Niels, and the documentary crew filming his journey across the United States.

They arrived early in the day on Thursday, Nov. 5, and went immediately to a mechanic’s garage to have the brakes checked. Sounds simple enough. Well, while having some lunch at the Blue Moon (the crews second favorite eating spot in the whole trip) I got a call from Bob Mullen at Opequon Automotive.

“The brakes have been adjusted but … most of the wheels are missing lug nuts, the lug nuts that are still there are loose … one of the wheels is bent, bent badly … most of the other nuts and bolts on this thing are either gone or can’t be tightened enough to keep them on. Oh, and gasoline is dripping onto the hot wire for the generator. I’d say the brakes are the least of your worries because the top speed is only near 25, but really … this thing can’t be driven!” said Bob nearly screaming.

I put down the phone for a second and relayed the message to the, now eye-bulging film crew and Alfred, “So whats new?” replied Alfred, and let out a great laugh. I explained to Bob that this 1935 Austin had seen worse days traversing the Earth some 50 years ago, to which Bob replied, “Yeah, well it might not see any better unless you can find someone to fix it.”

Alfred, deeming this a great time to take a nap, went off to do so and let Niels and crew figure out the details. Well, the details were grim. All the nuts and bolts could be ignored but turning into a fireball just as they entered Shepherdstown was not something they wanted to do. So with much debate, they put the Taxi on it’s trailer and opted for a less grand entrance to the Opera House Movie Theater on German Street, where nearly 100 people were awaiting their arrival.

Under their own power or not, they were warmly welcomed to town, and attendees got to ask Alfred and Niels many questions about the trip and upcoming meeting with Alfred’s former wife Jakobine.

We watched the trailer, with a special seven-minute section made for just the Shepherdstown audience, and then Alfred went off with a few of the Speak Easy Boys for a drink at the Meck.

It took them more than half of the next day to find people in town to help make a gasket for the ailing taxi and no sooner were they on the road, when they were pulled over. Alfred had to laugh when he and his former wife had finished their trip back in the 1950s they were pulled over nearly 25 times as they crossed the United States. Most of which (he said) was due to plain curiosity (and the fact that they could only travel 20 to 25 mph).

The father and son had a pleasant encounter with our fine Police Deptartment and were soon on their way for their surprise visit with Jakobine.

They did meet Jakobine on time at her home in Onida, N.Y., but won’t give any details as to the encounter. They asked me to tell Shepherdstown “You’ll have to wait for the premier at the Opera House!”

– Todd Cotgreave, manager of Shepherd University’s WSHC 89.7FM, helped bring Alfred Hobbs and his son Niels to Shepherdstown for documentary filming. For more information on WSHC and the Hobbs’ visit, see www.897wshc.org