Tooling Around the Park
Congressman Joe Cannon, one of the longest-tenured GOP Speakers of the House, attended opening-day ceremonies for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
Shown here (left), the Republican from Illinois shares an electriquette with San Diego businessman and civic benefactor John D. Spreckels. The pigeon atop his head was one of a huge ceremonial flock released during the festivities.
Electric cars may not be as futuristic as we thought. With the centennial celebration of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition rounding the corner next year, many surprises are in the works, including the return of “electriquettes.”
As an ancestor of today’s battery-powered golf carts, electriquettes were wicker vehicles that tooled people around the 1915 exposition — at 3 miles per hour — for $1 per ride. Simply charged by two batteries, these two-seaters were such a major hit that they became one of the visual icons of the expo.
With the help of local developer and attorney Sandor Shapery, San Diegans hope to see electriquettes make a comeback in time for next January’s expo kickoff.
“We’re doing modifications now on our prototype, such as framing and electric work, to keep the design as original as possible,” he says. Although his version of electriquettes will be historically accurate and built with the original design in mind, “there will also be a special software that will only allow the vehicle to visit designated zones of the park, kind of like a LoJack,” Sandor says.
A trial run of 25 replicated electriquettes will take place in June. If those trials are successful, Sandor hopes to include the vehicles in activities such as electriquette races. Plans also call for duplicating a 1915 kiosk to serve as the rental venue for the 2015 vehicles. If electriquettes become as popular as they were 100 years ago, perhaps they’ll stick around after the centennial celebration of the expo.
“We’re hoping to keep them longer, but that will be up to the [San Diego] parks and recreation department,” Sandor says. Meanwhile, his prototype is on display at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.
By Anna Lee Fleming