World’s Fair rollover ended Dymaxion’s rise  
Thursday, June 24, 2010

The prototype Dymaxion lost its appeal after it rolled over at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934. The driver was killed, and two others were injured.

Several auto hobbyists tried to reach Bernice (Waterhouse) Sheldon last month, hoping her photo collection of automobile bodies by Waterhouse Co. might include a print of the Dymaxion, a three-wheeled car with Webster-built components.

Mrs. Sheldon, of Estero, Fla., has lots of Waterhouse information, including some pretty impressive prints of custom cars and published information. Her father, grandfather and others helped to establish the business in a Tracy Court factory designed for custom auto body construction.

Mrs. Sheldon was oblivious to the Dymaxion search, doing Florida things and corresponding with friends such as professor John Katori, who was on the faculty at Nichols College when she worked there. He also winters in Florida, learned of History Channel interest in Waterhouse through this column, and presto, the wonders of e-mail came into play,

Her late husband, Raymond W. Sheldon, was the publisher of the Webster Times through most of my years with the weekly, so I can claim a friendship with Bernice.

The Dymaxion evolved in a strange way. R. Buckminster Fuller, a noted architect, developed plans to mass produce houses using 1920s designs and technology. It was called the Dymaxion. Mr. Fuller took a similar approach to construction of a same-named automobile. It had three wheels, two in front and one to the back.

Prototypes were made at a factory in Bridgeport, Conn., but the vehicles weren’t finished, and the Fuller group turned to Waterhouse Co. for some components.

Attention turned to Mrs. Sheldon after the History Channel learned that an antique automobiles writer had once reported she had a photograph of the car.

If nothing else, Mrs. Sheldon has published photos of the Dymaxion. She also revealed that Waterhouse officers and Mr. Fuller were talking about building bodies for a couple of Dymaxions ordered by a British consortium.

Then the three-wheeler lost its appeal. A prototype Dymaxion (there were three of them) was sent to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934 and “hopes rose in Webster for a Fuller future,” says a story shared by Mrs. Sheldon.

The Dymaxion overturned at the fair, killing American auto racer Francis T. Turner. Capt. William Francis Forbes-Sempill, a British aviator, and French physicist and astronomer Charles Dollfus, who had arrived at the fair on the Graf Zepplin, were injured. “Apparently, the accident had been caused by the ‘rubbernecking’ of a Chicago park commissioner in another car,” says the clipping.

The much-publicized Chicago crash had a discouraging effect on British enthusiasm, the report continued. “There were no further orders for the Dymaxion in Webster.”

Now for our discovery of the week: Where is Morris Hunt Slater Park? Hint: It’s now Webster’s major athletics venue.

Morris Hunt Slater Park became Memorial Park in 1946, the park commissioners announced that year in their report. The Ray Street facility is generally known now as the Memorial Athletic Field, recognizing that the fieldhouse on the property honors the town’s World War II veterans.

The park came with the Morris Hunt Slater tag in a land exchange between the town and Slater family heirs around 1913.

Stanley “Ducky” Kabala, who died June 9 at 95 years of age, was probably the last semi-pro baseball player from Webster whose name was penciled in town lineups before and after World War II.

A center fielder with a great many Boosters Athletic Club teams, he played through the late 1930s and from the mid-1940s at Kondek Field off Bigelow Road. The Boosters featured mostly North Village guys. Stanley Kabala generally had a baseball story to relate when we crossed paths over many years. His love of the sport was such that many enjoyed Ducky’s diamond recollections.

Order to his long life might have read: God, family, friends, effort, good will, work, loyalty and baseball. Baseball may have ranked better than eighth in season.
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