Over the past quarter century or so, a phenomena called “Extreme Sports” has swept the nation. We have hot-dog skiing, snowboarding, freestyle rock climbing, sky diving, motocross, bungee-jumping, skateboarding, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, and many other activities and events. Ferriters, throughout history often notable athletes, participate in many of these. The interesting thing seems to be that Extreme Sports are not a new thing, just variants. Read on.
We have an ancestral relation in Clyde Ferriter. Clyde seems to have been born in Missouri back in the very early 1890s – probably 1891 or 1892. I don’t know what branch of the family he was part of, but there is an indication that his father was a Railroad Boss, and we know that an Indianapolis Ferriter who was a railroad man moved that way as a career move, and this may have been his father. If so, Clyde was of the Seamus Lucas branch, with a grandfather who immigrated in the 1840/1850 time frame. Clyde grew up in Wichita Kansas, just at the time when the automobile was arriving on the scene and entering the public imagination in a big way. So Clyde became an automobile enthusiast.
At the same time that Clyde was beginning his driving career, a man by the name of Ralph Hankinson was inventing and promoting new sporting and entertainment activities involving automobiles. Mr. Hankinson is credited as being one of the grandfathers of modern motor sports. Curiously, Ralph Hankinson also lived in Wichita, Kansas. That he knew Clyde seems quite certain, and here’s how we know this:
In 1912, Ralph Hankinson invented a new sport – at least he gets credit for it – Automobile Polo. In all likelihood, some energetic young motor enthusiasts on the farm actually started Auto Polo, driving around the back 40 with a driver and a partner hanging out the passenger
side whacking a ball around. Hankinson took this to the next level, by organizing it and promoting it. Within a year, Auto Polo was something of a national craze.
The Annuals of Kansas, (Kirke Mechem), states that on July 19, 1912, there was an Auto Polo game played at Wichita. Also, on December 12, 1913, "A series of auto polo games between American and British teams was played at Topeka. At that time, Auto Polo was said to be a Kansas game promoted by Ralph Hankinson (of) Topeka.
The game was played with two cars, with two people in each vehicle. The vehicles themselves seem to have been modified Model- T Fords, with the body metal stripped away, and rudimentary crass and roll bars installed. One person would operated the vehicle, (the driver), while the other would attempt to whack an over-sized softball towards the goal. This guy was the “mallet man”.
Well, Clyde Ferriter was a Mallet Man, and he must have been pretty good. By the end of 1912, the National Auto Polo Association was presenting matches for the public in New York City. Just before Christmas, 1912, exhibitions were put on inside, with Madison Square Gardens as the venue.
Sounds like fun, Huh? Good sport for Ferriters, by my reckoning!
And what do we know of Clyde? Perhaps his descendants know, and can enlighten us. We can trace his life in Wichita by his membership in the “Twentieth Century Club”, as listed on the 1921 Wichita Social Register, and by his 1965 obituary, recorded at Christmastime, 1965, some 53 years following his daredevil performances in Madison Square Garden.
I have a theory about our family: We produce men and women who live on the edge, sometimes falling off, and we produce men and women of propriety and respectability. Sometimes one type transforms into the other, sometimes not. In every case we are distinctive and interesting, not bland and boring. Way to go, Clyde!