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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Rancher loses control of new car, strikes wagon, nearly crashes into police barn, drives into city hall, injures janitor

 (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
(Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

Luther A. Womack, an Adams County rancher, had recently acquired a new Paige Eight auto.

Unfortunately, he did not learn to operate it competently before driving it into downtown Spokane.

When he reached Main Avenue and Wall Street, near City Hall, he struck a farmer’s wagon. He tried to turn the machine around, but he lost control of it and he was unable to get it stopped until it was a few inches from the police department’s patrol barn.

No harm was done, but then he made matters worse. He put the machine into reverse and stepped on the gas. Womack “grabbed at every lever in sight to get it stopped.” Yet he must have grabbed all of the wrong levers, because the auto did not stop until it had smashed through the oak-and-glass doors of City Hall, swept up a janitor named Joe Vomaske , and finally stopped “wholly within the main entrance to the City Hall.”

Vomaske ended up trapped between the auto and a set of inner doors. He owed his life to the fact that the rear springs of the machine stuck out about 15 inches behind the car’s body, so he wasn’t smashed against the inner doors. He suffered some cuts from glass and a “severe shaking up,” but nothing serious.

Womack was booked into jail on a reckless driving charge.

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