Gold medal team or historic auto — what’s in a name?

I read with interest Friday’s sports story of yet another Junior hockey team destined for Alpena this fall.

It wasn’t the fact this will be the fourth Junior hockey team in Alpena since 2006, or the third since 2010, that caught my interest. It was the name of the team – the Alpena Flyers.

Sports Editor James Andersen reported that the name is synonymous with Alpena hockey, which it is. He reported: “The Flyers will be the latest to use a name which has a long history in Alpena. The name was first used in the 1960s and 70s by a traveling men’s league team and was named after the Canadian Flyers hockey team which won an Olympic gold medal in 1948. The name also was used by a Midget BB travel team a few years ago and is often used in local exhibition games.”

I do not doubt any of that, and I did not have a chance to consult with James about the information, but for me the Alpena Flyers name has nothing to do with a Canadian gold medal team, but rather is the name of an automobile that only was produced in Alpena from 1910 to 1914. The car has an interesting association with Alpena and the Besser Co.

According to the website “american-automobiles.com,” the “Alpena Flyer was a little known American automobile made in Alpena, Mi. from 1910-1914. The Alpena Motor Car Co. produced a light and inexpensive car.

“In 1911 the Alpena Flyer was known as ‘the greatest, biggest and most sensational actual values in the automobile world for $1,450.’

“The Alpena Flyer was an assembled car produced as a standard touring car for four or five passengers, a four-door five passenger touring car and a roadster. Prices for the Alpena Flyer standard touring car was $1,450, four-door, five passenger touring $1,600 and the roadster was $1,450.”

The sales motto for the car was “It’s cheaper than a horse at any time!”

According to the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, 480 vehicles were built in Alpena during its existence. The vehicles used a water-cooled four-cylinder engine rated to 35 mph, with a three speed transmission.

The museum’s website reports that “the company’s first ad noted: ‘Let it be borne in mind that we do not make cheap runabouts nor luxurious limousines. We have the greatest value in a five-passenger car offered anywhere in America, at $1,450.’ The 1910 New York auto show listed the Alpena Flyer as one of the top 10 cars in the world.”

Unfortunately, the company and vehicle’s existence was rather short-lived.

Again, according to the museum, “Emile Huber, the patantee of the design, sued the company and forced it into bankruptcy in 1913, leading to the Besser Manufacturing Company’s purchase of their building on Johnson Street for $5,200.”

As an Alpena resident who loves local history, the Alpena Flyer’s story is an important snapshot of our past.

As a hockey fan who appreciates all that a Junior hockey team means to a community, I will root and cheer my hometown team on.

When I do, however, I’m not going to be thinking of a team named after another from Canada, but rather one whose roots date back to 1910 and ran on all cylinders.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.