Marion studied auto mechanics at the Heald Engineering and Automobile School in San Francisco before heading over to France to help with the war effort. She was awarded a certificate on April 25, 1917 from the Repair Department of the school.* She had learned how to tear down and assemble cars, including Starting, Lighting and Ignition work, driving on the road and troubleshooting and it was written that she “is qualified to keep a car in first-class working order”.
Many of her journal entries are about her adventures driving during the war. She delivered supplies for the AFFW, American Red Cross and at times the military units. She also delivered doctors and nurses to their assigned field hospitals. She moved refugees to safe territory, at times being the target of enemy fire.
She and Alexine drove Ford automobiles as well as Overlands (manufactured in the US from 1903-1926). Henry Ford (1863-1947), founder of the Ford Motor Company, started making Model T’s in 1908 and with his invention of assembly-line production of automobiles, he had produced half of the cars in the US by 1918. Marion took great pride in keeping her Ford camionette running smoothly and ready to hit the road as needed. At times she referred to her car as Henry. The French term camion or camionette denotes delivery van or small truck. In Nancy, where they were stationed most of the time, the cars were kept in a large garage. Marion put out a fire one night in the garage and the town proclaimed her a ‘hero’.
Alexine is in the middle of this picture on the left and Marion is standing by ‘her brown camionette’ in the picture above. We do know that the family in Alameda had traded in their horses and carriage for an automobile before the war started so both ladies were more than familiar with cars and knew how to drive.
Henry Ford quote – “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black”. With his emphasis on efficiency in his assembly-line factory he discovered that black paint dried the fastest.