A Tale Told by Tags

The twentieth century will probably find that the focus of its

historical interpretation will be centered around petroleum. Petroleum

opened the door to the invention of the automobile and many other

related items. One such item is a microcosm called license plates.

Many stories are captured in the evolution of the twentieth century

through auto tags. Some examples could be the air flow tags that hung

on the radiators of cars before bumpers became standard. Think of

no tags but only a windshield sticker in Alabama in 1943 because metal

was needed for the war effort. Do you remember the steel penny or the

lead penny in same? That same year Illinois utilized another of its

great assets to make license plates, soy beans. What about those

multitude of stories built around porcelain plates. Yes, tags tell us a lot

about what was going on in the last century and they fill more than a

few footnotes about one of the more dynamic centuries in history.

The tag collection elaborated on herein tells more than simply a tale

of our century but rather elaborates a personal tale as well. As

something of a tag collector, I find this collection more than amazing

and I am very pleased to share this incredible tale with you.

First, let me identify the main character in the beginning of this

story. Born in 1888, Mr. Leslie Wymer Moore came to Mobile,

Alabama around 1910 from his native state of Mississippi and began

working as an operator in an office for this new business that Mark

Twain would not invest in because he saw no future in this novelty

called a telephone.

The 19th century was somewhat dominated by railroads and to

work for same was still most young mens dream. In 1911, Mr. Moore

was listed in the Mobile city directory as a telephone operator at Union

Station. In 1915 he worked for the Gulf Terminal Company and in

1920 he was a baggage clerk for the old Mobile and Ohio railroad.

In 1933 he was listed as a ticket seller for the Mobile and Ohio railroads

and by 1935 he had become ticket agent. This writer, who is also an

insurance agent, thinks that agents are important. Not long thereafter,

Mr. Moore retired from the railroad to manage the properties he had

bought and inherited.

Since he was dutifully employed, he courted and married Ida Arata

on Wednesday, June 17, 1914. I have been told that Leslie walked past

the Arata home to and from work and would always tip his hat to Ida

and her sisters.

Prosperity came their way and by 1920 Leslie was moving up the

railroad ladder with the Mobile and Ohio railroad and living at 359

Saint Joseph street in the Arata household.

However, in 1922 the age of the automobile and the tag on said car

says such vehicle was in a weight class B which meant said car weighed

less than 2500 pounds which probably meant such vehicle was a

Chevrolet or Dodge, which is conjecture by the author. In the 1920's

many people rode a powerful economic wave to prosperity and it could

be said the Moores road the crest of said wave. In 1922 Alabama

started a 31 year run on identifying autos, in part, by their weight

class: A=2000 lbs. Or less B=2000-2500 lbs. C=2500-3500 lbs. D=3500-

4500 lbs and E=4500+ lbs., which was your early tractor trucks. In

1922, Mr. Moore kept his tag and apparently kept the same car because

from 1922 through 1933 all had weight class B on them. From 1934

through 1952, all of Mr. Moore's tags show a weight class D on them

and no tags are missing. I saw a side view picture of one of his autos

in the late thirties and it appeared to be either a La Salle or Chrysler.

Another anecdote in the 1930's that should be noted about three plates,

1933, 1935 and 1936 have tin brake inspection stickers bolted onto same

from the City of Mobile. It is obvious that something happened in 1934

because there was no brake inspection sticker on his remaining 1934

license plate. But, as had been previously noted, this was the year that

Mr. Moore traded up to weight class D and in those years in Alabama,

the tag belonged to the car and whoever bought same. Mr. Moore re-

mained the owner of a weight class D car all the way through 1952,

the last year that Alabama put the weight class on a tag.

In 1931, Mr. & Mrs. Moore built their first and only home at 1806

Springhill Avenue, Mobile, Alabama. It was a lovely brick home in an

older section of the city which was apparently the first home in Mobile

to have copper pipes. Said home was apparently completed in 1931

because their address was listed in the city directory as 1806, which was

a vacant 4+acre plot in the middle of old rural Mobile, which is

generally conceded to be where the crème de la crème of old Mobile

reside. It was outside the city limits then but could partly be considered

the equivalent of our modern day suburbs. A peaceful two decades

were spent here in their new and increasingly important abode. Mr.

Moore had more influence than ever. Late in 1952 he apparently calls

the license commissioners office and says when number 1806 comes

up, please call me and I will come by and pay for the special tag. Mr.

Moore's 1953 Alabama tag was numbered 2 1806. The 2 stood for

Mobile county and the 1806 was his street address. To the readers of

this memoir, could you imagine any earlier example of a vanity tag

with the possible exception of the governors tag? Between 1953 and

1966, the year of Mr. Moore's death, I possess 9 tags which have 1806

on them plus 5 mates in those years. One anecdote should be noted

here, Ida Arata Moore died in 1959. Copies of Ida A. Moore's obituary

can be found in later pages. It seems she was a wonderful woman,

helpmate, and friend to Leslie Moore.

Thus, since Ida A. Moore did not drive, as was customary for a

woman in her day, she did not have a car and subsequently never drove

so she never had a tag for Mr. Moore to keep. However, considering

their improved station in life, Mr. Moore purchased a small farm in

Irvington, Alabama and in 1938 bought a pick up truck. I do not know

which came first, the truck or the farm. But, I possess most of Mr.

Moore's truck tags too. The first truck tag in 1938 and the last was in

1956 i.e. Of the tags that remain which I believed is all encompassing.

During this era, Alabama identified trucks with an H which I can only

imagine means hauler.

Following this H is a 1 which Identified a ½ ton pick up and said tags

are all H 1 through 1946. In 1947 Mr. Moore apparently improved

his truck status by upgrading to a ¾ ton truck and it remained H 2

(¾ ton) until 1956, the last truck tag. It should be noted that the farm

in Irvington was called a “victory farm” during WWII. My grand-

father lived on a farm during said war but the term “victory garden or

farm” is new to me, so if any of you readers can enlighten this humble

tag collector on what a victory farm is, I would be much appreciative.

I have perhaps missed a significant link in this story which I shall

now relate. Mr. And Mrs. Moore had no children. However, Mr.

Moore's sister, Bessie Moore, married John Collins Sims and they had

a son and named him after his uncle and his name became Leslie Lee

Sims. Mr. Sims was obviously a bright young man because he acquired

a masters in chemistry from Auburn University and went on to get a

Phd. In chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. In 1956, before

his 30th birthday, he got a job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana working for

the Ethyl Corporation. It only stands to reason that in this same year

he also bought his 1st car, a 1956 Plymouth Plaza 2 door. This is easily

established because not only do I have the license plate off this car but

I have all of this man's Louisiana tags until he completed moving into

the Moore home in 1968. Mr. Moore died in 1966 and it took two years

to settle the Mr. Moore's estate, conclude Leslie Sims affairs in

Louisiana and move to Mobile full time. Thus, 1968 was Mr. Sims last

year to purchase a Louisiana tag and at that time said state issued two

year tags so please note a perfect 1956 through 1969 Louisiana tag run

for Mr. Sims. This may also explain why his Alabama tags do not

continuously start until 1969. License plate collectors like the pelican

years in Louisiana so you can well imagine my appreciation of those

nine pelican plates in this wonderful collection. Louisiana last put the

embossed pelican on its 1963 plates.

It can also be noted that I have most of Mr. And Mrs. Sims Alabama

tags up to the sale of their home to Mr. And Mrs. Dan Miller, now the

third owner of this home at 1806 Springhill Avenue. Perhaps I shall

someday have some of the Millers tags as well.

In conclusion I have all 44 tags from 1922 through 1966 of Mr.

Moore. I also possess 17 of the 20 years that Alabama had front and

rear tags, thus, I am only three mated tags away from having a

perfectly complete set of Mr. Moore's tags over his entire life. I also

possess 15 of his tags from his two trucks and I also have 8 mates to

those tags. A quick calculation of Mr. Moore's tags show that his

collection contains 84 license plates spanning almost one half of the 20th

century from one man. Alabama only had 20 years of front and rear

tags between 1937 and 1962. I am a fortunate tag collector.

Alas, as I am sure you have noted, the above total did not include any

of the tags of Leslie and Jessie Sims who lived in the Moore home for

three decades. The additional 36 tags, which spans over 40 years, is

almost perfect. It should be noted that several of the Sim's tags i.e. 9

are duplicate years which came off Jessie Sims car. The reader should

note that in 1977 Alabama, as well as many other states went to a five

year tag with annual stickers, of which the last two stickers show 1977.

Thus, these tags yield many clues to the history of our country and

world. Also clues to Alabama and Mobile history as well. Grateful

appreciation to the wonderful Moore and Sims families for saving this

microcosm of not only their history but ours as well. Did you notice that

the total of all tags from this family is 120 tags at basically the same

address spanning 3/4s of a century? Amazing, is it not?

Most all of the information contained herein was given to my

daughter Marci and me by Dr. and Mrs. Leslie Sims. The loose leaf

notebook which I have put together for my little museum contains

many photos provided by this delightful couple. I do not think it much

of a stretch but I am relatively certain that all the tag collectors world

wide would say thanks for saving this small part of our history. I last

talked with Dr. and Mrs. Jessie Sims today (November 23, 2003) and

they have located many more pictures to help complete this wonderful

story even more. In fact, three of the pictures are of two of

Mr. Moore's cars in which the tag numbers are readable. Those tags

are all three in this collection. Two are of a Buick taken in 1941 of the

front and back and both tags are very readable. The Buick appears

to be about a 1939 with a spare tire in each front fender. The third

picture is in 1957 and is a front view with Mr. Moore standing by

his new 1957 Cadillac and the tag is perfectly readable. Please

note those pictures are in chronological order in the back of his book.

Marci and I certainly want to give our warmest thanks to Dr. and Mrs.

Sims for all their wonderful help in making this collection an even

greater living history than any collection I know of. To me, their

contribution and this collection is priceless.

Ross Sloan 

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