It could be a scene from an E. L. Doctorow novel: you encounter someone in need of help on a remote country road, offer assistance and have a nice hour-long chat before everyone goes on their way, you none the wiser that you’d just met one of the most famous and powerful people in the world, William Randolph Hearst.
In 1906, probably no man in America except President Teddy Roosevelt had a more well-known face than Hearst. Two years before, Hearst almost became the Democratic nominee for president, then almost became mayor of New York City, then almost became governor of that state. His large and oddly rectangular head appeared regularly in newspaper and magazine photos, engravings, and editorial page caricatures. Simply put, it was more likely that someone should have recognized Mr. Hearst that year than had experience changing an automobile tire. Except in Sonoma County, apparently.
(RIGHT: William Randolph Hearst in 1906)
HELPED HEARST WITH MACHINE
Don Prentiss of This City “Lends a Hand” to Automobile Party in Distress and Learns Identity Later
While in Sebastopol Sunday, Don Prentiss of this city noticed an automobile party in distress, and as he came up he was asked to “lend a hand” in the somewhat difficult task of replacing a damaged tire with a new one carried in anticipation of just such an emergency.
Mr. Prentiss willingly responded, and after the heavy work had been finished, lingered and talked an hour or more with the members of the party while the chauffeur puts the machine in readiness for resuming the journey.
After the automobilists had climbed in and waved goodbye, Mr. Prentiss learned with some surprise that he had been talking to Mr. and Mrs. William R. Hearst, who with the latter’s younger sister, have been spending several days traveling through this part of the country in Mr. Hearst’s automobile. The party passed through this city last week, going north as far as Ukiah.– Press Democrat, August 7, 1906