In May 1925, Sarg Cole had what modern scholars might call a Bad Idea. He was going to drive around Omaha for 5 days straight with no sleep and nothing to drink but milk.
Man (not Sarg Cole) driving a truck, 1926.
“Iron Man Will Race Time,” announced the Omaha World-Herald on May 2, 1925, as it introduced readers to an upcoming endurance contest that was also a colorful advertising stunt for the newspaper and other Omaha businesses. Sarg Cole, “the Canadian ‘iron man[,]’ will start Saturday from the World-Herald building, to drive a Hupmobile Eight auto five days and five nights, without rest. The only food he will take during his long grind will be [Alamito] milk.”
During his endurance test Cole will be handcuffed to the wheel of his car, and shackled to the seat. His journey will be made in Omaha and its suburbs. During the day his car [which a photo depicts covered with advertising slogans] will be seen by the crowds as he pursues his 120-hour trip. At night he will report at regular intervals to policemen on their beats, so that an accurate check can be kept of his performance.
The test will begin promptly at 12 o’clock noon on the Fifteenth street side of the World-Herald building. Sarg Cole will be handcuffed to the steering wheel by Chief of Police Van Deusen, who will use the strongest pair of steel bracelets to be had in Omaha. The only stops the Canadian will make will be necessary pauses for gasoline and oil, and for the milk that he will drink.
Cole was confident of his ability to complete the five days without sleep. He planned to have observers accompany him during portions of the trip and during the last two days, to have a trained nurse with him in the car “to guard against physical collapse.” He claimed to have performed similar feats in Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta, and other American cities.
The World-Herald reported Cole’s progress daily to readers. On May 5 his limbs and neck were swelling. He traveled to Fremont, Fort Crook, and Missouri Valley, telling a reporter, “‘Yes, I know they call me a nut for doing this,’ . . . ‘but I average about 12 thousand dollars a month for being nutty.'” By May 6 his lips and throat were swollen, and he complained of the glare of street lights during night driving. He also “gave his General tires a test . . . by driving up the east stairway to Central high school and then up the fifty-five degree grade from Twenty-fifth and Burt streets onto Creighton field.”
When Cole finally completed the five days of continuous driving on May 8, 1925, pulling up to the World-Herald Building at noon, he was given a hero’s reception. He was in such poor physical shape that the Omaha chief of police (who had handcuffed him to the steering wheel five days earlier) had to lift him from the Hupmobile and into a waiting ambulance. However, Cole remained upbeat and confided to a reporter that he might ignore his doctor’s warnings to give up endurance contests.