Monday, February 15, 2010

"Hey there, neighbor, goin' my way? East or west on the Lincoln Highway?


"Hey there, neighbor, goin' my way? East or west on the Lincoln Highway? Hey there Yankee, give out with a great big thank-ee; You're in God's Country! When You Travel the Great Lincoln Highway!"

In the 1940s, the Lincoln Highway became a backdrop for an NBC Saturday morning radio show broadcast before nearly 8 million listeners know it  Lincoln Highway. The show featured life along the Lincoln Highway and  hosted many of the eras' stars such as Joan Bennett, Ethel Barrymore, Joe E. Brown...Joooooeeeey!, Claude Rains and Burgess Meredith.   

Veering unexpectedly into this occasional 1940s snippet and that ocassional trivia or from this valued resource and that resource, all with regards to the Lincoln Highway....Jolene Bungalow Gal was, indeed  heading full on into intrigue! I could 'near feel it!   Also, the mere co-incidence that the Lincoln Highway zooms right through Gettysburg, PA and not too far at all from Quite The Stir Bungalow (wink!) held a particular allure too!  Ahhh, the Lincoln Highway was now made all the more intriguing for further probing into the gently curving bends and stretches, Gentle Readers.

Before I continue onward regaling tales about the Lincoln Highway, I simply must pause a moment to inquire of you (all, of course, in the interest of practicing fine road etiquette and fair driving rules)....
Do you care to hear more, gentle readers? 

I DO believe I can near inhale the cheering crowds' agreement! So, then,  I'll give heed to my biological impulses and steer onward (in a soprano steady and clear...)  Do you have your Trip Ticket?  Are you safely buckled up?  Checked your rear view mirror for Mounties?

Fragile and,  at places defying and tottering on the edges of decomposition, marred with fissures, bits of crumbles and great gaps of once white-hot sincerity remains to Americans... The Lincoln Highway!  America’s first transcontinental interstate highway, with 3,389 miles of winding roadway spanning from Times Square, New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, California.  The Lincoln Highway was, once in a lullaby, one of the most famous roads in the country.  Ahhh, thanks to this grand Highway, the East Coast and West Coast enjoyed sharing the palpable attraction, spark and conflagration of lights and life, hitherto and before scattered and fragmented.  The Lincoln Highway had enjoined Americans in the pursuit of peace liberty and justice to all and to one another!

As I traveled further onward in my search of  facts about the Lincoln Highway, I was most certainly beginning to think....

Shouldn't the Lincoln Highway be considered among the Seven Wonders of the World if not The Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, says I? Perhaps that attitude seems gratuitous and patronizing of me? I'm partial now, remember location, location, location... (wink)!

You, on the other hand, may query What is the Lincoln Highway? Why The Seven Wonders of the World? So what if it stretches endlessly throughout the United States? So what if it ribbons through Gettysburg, PA near Quite The Stir Bungalow (wink again!)? It's not the Great Wall Of China!  Why,what radical complacent bourgeois 'ne neanderthal species would undertake such a folly in the first place? The idea seemed a solution to everything?  And Why?

Well,  the complacent bourgeois 'ne neanderthal species who set out to undertake this adventure was  a Mr. Carl G. Fisher.

Carl Fisher, (that innovative gentleman)  recognized a change in America's infrastructure was called for!   And, that change was a transcontinental highway!  He thoughtfully contemplated road conditions of the early 1900s. He took note of increased numbers in automobiles and the transport of people and goods. He saw that roads didn't connect while others were dirt or asphalt, that ended sometimes bewildered and nowhere or could at times disappear completely at a loss wandering in the deserts, peaks and valleys east and west! And, what's worse (Oh no!) noted Mr. Carl G. Fisher...there were no systematic road maps, and no lovely road signs! Yes, 2.5 million miles of roadway existed, in some form, but traveling could be a bit of a bug, under these conditions, to say the least!  Mon Dieu! Enough information proof positive for Mr. Fisher! His idea of a transcontinental highway was in the proverbial bag, pitch piped to fellow business entrepreneurs and onward ho to the citizens of dale and valley!

Now, I'm formulating and modulating my thoughts upon gathering fact finding information and I say...What more brilliant person to bring about this past due American transcontinental route than Fisher!?

He was an automobile entrepreneur, a maker of headlights and a creator for goodness sakes!  It was said Carl G. Fisher relished the challenge of converting ideas into realities.  Don't be chagrined Gentle Readers, I'm a bit bit late in finding it out too. This is the man, who in 1911, paved and bricked the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which eventually roared into success as the Indianapolis 500!  Ladies and Gentlemen, START YOUR ENGINES was exactly what Carl did!  With, undiminished urgency hand in hand, with vigor and a stoke full of adrenaline, ideas and money to burn before a well-heeled audience, Carl got a move on!

But not too fast now!  The probable success of this transcontinental highway proposition would depend on others for funding and support!  That being said, Henry Ford was one of the supporters Carl Fisher looked to. Unfortunately, well, ...Ford wasn't buying (literally and figuratively) the idea of a transcontinental highway supported by private funds!  It is said that Ford reasoned the public would never learn to fund good roads if private industry did it for them!  If you listen to history closely, can you hear the music and ominous words "funding in jeopardy"?  Carl was not deterred by Henry Ford (well, maybe a bit ) just yet and continued gunning his engines for a transcontinental highway.

With the help and funding of other auto industry executives who themselves had made history through Packard cars, Good Year tires to Prest-O-Lite batteries, the project roared onward!  These automobile industry executives were mega mogul giants such as Frank Seiberling, president of Goodyear, and Henry Joy, president of the Packard Motor Car Company.  They not only pledged money to Fisher's idea and support, Henry Joy, himself suggested the naming of the Lincoln Highway in honor of U. S. President Abraham Lincoln!  How very patriotic of them! (And clever, too!)

By the efforts of these men and others, The Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) purred or revved into reality with dedication on July 1, 1913 toward the end goals of  a transcontinental highway named the Lincoln Highway! These goals for the Lincoln Highway were to (and we quote sources here):

1)  Encourage the marking of the entire route regardless of its road surface, be it gravel, brick, dirt or whatever;
2) Petition cities, towns and counties to rename their local parts of the route “Lincolnway;”
3) Prod the states and local governments to improve the “route” by pouring concrete roadways to make it a model highway, a permanent, enduring monument to Lincoln.

Let's note:  In many ways, the Lincoln Highway legacy mimics and  emphasizes the paradox and peculiarity of civilized hypocrisies throughout all history .   That be...Benefactors very rarely appreciate what history has left them!   It remains to historians, preservationists, teachers, devotees, fool hardy or wise and the curious to  awaken remnants of history.  Of course, there is Bungalow Gal Jolene who stands up to plate to recall the Lincoln Highway...inclusive of stops in between.  Behold a haloed, if an ineffable, charismatic, ethereal, dreamlike, misty lore (fait accompli with descriptives for now) about it, the Lincoln Highway is one dream from which I do not wish to awaken.

Why, The Lincoln Highway, motORvated (alright then....motivated) the Interstates and laid rubber for the systematic use of highway directional signs. Heretofore, Americas' roads were more often than not unmarked or posted, which could make long distance travel a bit of a bug as above or alright a "head banger" for travelers of the day. Sooo, somewhere's, its said... that in 'bout 1916, all under the (Lincoln Highway Authority LHA’s directives), all along the Lincoln Highway a bit of chaos was put under order. Willing hands and following hearts of volunteers painted telephones, posts, and a plethora of markers and poles with the Lincoln Highway’s emblem of red, white and blue stripes with an outstanding, capital “L.”

By 1925 roadways across the country had increased. And with the increase of roads, naturally more road names were assigned totally convoluting the name, Lincoln Highway! Alas, The Lincoln Highway was no longer exclusively known as the Lincoln Highway. She was joined up with other long distance highways, such as the Dixie Highway and U. S. Route 66. There I've said it now,...Route 66, "let's do get our kicks!" (Oh, rest assured there will be more intense information and trivia to come on Route 66 and it's role during WWII War time in America, too!) Then, to complicate matters for the poor old Lincoln, American Association of State Highway Officials, began to identify roads by numbers rather than names! U.S. 1, U.S. 30, U.S. 30N, U.S. 30S, U.S. 530, U.S. 40, U.S. 50. Although about two-thirds of the highway was designated as U.S. 30, the rest was chopped into variously numbered parts. Then came the super highway, the turnpike!

The years rolled onward, mom and pop enterprises were born here and grew up there.  Yellow sunrises and golden sunsets 'or waving wheatfields and shadowed blue river valleys gave way to historical little stops.  Seedlings, showing the glory of cement roads remain yet as a legacy to the Lincoln Highway.  Overnight Starlites sprang up.  Places where you could take your boots off of a night and shake away the weary road warrior blues.  Touristy stops, a place to pitch yon tent and break out the checkers and beans amidst neato  little spots that yet harangue the Lincoln Highway too.

During the 25th Anniversary of the Lincoln Highway on July 3, 1938, a nationwide radio broadcast on NBC featured interviews with a number of LHA officials, and a message from Carl Fisher. Read by an announcer in Detroit. Fisher's message included:

“ The Lincoln Highway Association has accomplished its primary purpose, that of providing an object lesson to show the possibility in highway transportation and the importance of a unified, safe, and economical system of roads. … Now I believe the country is at the beginning of another new era in highway building (that will) create a system of roads far beyond the dreams of the Lincoln Highway founders. I hope this anniversary observance makes millions of people realize how vital roads are to our national welfare, to economic programs, and to our national defense… ”

Fisher died about a year after the 25th Anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, in 1940, having lost most of his fortune.

All too soon, and an ahhhhhh 'twas the beginning of the long lonely end for the Lincoln Highway. 

It was late 1940 and long after the last radio show had played her a final tribute.... the Lincoln Highway started to recede away. Another American generation was born, and then another came to light.  One accustomed  to growing up with paved roads and a numbered highway system, another beholding the space age which overshadowed the Lincoln Highway without any doubt.  The Lincoln Highway was just part of historical scenery. As in the beginning of this tome (again wink) many had never heard of the Lincoln Highway and still haven't unto this day.

In The Scheme of Things...

While the Lincoln Highway Association was officially dissolved in 1935 please note a quote... A new LHA did resurge and power up again in 1992 with the mission, "…to identify, preserve, and improve access to the remaining portions of the Lincoln Highway and its associated historic sites." The new LHA publishes a quarterly magazine, The Lincoln Highway Forum, and holds conferences each year in cities along the route! Hurrah!

What Legacy Did The Lincoln Highway Leave the World?

The real discovery here, for some of my Gentle Readers is this: The Lincoln Highway was the forerunner of quite a bit!  A recap is in order.  Clear to the current Interstate System signs, and “Milepost” signs, common along both Interstate and other American roads yet today, it may be considered part and parcel as another innovation of the Lincoln Highway. Let's consider the "bypasses and beltways" road concept of America! The Urban By-Pass? Thank you Lincoln Highway. It provided easy access to many of the now famous transcontinental rail passenger trains. The Lincoln Highway inspired the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, which was championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower from his experiences crossing the Lincoln Highway during early WWI war years . Oh, yes...Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Gettysburg, PA resident, as well.  But you knew that already!   Finally, the Lincoln Highway just may have been the "modal" (model) for Intermodal transportation (a integration of transport from pedestrians, bicycles, autos, ships, etc. on upward to airplanes)?! Keep your engines running!

Today, the Lincoln Highway stands as and offers up "memories of mom and pop" where it's been said "Every Mile Is A Story."  You'll  still find, those gas stations, stores, over night motels or rest stops of yesterday in some part, and folks to tell stories of their parents and grandparents' hey day.  

From Tea Pots to Giant Shoes, it's all there...Gentle Readers!
If you truly want to see the country, get back to history, take a journey into time, be thrilled beyond belief,  do some romancing in your open chevrolet, connect with family and old  friends, spark the imagination or just enjoy a rollicking good time?   And what's more, motor on over to Gettysburg? 

Well...What's that you say... HOW?  Well, by the Lincoln Highway Gentle Readers!

So What's Up Doll?   Was I a tad too long in the tooth?   I was?  Oh, how simply kitschy!

Hubba, Hubba!


  1. Great Chopper and history. Thanks Jolene.

  2. Enjoy your site so much that we can hardly wait for the next day's perspective on the past. Wouldn't it be great to really turn back the hands of time as you do in your writing? Looking forward to making reservations to stay at Quite The Stir. Keep the memories coming!

  3. Thank you dahlinks! "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it". George Santayana