Thursday, October 8, 2009

Introduction to Little Bits of History

   I grew up in Pennsylvania during the 50's and 60's and family vacations were taken with my father pulling a pop-up tent camper. Our family vacations entailed traveling mostly two lane highways, prior to the construction of most of the interstate highways, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the New York Thruway were the main four lane style highways I remember. My father was not big on stopping very often, when we traveled. We went from campground to campground with brief stops for lunch and then would stay two or three days to see the local sights. The majority of family vacations involved visiting historical places, i.e., Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C., or visiting family in West Virginia.
   I was the type of kid who loved to look out the window and take in everything I could see. Historical road markers were of particular interest to me. Of course, reading them as my father drove pass was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to pick up more information than you might think, I got kind of good at it. In those days the text of many markers was brief and the print was generally quite large, unlike many newer markers today with expanded, smaller text. I was particularly excited, when I had the chance to stop and actually read all the text. Most lunches were at roadside picnic tables that were quite numerous in those days. Historical road markers were frequently located next to many roadside picnic tables. These stops gave me the opportunity to more closely examine these markers. I wish I still had many of those early photos, but I seem to have lost many over the years. One day I may find them still buried deep within the store house of boxes my parents keep to this day.
   I remember traveling many two lane highways that were the major roadways and have changed considerably over the past forty or more years. I remember trips down Route 219 from the PA Turnpike south to Lewisburg, WV. I remember going to visit Colonial Williamsburg in 1965 and traveling on Route 60 across Virginia from Lewisburg, WV. I also remember a trip over Route 1 from Maryland on our way to Myrtle Beach, SC and traveling on Route 11 through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. When I was in college, I got to travel on Route 66 through Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois just as they were in the process of eliminating large parts of the highway due to the construction of new interstate roadways. I often wish I had taken the time to take many more photos of the buildings and sights along those roads, since so much has changed over the years and some very unique features and sights have now vanished.
   Today when I travel on vacation or business, I prefer traveling the older two lane highways when I can and avoid the interstate highways. Since I am the one driving, I stop frequently for the historical road markers, which makes my wife a little crazy. In the past several years, particularly with the ability to take digital photos, I have made a point to photograph all the markers I stop and read. On these highways is where the majority of the historical road markers are located, some easy to access and some present a challenge to reach.  A smaller number of markers are beginning to appear at the rest stops of interstate highways. Early in the life of most markers, they were located every close to the historical event they were referencing and many still do, but many have been relocated due to highway changes.
   I have always found myself much more connected to the history of our country stopping and reading a marker about some prominent American who lived, was born or did something of historical significance near the spot I was standing. I frequently found myself looking up additional information about the persons, places or things mentioned in many markers, which lead to the creation of this blog. I figured that I should share with others what I have found so interesting. I am hoping that others will share additional facts, information and thoughts about these markers and help me learn more about our history.    Many of my friends and colleagues take the time each year to travel to the sites of historical significance throughout the U.S. and I enjoy these places as well. Over the years I have found enjoyment and interest in discovering the richness of local history in the small, secluded road markers off on some country road or in the middle of a growing suburban or urban area.
   My photos concentrate chiefly on the metal state historical road markers that have been around since the mid 1920's, though I will have photos of other types of markers, when they relate to the main markers of my attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment