Following the Road Signs of History

I love history – especially American history. As a kid growing up in the fifties, I stumbled upon my first favorite book, Stephen Meader’s T Model Tommy. I read with wonder as Tommy’s Model T truck hauled him and his cargo up and down narrow bands of asphalt and gravel through New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I can still picture the truck’s round headlights illuminating the darkened threadlike road as he sluggishly descended a steep incline. I can hear raindrops pelting the truck’s tin roof as Tommy approached a washed out bridge. Such were the challenges of an independent trucker in the 1930’s.

When I was a boy, black and white televisions brought “The Lone Ranger,” “Sky King,” and “Leave it to Beaver” into our living room. It was a time when World War II veterans purchased cookie-cutter homes in suburban communities then piled their baby boomer children into station wagons and hit the open road on newly built four lanes. While I enjoyed the advantages of modern travel, T Model Tommy was awakening me to the motoring wonders of an earlier day.

Meader’s classic inspired me to explore the pre-Interstate world of dirt roads, makeshift road signs, garish service stations and quaint roadside eateries. When I discovered maps and contemplated their twisting, curving lines, I imagined myself on the road, driving, looking, and beholding the multitude of wonders all around me. I pictured mountains and rivers. I dreamed of bridges and conjured up river ferries. I envisioned old farmhouses and towns. I plotted trips and imagined myself traveling across the country.

Continue reading Mark Weaver’s Following the Road Signs of History from our Sept-Oct, 1999 issue.

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