Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

End of an Era: Our friend Bernie Queneau

December 8, 2014

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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The Boy Scout Safety Tour visited the Linn County Courthouse, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on July 19, 1928. From left, Carl Zapffe, Edward Pratt, Mark Hughes, driver Reese Davis, Bernard Queneau, BSA Tour Manager Charles Mills, BSA Director of Demonstrations Reno Lombardi, and their Reo Speed Wagon.

 

If you attended a Lincoln Highway event in the past decade, you know there was only one celebrity who fans waited to see: Bernie Queneau, with his deep voice and big smile. Of course, his world was much larger than the Lincoln Highway. When I last spoke with him, an interview actually, he asked if we could talk about something else. “There was more to my life than that trip” he said, not grouchy but proudly.

Still, to Lincoln Highway fans he will always be the Scout on the 1928 coast-to-coast Safety Tour, the last connection to a long-gone era when Model T’s dominated the dusty/muddy, roads.

Bernie was born in Liege, Belgium, on July 14, 1912—Bastille Day he liked to point out—two months before Carl Fisher gathered auto industry friends to propose his crazy cross-country highway idea. Bernie had vague memories of WWI, and then at 13, his family moved to Minneapolis. Thanks to his advanced education, they made him a high school sophomore. His family moved again to New Rochelle, New Jersey, where he graduated in 1928 at age 15.

He entered a contest for Eagle Scouts to go to Africa and was one of seven finalists. After three were chosen, Bernie and the remaining three were offered a tour along the Lincoln Highway that would promote both Scouting and the road itself, which was being superseded (as were all named trails) by the Federal highway numbering system. Much of the Lincoln Highway from Pennsylvania to Wyoming was marked as U.S. 30, but they were different paths, and many bypassed parts of the Lincoln never did receive a number. Those are the parts the Scouts would have traveled.

I first met Bernie when LHA President Esther Oyster tracked him down in 1997. I was a founding director of the LHA and had published my first book about the road the year before. Esther was looking for a special speaker at the upcoming LHA conference in Ohio and was surprised to find one of the Scouts still living. Bernie was 84 and here in my hometown of Pittsburgh. She arranged for us to interview him on March 20 at my workplace, the Senator John Heinz History Center, where I still work. Bernie was amazed that anyone had heard of his road trip seven decades earlier, let alone might be interested in it.

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Esther and Bernie at the fun, informal premier of Rick Sebak’s PBS program about the Lincoln Highway. Sebak’s impromptu showing of clips on the wall pleased fans crowded into the Road Toad near Ligonier, Pa., September 20, 2008.

Esther and Bernie met again at the 2002 LHA conference in San Francisco, where he dedicated a replacement marker at the Western Terminus, and a few months later they invited me to lunch. Plans were made for the William Penn Hotel, a prestigious venue in downtown Pittsburgh, opened 1916. We three reunited at the History Center, and as we walked outside I asked Bernie where he was parked. “We’ll walk” he said and for the next seven blocks it was hard to keep up with this sprightly 90-year-old! Their treat that day was to tell me they’d gotten engaged!

Bernie liked to joke about meeting Esther’s family, that they teased him whether he had any piercings or if he worried about being 12 years older. He joked back that he thought Esther would be sufficiently mature. They were married and in Summer 2003 they re-drove his trip across the country with an LHA tour group that celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, the 75th anniversary of the Scout trip, and their marriage.

Every few years our paths would cross, usually at a Lincoln Highway event. Last year, after a historical society evening banquet, the older audience was ready to go home, but Bernie ordered another bottle of wine. After lunch just a few months ago, he jumped behind the wheel of his new car and drove Esther home on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, Pittsburgh’s frantic 4-lane successor to the old Lincoln Highway through town.

The History Center will open a WWII exhibit next Spring, hence my invitation to Bernie for another oral history. The three of us met up here once again, and for a couple hours he held us spellbound with first-hand recollections of being in the Navy 1939-1946. He used his Ph.D. in Metallurgy to investigate many important applications, from oxygen tanks to aircraft armor to improved ballistics. After the war, he joined U. S. Steel, rising in 1970 to General Manager Quality Assurance for the entire company, which was producing 25 million tons of steel a year. He retired in 1977 only to become a Consulting Engineer, not really retiring for another decade.

Of course, even real retirement for Bernie was busier than a workday for the rest of us. He volunteered for Meals on Wheels, as a hospital escort, and more recently at the used book store at his nearby Mt. Lebanon Library. He and Esther saw a great deal of the world together. He was even a bit late to his own big 100th birthday party, having toured the city all day.

On Saturday, December 6, 2014, he was bestowed the rare Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for outstanding career achievement, on Esther’s 90th birthday. He passed away hours later, on Sunday, Pearl Harbor Day.

There is so much more to his life but it’s the Scout trip that always fascinated Lincoln Highway fans. His 1928 diary holds the precious insights of a teenager on an arduous and monotonous trip.

In New Jersey: “We saw the mayor and veteran of Civil War…. we did over 60 on the crowded highway.”

“Ohio is full of pigs, cattle, bad roads, and rain.”

And Utah: “On and on and on over the worst U.S. route I ever hope to see.”

We’ll miss his honesty, his thoughtful observations, his sense of humor, his love of history and good food. Most of all, I will miss his steady demeanor behind all those other things. As Esther likes to say, he was an old-school gentleman. When in his company, you felt you should do better too, be a better person … and be at least half as active. We’ll miss Bernie but he surely has 102 years of friends waiting for him….

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Tired Scouts in a Hudson convertible on the long trip home. Bernie is at right.

 

Blair to again cross IN on the Lincoln Highway

January 27, 2014

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
Three years after walking across his home state to raise funds and awareness for the Lincoln Highway Association and the Alzhiemer’s Association, Jeff Blair is preparing to do it again. He says “I want to celebrate my 66th birthday by walking the 150+ mile distance over 11 days just to prove I still can!”

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Jeff will leave Dyer, Indiana (on the Indiana/Illinois border) on April 25, 2014, and head east along the 1928 version of the first transcontinental highway, which is more direct than the original route. He’ll reach the Indiana/Ohio border on May 5.

Find out more at www.blairwalk.com

Postcard exhibit at Lincoln Highway museum

January 2, 2014

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The Lincoln Highway Experience Museum east of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, has launched a new postcard exhibit. “Wish You Were Here” features six greatly-enlarged postcards showing iconic locations along the Lincoln Highway in central and western Pennsylvania.

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A screen shot from the Trib Live news story about the postcard exhibit.

The postcard backs are also reproduced, including the personal handwritten messages. All paid visitors to the museum will also receive a free new postcard (and stamp) to write out and address while at the museum.

The museum has an archive with more than 3,000 Lincoln Highway postcards. It is located just west of the Kingston Bridge on US 30 eastbound. The exhibit is located in a room of the historic 1815 Johnston House, one of the oldest structures along the Lincoln Highway.

Read more at

http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourligonier/5236930-74/postcard-museum-highway

Saxon road trip christens Lincoln Highway in 1914

December 24, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
I’ve been looking through back issues of Horseless Age — there is something interesting on nearly every page. This clipping (p 892) from the June 10, 1914 issue features a story about a Saxon automobile that had left New York City on “a transcontinental trip that marks the official christening of the Lincoln Highway.”

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Just as interesting are two brief stories (you can see one about Pittsburgh) noting that Public Safety directors had barred headlights on the grounds that their glare was “blinding and causes confusion among pedestrians and even to other drivers.”

Lincoln Highway Dedicated 100 years ago tonight!

October 31, 2013

The Lincoln Highway was dedicated on October 31, 1913 — 100 years ago tonight. Bonfires, parades, concerts, and speeches were held all along the coast-to-coast route on Halloween.

West of Chambersburg, Pa., Shatzer’s Fruit Market (2197 Lincoln Way West) has been serving the public since 1933. Outside is one of the decorated fiberglass pumps sponsored by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor along with one of LHHC’s interpretive panels. ~ Photo by Brian Butko, October 2007.

Have you wondered if there was any significance, or is the date a coincidence? Most likely, the LHA’s directors chose it knowing it was a time for public celebrations. The U.S. was just beginning to celebrate Halloween in 1913 but there was a centuries-old tradition of bonfires, parades, and dressing up on All Hallows’ Eve that recent immigrants had brought here. LHA leaders were masters at harnessing public relations, and what better date to choose for fanciful nighttime celebrations than the one day a year that such activities already took place?

The San Francisco Chronicle (October 26, 1913) reported, “It is the idea of the boosters of the transcontinental motorway that the dedication be a sort of spontaneous expression of gratification and it has been left to each city and town along the route of the proposed highway to devise and carry out its own plan of celebration.”

On the 31st, the Chronicle added, “The exercises will be a fitting Halloween celebration, but overshadowing all the goblins and ghosts of the evening there will be the spirit of the great national boulevard.”

In the dedication proclamation from Wyoming, Governor Joseph Carey stated, “It is thought especially fitting that on the evening of October 31st there should be an old-time jollification to include bonfires and general rejoicing; this for the purpose of impressing upon the people and especially the younger generation-the services and unselfish life of Lincoln, and for the further purpose of painting a big picture so far as amusements are concerned of the highway which is to cross our state.”

Some of that wording likely came from an LHA press release, as an article in the November 1 Salt Lake Tribune noted it had been “the request of the directors of the Lincoln Highway to make October 31 an evening of general rejoicing.”

And so the Lincoln Highway was dedicated that night 100 years ago in a spirit of pride and optimism. May we do the same for the coming century.

Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Yard Sale August 8-10

July 24, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The ninth annual Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Yard Sale will be held August 8-10, 2013. The sale, started in Ohio in 2005, has expanded westward but the Ohio Lincoln Highway Historic Byway still leads the efforts; last year saw more than 1,200 sales from East Liverpool to the Indiana border according to Mike Hocker, executive director of Ohio’s byway.

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The Ohio Historic Byway publishes a Travelers Guide that includes a map showing the Lincoln’s route and its relationship to US 30. The guide can be found at many businesses along the corridor.

Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa will also have sales along the route. In fact, Council Bluffs in western Iowa will host its own Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Yard Sale on Saturday, August 10, at 2400 N. Broadway (site of the former Pee-Wee Gardens on the LH) from 9 am to 2 pm. It will feature antique cars, model airplane demonstrations, and Lincoln Highway Association members discussing the highway’s history.

For Ohio, see http://www.historicbyway.com/buy-way-yard-sale/about-the-buy-way.
For Indiana, see http://indianalincolnhighway.org/?page_id=931 (still showing 2012)
For Illinois, see http://illinoislincolnhighwayassociation.org/?p=625.
For Iowa, see http://iowalincolnhighway.org/node/39.

US Senate recognizes the Lincoln Highway

June 28, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
On Wednesday, June 26, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway. The highway’s centennial celebration begins this Sunday in Kearney, Nebraska, with day-long events on Monday, the actual 100th anniversary.

Unfortunately, the resolution missed the actual date by one day, naming June 30 as the anniversary, when July 1 was the day of incorporation. That date and it’s significance to history and Lincoln held great importance to the LHA founders.

Also, headlines from the representative are calling it the centennial of “Highway 30.” Although much of the Lincoln Highway later became US Route 30, and that the numbering of much of the route that way was intentional, there is no real connection between the era of named auto trails from the 1910s and the federal numbered highways of 1926.

Still, Lincoln Highway fans can bask in the glow of federal recognition for their road.

See the full text of the resolution at

http://www.johanns.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=48e1da3a-7e19-482d-b5e2-137f0fc78a4f

Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival this weekend

May 17, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The 34th annual Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival in Tama, Iowa, starts Friday and features Merriam’s Midway Shows, bands, kids activities, and the Festival Parade on Saturday morning. The celebration is named for the 1915 concrete bridge built on East 5th Street that has been preserved and is still used.

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Read more in today’s Tama Toledo News for times and more details. (Sorry, my link posting is down):

http://www.tamatoledonews.com/page/content.detail/id/515014/34th-annual-Lincoln-Highway-Bridge-Festival-is-today–Saturday.html

“Pedaling Lincoln Highway” show follows IL route

April 27, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
To mark the centennial of the Lincoln Highway, Dan Libman rode his bike along the road through Illinois and recorded his recollections for a 3-part radio series. “Pedaling Lincoln Highway” aired this week on the university’s radio station WNIJ 89.5 but you can listen too.

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Libman, an avid cyclist and professor at Northern Illinois University faculty DeKalb  says traveling by bike put him at the speed of early automobiles.

Read along here (also includes an audio player): Intro, 1, 2, 3.

Or if you just want to listen: Intro, 1, 2, 3.

New Lincoln Highway Mural in Chicago Heights

April 14, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The 33rd roadside mural from the llinois Lincoln Highway Coalition was installed at 137 East 14th Street, Chicago Heights, Illinois. The mural depicts a vintage photo of the McEldowney Bridge that once crossed Thorn Creek in Chicago Heights and Henry C. Ostermann, the Lincoln Highway Association Field Secretary who traveled the Lincoln Highway to inspect it. Chicago Heights is known as the “Crossroads of the Nation” where the Lincoln and Dixie Highways intersect. A special element in this mural is the “L” sign, a three-dimensional piece attached directly to the mural surface.

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Another mural was installed the same day in Crest Hill, at 1701 Larkin Avenue in the Hillcrest Shopping Center. The story was also reported at nwitimes.com. For more information or to download an Illinois Lincoln Highway Visitor Guide, visit drivelincolnhighway.com.

 


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