Archive for the ‘transportation’ 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were offered a tour along the Lincoln Highway that would promote both Scouting and the road itself, which was being superseded (as were all named trails) by the Federal highway numbering system.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.

 

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.”

Drive-In Gas Station’s 100th on Lincoln Highway

December 2, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
On December 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway had only celebrated its dedication a month earlier when the world’s first architect-designed drive-in gas station opened along the new coast-to-coast road in Pittsburgh.

Gulf’s pioneering station in Pittsburgh.

Gasoline had been sold for years at hardware stores and other businesses serving the burgeoning auto industry. There were also places selling only gasoline, even drive-in stations.

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But the fuel was often kept in barrels and poured from large cans. And unlike those existing buildings or informal shacks, Gulf Oil had an architect design the new building to efficiently and elegantly pump gas and provide other services. In fact, the following year, the station would start giving away the first free oil company road maps.

The station featured a canopy to shield motorists from weather, new Bowser hand-cranked pumps, large incandescent-lit signs, attendants on duty day and night, and the checking of fluids — all new to the industry.

The station was on Baum Boulevard (the Lincoln Highway) at St. Clair Street. Baum was quickly becoming Pitsburgh’s “automobile row” (common in all cities), filling with garages, tire shops, and car dealers — even the local auto club. Baum already served the carriage trade so this was a natural outgrowth. That itself made sense since Baum connected the city to the mansions being built to the east along on Penn Avenue in Point Breeze — also  the Lincoln Highway.

An informal station was already operating on the site when landowner James Mellon contracted the new station. The Mellon family was Gulf’s first and foremost investors, intertwining their Mellon Bank and Gulf Oil for decades. Gulf was an early proponent of branding gas, especially with its bright orange circle logo, as opposed to generic gas that was also often of lower quality; a branded station was a natural next step.

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The station didn’t last long, perhaps as late as 1950. Since then it’s been a parking lot. In 2000, the Gulfoil Historical Society campaigned for, and helped erect, a state historical marker to the station. I visited the site today, on the station’s 100th birthday, in the Lincoln Highway’s 100th year.

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

“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.

Lincoln Hwy’s “Man from Utah” Rollin Southwell

March 29, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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Long-time Lincoln Highway advocate Rollin Southwell passed away suddenly on Sunday while in Iowa. Among the many contributions of “The Man from Utah” to Lincoln Highway history, preservation, and promotion was the conception and creation of a monument to Carl Fisher in central Utah.

Rollin’s family has planned a service for Monday, April 1, 2013, 11 am at the Twenty-Seventh East Ward, 185 North P Street (corner of 4th Ave), Salt Lake City. In lieu of flowers, Marie Southwell, Elizabeth Southwell, and Robert Southwell ask that donations be directed to the Utah State Historical Society in honor of Rollin’s love for historical research, particularly the history of the Lincoln Highway.

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Illinois Lincoln Highway murals need your vote

January 29, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
IL_MuralsThe Illinois Lincoln Highway Murals, created by artist Jay Allen for the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition, won first place in the Murals/Exhibit Graphics category in an annual sign contest presented by Signs of the Times magazine.

Now the murals are competing in the Signs of the Times 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards. They need YOUR help. It’s EXTREMELY easy and fun to see the competing projects.

Every mural is a hand-painted, unique work of art.  So far, 29 have been installed. Upon completion, the series will be one of the largest works of public art in the country.

Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8DV5THL and vote for your 3 favorite projects, including of course the murals. Voting is limited to once per computer and concludes on February 8.

Museum for LH & Route 66 restoring 1928 post

January 23, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
LH_IL_Joliet markerThe Joliet Area Historical Museum, at the crossroads of the Lincoln Highway and Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois, is asking for help in restoring its 1928 Lincoln Highway concrete marker. According to a release, the museum hopes “to raise $5,000 to restore the highway marker which is deteriorating rapidly. Restoration includes: stabilizing the interior rebar, re-adhering the broken segments, removing bronze disease, brightening the paint, and displaying it inside.” Of course, there is no paint — the colors are in the concrete — but the rest sounds like a worthy endeavor.

Read more HERE in the release:

Popular Joliet museum gets Lincoln Hwy exhibit

November 2, 2012

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The newest project by Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition is not a mural or gazebo, it’s an exhibit at the Joliet Area Historical Museum in Joliet, Illinois. The unveiling coincided with the first-ever Illinois Scenic Byway Week, recently designated by Governor Quinn.

The new exhibit offers striking graphics and vintage photos complimented by stories that convey the Lincoln Highway’s impact on America and its increasingly mobile society. A detailed map and a replica 1928 Lincoln Highway marker help visitors find the route on paper and on their next rip on the road. The Joliet Area Historical Museum is a popular jumping-off point for followers of Route 66 heading west from Chicago to the Pacific coast.

Poster Commemorates Lincoln Hwy Centennial

October 29, 2012

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
A new poster commemoratees the forthcoming centennial of the Lincoln Highway in 2013. The Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society Museum of Merrilville, Indiana, commissioned Mitch Markovitz to create the evocative image.

An article at nwitimes.com explains:

“We started this project more than a year ago,” said Dan Kleine, the project manager for the poster commissioning and a member of the Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society board. “The whole idea was to build awareness that the Old Lincoln Highway is 73rd Avenue, just outside the museum’s front door.”

In his oil-on-canvas painting that is reproduced as a poster, Markovitz of Knox, creates a scene from 1929 when the Lincoln Highway was a major thoroughfare that led to Broadway and then north to Gary and Chicago….

Jeff Blair, Indiana’s national director on the Lincoln Highway Association, traveled from Leesburg, Ind., to witness the poster’s unveiling.

“Last year, I walked the Lincoln Highway west from Ohio to Illinois for charity. Next May, I’m going to walk east from Illinois to Ohio and I’ll pass right by here on the first day,” Blair said.

The article claims that the poster shows a 1929 Ford Model T, which is impossible. More likely it’s a Model A, though just as perplexing is why the image is said to portray the LH in 1929, a year after the LHA ceased active operations. Perhaps it was to include a 1928 concrete post, but that too is in an incorrect orientation, i.e., not facing the road.


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