Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

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were offered a tour along the Lincoln Highway that would promote both Scouting and the road itself, which was being superseded (as were all named trails) by the Federal highway numbering system.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

 

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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The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range

August 14, 2012

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
I’ve been meaning for more than half a year to post about an impressive, engaging, and informative blog. Grover Cleveland, via his “Camera and Pencil in the Mountains,” has been regaling us with detailed trips along “The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range, ” that is, across Utah and Nevada. sierratraveler.wordpress.com

The latest trips cover Fish Springs, the John Thomas Ranch, and what Grover calls Black Point, above, a few miles west of Fish Springs. I really appreciated the link to the 1859 report of Captain James Simpson, who explored the major wagon and Pony Express route throughout Nevada.

Blogging the Lincoln Highway in NV and UT

November 17, 2011

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
I’ve been following a fantastic blog for a couple weeks. Grover Cleveland — his real name — writes “Camera and Pencil in the Mountains” that details his travels in the Sierra Nevada range. Last year he bought a 1919 Model T Ford roadster and converted it into a pickup truck. He’s hoping to follow a good portion for the Lincoln Highway centennial in 2013.

He told me, “I just completed a 1,500-mile trip in Nevada and western Utah. I covered as much of the 1913 alignment as could be found from Verdi, Nevada to Tooele, Utah.” He writes online that he wants to help fellow travelers: “To provide travel notes, recommendations, and some serious safety information. I got in trouble because I didn’t heed some professional advice — you shouldn’t have to.”

For this trip, he loaded his dog Beasley into a 1989 Tiger van: “A conversion on an Astrovan chassis, nicely equipped with kitchen, bathroom, a pop-top, and oodles of radio gear (I’m a ham radio operator – K7TP).”

Click the images here to see Grover’s large originals. Then follow his adventures at sierratraveler.wordpress.com/.

Order Lincoln Highway Companion from Amazon – click HERE

Denny Gibson's new Lincoln Highway adventure

June 29, 2011

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
We’re once again lucky to have Denny Gibson traveling and documenting part of the Lincoln Highway, this time some of the roads to and from the 2011 LHA conference in Lake Tahoe. You can follow his adventures beginning at www.dennygibson.com/lhfest11/day09/index.htm when he visits bits of the Lincoln in Utah. He starts with the beautiful little Lambs Canyon bridge (below). Then it’s across the Utah desert (below #2) and into Nevada.

At the conference, participants rode the old road at Clarksville, Cal., in Model A Fords (below). We’ll save more for our next blog entry….

You too can race at the Bonneville Salt Flats

September 9, 2010

PBS producer Rick Sebak passes on a reminder of a one-a year opportunity September 15-18, 2010. From a release: “Call it a hunch, but you’ve long suspected that when it’s really on the line, you could race a motorized bar stool across some salt flats faster than anyone. And soon, you’ll have your chance to prove it. Once a year, the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association puts on a crazy drag race between old VW vans, go-karts and, if you insist, regular old race cars.” Read more online at the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association and check out photos of past events.

LHA mainstay, Fish Springs manager Banta retires

March 22, 2010

The Salt Lake Tribune ran a feature story (and the photo below) about the retirement of Jay Banta as manager of Fish Springs National Wilflife Refuge, an oasis along the Lincoln Highway in dusty central Utah. Banta, long-time LHA member and membership director, has managed the preserve for the past 19 years. He’s also become an authority on fabled rancher and auto-service provider John Thomas, who pulled motorists from quagmires a century ago.

Jay Banta, known for his long beard, strong opinions and passion for all things wild, is calling it a career this week, exactly to the day he came to the most remote national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states as its manager. How far off the beaten track is Fish Springs? Consider that the only way to reach the refuge is on a dirt road along a path that once served as the route for the Pony Express, the first transcontinental telegraph and the Lincoln Highway. The dirt roads are so bad that Banta always purchased lifetime warranties on tires, shocks and mufflers.

After working at Fish Springs as a seasonal employee in 1981 and 1982, Banta dreamed of coming back to the 17,992-acre oasis in the desert. It was established as a refuge in 1959 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering birds. “I think some people are possessed by this place,” he said. “I was possessed.”…

Banta has built a new house in Torrey where he plans to retire. He has part-time work lined up, including working as a barista to support his coffee habit.

Fisher Pass monument dedication this Saturday

September 29, 2009

A monument for Lincoln Highway “father and founder” Carl Fisher will be dedicated this Saturday, October 3, 2009, at Fisher Pass in central Utah. Family member Jerry Fisher, who wrote The Pacesetter biography of Carl, will sign books afterwards. The site of the monument is at a crest on UT route 199 between Clover and Terra, Utah.

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Guiding force Rollin Southwell writes:

Its been a long haul and we have lost a few of our committee members that gave their time and first $1000.00 for this project. They are the late Thomas A See and the late Norma Berns. But with the help,support and donations we are ready. A great big thank you goes to Stephen Ehninger of EFT Architects, Jerry Timmins, Jack Mason, Kenn Gillette with UDOT-Region 2, American Road Magazine, National Lincoln Highway Assoc. and State Chapters.

Fisher Pass was part of a plan by the Lincoln Highway Association to shorten the route across the Great Salt Desert. Using what was then calledJohnson Pass and building a road across the great Salt Flat (Goodyear Cutoff) would shorten the distance between Salt Lake City, Ut and Ely, NV by some 50 miles. Though the Cutoff was never compleed, Fisher Pass was finished. The State of Utah received Fisher money with interest, but the agreement was never completed as it was to include a monument to Fisher. The RG Southwell Foundation has led the charge in recent years to finally complete the task. Learn more at fisherpass.com/.

Immerse yourself in Denny's Lincoln Highway trip

August 24, 2009

A week ago I reported on Denny’s Gibson’s blog but if you didn’t bother visiting it, go to dennygibson.com/lhwest09/ now and spend a half hour seeing, feeling, and tasting a trip along the Lincoln Highway westward from Illinois. Make sure you click his photos to see them bigger; here are a few.

Denny_NE_CvrdWagonA real heartbreaker, the Covered Wagon attraction near Kearney, Nebraska. Someone was working on the building last year, with plans to restore the wagon and oxen, but now they look worse than ever.

Denny_WY_MedBowW Here’s a great old road segment west of Medicine Bow, Wyoming. A truck used the road while Denny was there.

Denny_UT_FisherMonumentThe pull-off has been paved and ground was recently broken for the Fisher Pass monument south of Grantsville, Utah.

Fish Springs to offer trails class for its 50th

April 14, 2009

The Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, a wetland mecca along the Lincoln Highway in western Utah, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The refuge was established in 1959 by the Migratory Bird Commission and is managed as a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The celebration will take place May 9-10, 2009. Billed as a weekend of Wildlife, Wildlands, and History, participants will accompany instructors in the field for natural history classes in any of three sessions (two on Saturday, one Sunday). Topics will include land birds, aquatic birds, aquatic botany, area geology, refuge archeology, and most notably, a class titled Fish Springs the Crossroads which looks at the many important pioneer trails that passed through the refuge.

sebak_ut_bantaloABOVE: Refuge manager and LHA membership coordinator Jay Banta was photographed by PBS producer Rick Sebak as the crew filmed for last year’s Lincoln Highway program.

Refuge manager Jay Banta says that class will cover “the Jackass Mail, the Pony Express, the Central Overland Stage, the Transcontinental Telegraph, the Lincoln Highway, and maybe even a bit of the CCC history as they built most of the country roads in our part of the world.” Classes are limited to 20 students and require pre-registration, available online, by email, or by phone — see below.

Camping will be allowed on the refuge Friday May 8 and Saturday May 9. There will be a group potluck dinner on Saturday with a “Campfire” program by manager Banta and some surprise guests!

The refuge is 135 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Commuting time is approximately 3.5 hours from SLC, with half of that distance being gravel roads.

For more information check the Special Events at http://fishsprings.fws.gov or e-mail fishsprings@fws.gov or call the refuge from 7 am to 4:30 pm, M–F. (435) 831-5353 x2


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