Archive for March 2007

Backdrop of beauty

March 31, 2007

This vibrant little commercial strip is located in West Yellowstone, Mont. U.S. Highway 191 led vacationers to the nation’s first national park: Yellowstone. But if folks needed extra supplies, gas or a meal, these roadside stops provided it. This top photo, from the 1960s, shows competing gas stations like Chevron, Texaco and Mobil, all drenched in high country sunshine.


The glow of neon attracted tourists to diners, coffee shops and motels to this thriving town along U.S. 191, in this view, also from the 1960s.



Close cover before striking

March 27, 2007

Curators, here at the Museum, pour over an extensive collection of ephemera, including matchbook covers. These dimunitive examples of advertising showcase roadside stops and attractions along America’s highways. These covers from Texas and Ohio are real beauties. The Grande Courts in San Antonio were managed by Lon P. Piper and boasted of “America’s Finest Tourist Quarters.” The Vandalia Courts offered not only rooms, but also a place to park that shiny new Airstream along the shoulders of U.S. 40. Together, these matchbook covers are eye-popping reminders of stops along the road.


The inside of the covers offer quaint little maps, so travelers can find their way.


The air-conditioned highway

March 26, 2007

“Please join us on a trip across the top of a nation, in the air-conditioned comfort of our northern climate…” so says this brochure from the 1960s. Just think, your journey could begin along the rocky shores of Maine’s Acadia National Park, head west to Niagara Falls, slice across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and cruise through the prairies of the North Dakota. Cross the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park in Montana. Finally, coast down the western slope into Everett, Wash. along the shores of Puget Sound. The U.S. Highway 2 Association was located in Shelby, Mont. and used this brochure to promote sights and tourist services along the route.


Big Bear Lake

March 25, 2007

Ahhh, a nifty view, from the mid-1950s, of the busy little village of Big Bear Lake, Calif. Located at an elevation of 6,750 feet in the San Bernardino mountains. These photos show a diversity of stores, gas stations and motels that would cater to the needs of tourists. Only about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the Big Bear Lake area has been the setting for many motion pictures, including “Paint Your Wagon,” “The Parent Trap,” “Bonanza,” and “Dr. Dolittle.”



Famous Fifty

March 16, 2007

This charming 1954 highway guide is filled with an abundance of things to see and do along Highway 50. U.S. 50 stretches across the continent from Ocean City, Maryland to San Francisco, Calif. The National Highway Federation had offices in the tiny town of Ely, Nevada. The highway, especially portions in Nevada, is known as The Lonely Road, because of the lack of traffic and services along some stretches.


This particular guidebook was handed out by the Dodge House Museum in Dodge City, Kansas. U.S. 50 has a northern and southern section in the state of Kansas. Dodge City is on the southern leg.


A modern Oklahoma highway

March 13, 2007

The four-lane, 88-mile Turner Turnpike was built at a cost of $38 million. It opened to traffic in May 1953. This new road saved travelers almost one hour driving time between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The turnpike diverted motorists from U.S. 66, which parallels the turnpike. As a result, many towns along this stretch of 66 began to feel the effects of reduced traffic and commerce along their lifeblood highway. The turnpike was designed to offer services along the way. Howard Johnson restaurants and Phillips 66 gas stations were easily accessed from the highway. This brochure trumpeted the rewards of driving this modern roadway. Safety was key. Guardrails, reflectors, luminous stripes and a grassy median were components of the road. In the 1990s, the 15-foot wide grassy median was replaced with a concrete barrier to prevent the inevitable crossover accidents.


Check out these maps

March 12, 2007

I wrote a piece that appeared today in The Kansas City Star. The story was about the many navigation choices travelers have when they hit the road. GPS devices, online mapping services and, of course, the traditional road map. Well, I bet you can guess what I like to use. Anyhow, here is a link to the story and, maybe of more interest, a graphic presentation showing the dazzling illustrations that have graced the covers of many a highway map. Click on the interactive graphic to see the show.