Hitting the highway aboard folding chairs
“The automobile was the greatest invention of the 20th century,” said Robert Webster, who referenced an informal informational poll. Those taking the virtual tour of the debut of “Fun and Entertainment on the American Road,” were attending the September meeting of the East Lycoming Historical Society.
“Prior to this invention, the average person traveled only about 25 to 30 miles from home. The auto industry came to provide one of seven jobs,” he said.
As vehicles came onto the scene, roadways were needed. Webster named some major routes such as The Lincoln Highway, the New York City to San Francisco Highway, the Dixie Highway and the famed Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Springing up along the routes were businesses to serve the traveling public with such amenities as gas stations, roadside diners, overnight motels and tourist attractions.
One local gas station from the 1930’s which Webster shared, was that of George Walters, “where six gallons of gas was a dollar.” The station was located north of the Route 405/220 intersection on the eastern side of the roadway. Webster recollected, “They had a talking parrot and a monkey, and the two didn’t get along. One day, unbeknownst to the owners, a client unleashed the monkey. Later, the cage was tipped over and the parrot found drowned in the mill race.”
Logos identifying fuel companies were recounted; three examples were the Texaco Star, the flying horse for Mobile, and Sinclair’s green dragon.
Billboards appeared in the 1920’s as a new form of advertising. Lucky Strike was one of many brands of cigarettes touted, and perhaps the most memorable catch phrase by another brand was, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel.”
In the 1960’s some states banned billboards and along with junk yards, were considered eye sores.
Statues posted near roads would catch the eye of those passing by. Along the Philadelphia Pike, a large cement White Horse identified the White Horse Bar and Grill located west of Montoursville.
Travelers crowded to theme parks, such as Lake George near Saratoga Springs, NY, Mt. Rushmore and in Minnesota, Paul Bunyan and Blue. Webster identified his favorite as being Frontier Town where “The Dalton gang regularly robbed stage coaches and train cars. One could also see Matt Dillon come busting out of the Marshall’s office.”
Local entertainment sites included Bob and Dean’s Radio Coral near Montgomery. “In 1949, I met country singer Hank Williams Sr there.”
Commenting on the county fair at Hughesville, Webster said, “I met Ken Roberts, the motorcycle champion, and saw the Lipizon stallions of Vienna. We must include the Reithoffer family, providers of amusement rides. At Hughesville High School, son Julius Jr. was a grade ahead of me and his brother Donald, a grade behind me.”
No tour would be complete without mentioning jingles from the Burma Shave signs. Posted in groups of five and spaced at intervals for easing reading, Webster gave the following examples: “If wife refuses . . . your fond embrace . . . Don’t blame neighbor . . . Feel your face. . . . Burma Shave,” and “The other lady . . . in his life . . . said go home . . . to your wife . . . Burma Shave.”
During the society’s monthly meeting, newly elected board members were recognized including Doris Babb of Hughesville, Secretary; Shirley Crawley of Hughesville, Vice President; and Rob Mueller of South Williamsport, board member. Absent was board member William Foresman.