A Few Old Roadmaps

It’s fun to go through boxes of old stuff and wonder what the owner was doing when she or he used it. In this case the items were sandwiched between the covers of a couple of neglected photo albums. I had glimpsed at them last autumn but postponed examining them due to working on other projects with higher priority.

Last week the car was in the shop to have its clutch replaced, so I was stranded at home looking for something to occupy my time. That’s when I rediscovered the old road maps. They are artifacts of a man whose life was literally all about roads. His working life was devoted to the betterment of highways and streets.

The reason dad kept the map of the Southeast area of the United States will probably remain a mystery forever. Perhaps he wanted to keep it as a souvenir of a small, independent oil company. Today, Lion Oil is operated by Delek US Holdings of Tennessee.

I had trouble trying to determine the date the Lion map was published. The only dates to be found were in fine print on the city index. There was a footnote that mentioned a “Special Census” taken between 1943 and 1948. The only flaw about the map is the cigarette burn.

The other two maps were probably kept for sentimental reasons. Both were issued the Nebraska Department of Roads–his employer. He began his career with the agency in 1949. There’s a short notation in his own handwriting explaining the map was presented to him by the highway department.

The 1949-50 map illustrates the types of roads and highways in existence at the time dad was hired. The map shows that most of the state’s highways were gravel covered roads. Highways that were paved in concrete or asphalt were less common. There were many stretches of road that were rudimentary bladed dirt with no other improvements. That means the roadmap would have been important if you were traveling during a rainy spell and wanted to avoid getting stuck in the mud.

All the state-issued Nebraska highway maps I’ve seen feature photographs of places of possible interest to tourists or places that are deemed worthy of bragging rights.

The 1956 map is particularly interesting when it’s compared to the 1949-50 edition. There are many more highways depicted as paved with concrete or asphalt. There are still many gravel covered highways because the previously unimproved highways were finally graveled by 1955 when the 1956 map was approved.

For dad, personally, this comparison is important because he was part of the working team of civil engineers who designed the paved highways and oversaw the improvement of the gravel covered state routes.

The reverse side of the map again features places the state government wanted tourists to visit.

If you’re planning to visit Nebraska soon, you may wish to use this new resource: http://nebraska-map.org/road-map.htm .

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes personal improvement expert Earl Nightingale. “All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Hometown, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Few Old Roadmaps

  1. Doug says:

    It would be interesting to take our technology (cell phones with maps) back to the late ’40’s and watch them freak out how easily we can call up almost any road.
    A bit of trivia……..do you remember when Norfolk had a big neon sign at the intersection of 13th street and Norfolk Avenue. The word “NORFOLK” was outlined with neon and an arrow pointing to the downtown area. Mmmmmmm, I wonder if there is a picture of that on google.

    • swabby429 says:

      I came up empty on my Google image search. I didn’t move to Norfolk until 1977 and I don’t remember seeing one when visiting Norfolk when I was a boy, but we always entered Norfolk via Highway 35. I do vaguely remember a West Point neon sign over Highway 275. I think there was one in Wahoo, too.

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