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Where we're always on the road, and it's always 1962! ™

THE ROADTRIP-'62 ™ BLOG

I'm heading down a new road, so to speak. Instead of the long articles relating a roadtrip down a complete highway, I'll now be posting much shorter articles. And the scope will be wider, covering just about everything from the year 1962. This should allow me to post more often, and allow you to have more fun reading. I'm not sure just how often I will post something, but this page will always show the five most recent articles, with the newest at the top. Older articles will be archived at the Blog Archives page. I may even include articles from other people, so if you have something to say about 1962, please let me know. Topics will cover:

  • 1962 News of the World
  • 1962 News of the Nation
  • 1962 Local News
  • 1962 in Sports
  • 1962 in Entertainment and the Arts (including movies, TV, music, art, fashion, architecture, design, books, comics, and more)
  • 1962 in Science
  • Cars of 1962
  • Consumer Products and Retail in 1962 (including just about anything you could buy, plus the stores you could buy it in)
  • On the Road in 1962 (road and roadtrip topics, including things I typically covered on my long journeys)
   

Made on US-4 in 1962

(July 18, 2017)

As I started to write about highway US-4, I noticed that President Trump declared last week as “Made in America Week” at the White House. So I took up that theme and here are some products made along US-4 in 1962. Highway US-4 does not cross any of Roadtrip-'62’ ™ full-length, virtual roadtrips. Instead, US-4 is another short route, running through only 253 miles through Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Beginning in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the route has started at Portsmouth Circle since probably 1956...at least officially. Strangely, actual signage at the at that point suggests a couple of other endpoints, traveling part of the Spaulding Turnpike to the I-95 freeway. In Vermont and New Hampshire, the route is signed east–west, which is standard for even-numbered US-numbered routes, but New York signs it north-south because it physically travels that direction there.

 
Pitco Frialator
Pitco CE-SGH50FD-FFF twin tank fryer (Photo from Pitco sales brochure.)

In Concord, New Hampshire, we find a longtime manufacturer of some commercial kitchen equipment that we seldom consider: the deep fryer. But if you’ve ever had french fries, fish fillets, chicken, or mozzarella sticks at a fast-food restaurant, even back in 1962, they may have been fried in a Pitco Frialator. Somewhere back in history, someone discovered that the deeper the frying pan, the better the frying, and eventually the deep fryer became a standard piece of kitchen equipment. Pitco has been making these since 1918, when they introduced an innovation that allowed food particles to fall below the heating element into a cooler zone. This meant that the bits did not overcook, scorch, or burn, keeping the flavor of the frying food free of burns and other unwanted tastes. Pitco produces a complete line of commercial frying equipment for all our favorite roadtrip foods, including floor fryers, countertop fryers, donut fryers (yum-yum!), and even pasta cookers.

Concord is also home to Duncraft, since 1952 a manufacturer of products for backyard bird feeding. Even then, it was one of the largest hobbies in America. The owner, Gil Dunn started with a design called the Flight Deck Windowsill Feeding Station, which combined offerings of birdseed, water, and even peanut butter for backyard birds. He began with just a small tear-out ad in the New Yorker magazine and by the 1960’s Duncraft published a 16-page, black-and-white, mail-order catalog. There are now over 500 bird feeding products made by Duncraft in Concord and nearby Penacook, New Hampshire. The company is still owned and operated by the same family. As we leave Concord, we cross US-202, which I wrote about previously.

 
Carter & Sons factory, Lebanon, New Hampshire, ca. 1967
Part of H.W. Carter & Sons factory, Lebanon, New Hampshire, ca. 1967 (photo from unknown website)

At Lebanon, New Hampshire, we would have found H.W. Carter & Sons back in 1962, though they are gone today. The company, established in 1859, made clothing here and employed more than 175 people at its peak operation in the 1920s. Carter was known for sturdy clothing such as dungarees, overalls, hunting gear, ski jackets, industrial aprons, and lab coats. Some time after 1890, they acquired another New Hampshire clothing manufacture and continued under the trademark of “Carter’s Watch the Wear”. The business was family-run for more than a century, first by Carters and then by the Jackson family. But in 1967 the company was sold to outside investors who moved operations south where labor was cheaper. The Lebanon factory manufactured its last pair of overalls on in 1985. Other than H.W. Carter & Sons, Lebanon’s industries included furniture mills, a leather tannery, machine shops, and a woolen textile mill. The industrial district was in decline from the 1950s and 1960s, with a major fire in 1964 that destroyed a large portion of the district. But the Carter factory was spared and the AVA Gallery and Art Center acquired the building in 2003. It now houses studios for local artists, art classroom, and gallery space. It’s also full of artifacts from H.W. Carter & Sons past. In 2012, a pair of entrepreneurs revived the Carter brand, for awhile selling chore coats, shirts, aprons, work trousers, and other clothing based on original designs at J. Crew, online, and in other stores. But they seem to be gone now so we can no longer buy Carter clothing.

 
Quechee Gorge, Vermont postcard ca. 1960
Quechee Gorge, Vermont, view from Ottauquechee River, ca. 1960 (Postcard from an online auction.)

At West Lebanon, we cross the Connecticut River into Vermont. We saw the headwaters of the river in my article about US-3, which began near them. This area has several scenic rivers, as they make their way down from mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, which in only a couple hundred miles away. So even though I’m focusing on Made in America today, we have to do some sight-seeing as we travel US-4. One of the most scenic spots in this part of Vermont is the Quechee Gorge. The gorge was formed by glaciers and their meltwater approximately 13,000 years ago. Highway US-4 crosses the gorge on a scenic steel arch bridge and provides good views down to the Ottauquechee River, which has carved the gorge. Below on the river, with good views backwards up the 165-foot-deep gorge to the bridge, is Quechee State Park. The land for the state park was originally the site of the A. G. Dewey Company, a major wool processor in the 19th century and up to 1952. The mill closed that year and the buildings were demolished. Almost immediately after the mill closed, the US Army Corps of Engineers began taking land in the area for a flood control plan. The North Hartland Dam and the reservoir at the park are the result. Construction of the state park campground and picnic areas began in 1962, so we probably could not have used them during that year. Today there is also hiking up Quechee Gorge.

 
marble lamp
Marble lamp purchased at Proctor, Vermont.

Our next point of interest is at Proctor, Vermont, just a few miles north of US-4. Proctor is the site of the Vermont Marble Museum, and also formerly of the Vermont Marble Company. Vermont Marble had a large quarry here, and blocks of their marble still dot the museum site. When I visited in 1976, and likely back in 1962, you could see some of the quarry's operations around the adjacent buildings. The quarry itself appears to have been underground, as is another in Danby, Vermont. The museum of course highlights the Vermont Marble Company, which supplied marble for the Jefferson Memorial, the US Supreme Court Building, and hundreds of other monuments and buildings worldwide. They are no longer in business. The display of various colors of marble from around the world was my favorite part at the museum, which is still open. Nice gift shop too; above is a photo of a lamp I bought there.

We’ll wrap up today’s trip at Troy, New York, home of the Troy-Bilt Rototiller and other gardening products. In 1937, C.W. Kelsey created the first American-made, rear-tine, rototiller, which he based on a German machine known as the Earth Grinder. He designed his rototiller to be suitable for the rocky American soil he was used to, with rear power-driven wheels. The company, which was originally named Rototiller, Inc., was sold to its chief engineer, George Done, in 1963. In 1962, Done had designed a heavier and more powerful Trojan Horse model. An electric starter was added a few years later. Eventually, Troy-Bilt was purchased by MTD Products, who had also purchased Sehl Engineering Ltd. of Canada in 1962. Today, Troy-Bilt manufactures tractors, mowers, tillers, cultivators, trimmers and a variety of outdoor power tools, but up until 1968 they made only rototillers. And the MTD Company includes many other long-time popular brands including Cub Cadet, Yard-Man, White Outdoor, Yard Machines, and Bolens. The company headquarters moved to the Cleveland, Ohio area and production ended here in Troy long ago.

 
Beginning of route US-4, East Greenbush, New York375
Beginning (end) of route US-4, northbound in East Greenbush, New York. (Photo by Airtuna08 at Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.)

Highway US-4 continues another 11 miles south to end in East Greenbush, New York, at US-9. I’m sure we’ll take a look at something fun along US-9 someday here on Roadtrip-'62’ ™, so stick around!

   

5 Obscure Cars of 1962

(July 18, 2017)

Besides the lovely 1962 Chevrolet Impala I imagine myself driving across the country on Roadtrip-'62 ™, there were many other great cars built that year. Ford created an experimental version of their famous Mustang, which would hit the streets as a production nameplate in 1965. But the car’s official introduction was at the race course at Watkins Glen, New York in October 1962, during the United States Grand Prix. There were also many cars from that year you may never have heard about, but I’m here today to remedy that situation with some stories, photos, and videos of some of the more obscure cars of 1962.

 
1962 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside Pickup
1962 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside Pickup, showing engine under the loadbed and side ramp open next to the man in the white shirt. (Photo by Greg Gjerdingen at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

First up is a General Motors product, the 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside Pickup. The entire Corvair line was GM’s attempt to compete with the Volkswagen, which had been growing in popularity ever since its post-war introduction to the United States. Ford, Chrysler, and Studebaker all also introduced compact cars in the late 1950s, but only the Corvair line copied some of the truly different features of the Volkswagen, including a 4-cylinder, air-cooled, rear engine. It was also produced in various configurations from small car through bus-shaped wagon, and even light trucks. All were slightly larger than their Volkswagen counterparts and had larger engines, to attract American buyers used to both. The Rampside was one of two pickups in the line and featured a truly unique side ramp in addition to the traditional pickup tailgate. Because the regular payload floor was raised to accommodate the engine underneath, it was more difficult to access than standard pickups. But the side ramp meant you could walk right up, or even roll equipment into the truck! The Rampside was a favorite of the Bell Telephone Company, because of the ease of loading and unloading cable drums. I think it would also be great for lawn care companies to load a couple of standard walk-behind mowers. Rubber trim on the edge kept the paint from being scratched when the ramp was lowered to the pavement. The Rampside sold well at the start, with production totaling 13,262, but in 1962 sales slumped to just 4,471. Sales of this unique vehicle continued downward until the pickup was discontinued in 1965. But while it lasted, it was popular enough that Structo, a maker of heavy steel outdoor toys, made a version so every kid could play with a Rampside in their sandbox!

 
1964 Peel P50
A 1964 Peel P50 at the Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tennessee (Photo by Phillip Kormer at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Speaking of small cars, the World’s Smallest Car was introduced in 1962, in the United Kingdom. The Peel P50 was only 54″ long and 41″ wide and had only three wheels. It was strictly a one-passenger vehicle and was even advertised as capable of seating "one adult and a shopping bag". The P50 also had only one door, one headlight and no reverse gear. It weighed so little that you could pick it up by a handle at the rear and reposition it when you needed to turn around! It was invented by the Peel Engineering Company’s owner Cyril Cannell. His quest was to design an ultra-compact, capable of travelling at 40 mph while seating one adult and his briefcase. The engine was a DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen) German engine, suitable for a moped. The Peel P50 ended production in 1964, but the company resurrected it in 2010, with some improvements. Today’s model includes a reverse gear, fully independent suspension, all wheel braking, and comes with either a 49cc, four-stroke gasoline engine or an all-electric model with gelled-electrolyte batteries. The top speed of either model is about 28 mph. It is street legal in the United Kingdom and European Union and classified as a motorcycle in the United States. And it’s still light enough that you can pick one end up and roll it like luggage…right into your office…to save on parking fees.

 

Test track video of Chrysler’s 1962 Gas Turbine Car.

 

Not all the unusual cars of 1962 were compacts, as Chrysler’s Gas Turbine Car shows. This was somewhat experimental, as only 55 examples were built between 1962 and 1964. Only nine remain intact today; all the rest were crushed after the experiment was over. A few are in museums and some in private collections: Jay Leno owns one. One that still runs was at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, but that closed at the end of 2016. The vehicle collection is still owned by Fiat Chrysler America, but no longer on display. These turbine cars captured the spirit of the Space Age, with what sounded like a jet engine under the hood. The body was designed by Italian automobile builder Ghia, making it a rather handsome car for the period.

While unusual, it was not the first or only turbine engine car. General Motors had experimented with a Firebird III Gas Turbine Car in 1956. But probably the most famous turbine engine car is the Batmobile used on the TV series “Batman”. The show debuted in 1965, just after the end of Chrysler’s experiment with turbines. George Barris’ customizing firm created the Batmobile, using a 1955 Lincoln Futura one-of-a-kind concept car from the Ford Motor Company as his base. This car was constructed for Ford at the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy. It made its public debut in pearlescent Frost-Blue white paint in the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. And was next seen in 1959, sporting a fresh red paint job, in the movie “It Started with a Kiss”. In just three weeks in 1965, Barris’ team turned it into the iconic Batmobile, complete with the flaming rear exhaust.

 

1962 El Tiburon “Shark” Roadster, presented by its owner, Geoff Hacker.

More unusual than either the P50 or a gas turbine engine was the 1962 El Tiburon “Shark” Roadster. The name is based on the Spanish word for shark. Only about six are known to have been produced and remarkably; two remain and one is fully restored. There is a report that a third body has been found. The Shark is built on a 1959 Renaut chasis, with a rear-mounted Renault 4CV engine. The Tiburon was one of several cars built by Henry Covington, who set out to prove that fast cars did not need big engines. He went the other way and reduced the weight, allowing small engines to power his need for speed. The Tiburon was also small; it boasted only a 82 inch wheelbase. All the fiberglass bodies were hand built by Covington and friend Glen Gums, who went on to found a fiberglass molding business. The current owner of the restored Shark is Geoff Hacker of Forgotten Fiberglass, who bought it used 37 years ago, when he was only 18. Geoff specialises in fiberglass body cars and this was his first project. In an unusual twist of fate, the car’s creator Henry Covington died in 1962, and Geoff Hacker was born that year. Glenn almost lost possession of the car at one time, when he donated it to a museum, but the museum only kept it for 5 years and then gave it back. You may recall a more recent Tiburon automobile, because South Korean manufacturer Hyundai built a model with that name from 1996 to 2008, but the name is the only similarity.

1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II Roadster
1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II Roadster (Photo by Sicnag at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

And finally, what review of 1962 cars could be complete without mentioning a James Bond car? The 1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II was used in the very first Bond film, “Dr. No”. The Sunbeams were one of Britain’s top pre-war nameplates, being multiple Grand Prix winners. But they never made much of a show in the United States, despite trying. The 1961 model was given fins specifically for the US market, designed by someone who had worked in Raymond Loewy's studios in the early 1950s. But this was just a fins were finished here. And the ride was almost large-car smooth, another design feature for the US market. Marketed as a sports car, the Alpine nonetheless had roll-up glass windows, luggage space, working heat and plenty of room. Motor Magazine noted that, “It belongs to a new breed of sports car which is weatherproof when required, but offers two people greater comfort than they would enjoy in many quite expensive touring cars." There were almost 20,000 Series II Alpines built by 1968 but they're not common today.

In “Dr. No”, James Bond drives a lake blue Alpine Series II Roadster as a rental car in Jamaica. The car’s most notable scene is where Bond drives it under a truck to escape from pursuing hit men. Of course, the pursuers are in a much taller vehicle, which hits the truck, resulting in a fiery crash! Though the car was reportedly borrowed from a local resident as the only suitable sports car available, in the Ian Fleming novel the movie is based on, a Sunbeam Alpine was the car used by Secret Service agent John Strangways.

 

There we are, but in case you haven’t had enough cool 1962 cars yet, here’s a bonus car that I previously wrote about on Roadtrip-'62 ™, the 1962 Studebaker Avanti. Keep coming back, and I’ll write about more cars in the future!

   

Roadtrip on US-3: Beginning, Middle, End

(July 11, 2017)

A few weeks ago I talked about new buildings and freeways that opened along US-1 in 1962. And about a month ago, Roadtrip-'62 ™ looked at all the national forests and other national recreational lands along highway US-2. Today, I’m continuing a sort of count down (up?) of the US-numbered highways with a look at US-3. But just a short look, at the beginning, middle, and end of the route. There’ll be more to discover another day.

 
Beaver Brook Falls, Colebrook, New Hampshire
Beaver Brook Falls, Colebrook, New Hampshire (Photo copyright by Granite State Walker and Ellen Kolb, used by permission.)

Highway US-3 is one of the shorter routes, covering only two states: New Hampshire and part of Massachusetts. It travels 273 miles south from the Canadian border near the headwaters of the Connecticut River, to reach Cambridge, Massachusetts. Neither our US-23 no US-6 roadtrips crossed US-3. At the US border between New Hampshire and Canada, the line runs along the top of a ridge that divides watersheds. The Canadian side flows northward to the St. Lawrence River, and the New Hampshire side flows southward into Long Island Sound or the Gulf of Maine, depending on just where you are. For that reason, the border crossings in this area are situated on mountain passes. From the US-3 crossing, you look out over much lower, relatively flat farmland in Canada…and a 13% grade sign on the highway, straight down! But we’re taking a gentler grade down, following the Connecticut River through forests and bogs.

Highway US-3 became New Hampshire's only border crossing back in 1938, when the road was constructed from Pittsburg to Canada. It still is the only border crossing. The highway is mostly through river valleys as we head south: the Connecticut River valley until we reach the White Mountain Range south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, then we cross the mountains and enter the Pemigewasset River valley before finally following the Merrimack River south as far as Lowell, Massachusetts. There, the highway leaves the rivers and travels overland to Boston. At the beginning in northern New Hampshire, we are in and near the Connecticut Lakes State Forest. The Connecticut Lakes are a group of four lakes, named rather unimaginatively First, Second, Third and Fourth Connecticut Lake. All lakes are north of the 45th parallel, the line half way between the North Pole and the Equator.

 
Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire, postcard, ca. 1960s
Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire postcard, ca. 1960s (Postcard from an online auction.)

Most of the land in this part of New Hampshire was owned by International Paper Company or its predecessors in 1962, providing forest products and jobs to northern New England for over a century, though some parts have not been harvested since 1916. The property is still mostly privately owned, but the state has a working forest easement over much of the forest and even owns some outright. The highway offers us opportunities for wildlife viewing and scenic views along the roadway. Keep your eyes open for deer, bear, moose, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, and even river otters and beaver in the ponds and streams. Just south of Pitsburg and a few miles off US-3, the scenic Canyon at Indian Stream Gorge has a short hike. This scenic gorge has 80 feet high walls and a trail noted for steep drop-offs and slippery footing. A little farther south, outside of Colebrook, New Hampshire, is Beaver Brook Falls. This falls is a couple of miles east of US-3 in a roadside park. The falls is over 80 feet high and a more-or-less sheer drop along a cliff. There are hiking trails for viewing and a picnic grounds, which makes it a nice roadtrip stop.

One of the most scenic spots along the way hasn’t changed much: Franconia Notch State Park. One thing here that did change though is The Old Man of the Mountain, a natural stone profile on a mountainside. It was here in 1962, but the rocks collapsed on May 3, 2003. All that remains is small, rather lions-head shaped piece of rock where the face’s hair used to be. The notch is a narrow mountain pass. Today, both US-3 and the newer I-93 freeway traverse the eight miles of the notch, but in 1962 the freeway did not exist. Since it was difficult to get roads through the narrow mountain passes, most of the freeway was built right over old US-3, so we have to use I-95 today. The freeway was completed in 1988 and includes several roadside pull-offs in the park, often on pieces of old US-3, so you might get a glimpse of eagles that sometimes roost on the Eagle Cliffs, on the east side of the notch. The Pemigewasset River begins south of the pass, in some of the small lakes west of the highway. One small tributary of the river has formed the beautiful Flume Gorge, at the south end of Franconia Notch State Park. A boardwalk takes you beside a stream of waterfalls between the granite walls of the gorge. The gorge is only 12 to 20 feet wide but 70 to 90 feet tall and penetrates about 800 feet into the base of Mount Liberty. It was formed naturally by erosion of the Conway Granite formation. From the Flume Visitor's Center you can walk through just the gorge or take a two mile loop. There are several water features along the hike, including Avalanche Falls at the end of the gorge, Liberty Gorge, on a side creek, and Wolf Den, a narrow, one-way path down another side creek that involves crawling on your hands and knees and squeezing through rocks.

 
Shawsheen River Aqueduct, Middlesex Canal, Massachusetts
Remnants of the Shawsheen River Aqueduct on the Middlesex Canal, Massachusetts (Photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Route US-3 meets the F.E. Everett Turnpike farther south at Manchester, New Hampshire. Originally known as the Central New Hampshire Turnpike, it was approved by State Legislature in 1953, and the first nine miles around the city of Nashua were opened two years later. The section from Manchester south was opened in 1957, but US-3 continued on its old route and the turnpike was numbered as I-93 by 1962. The turnpike finally reached the Massachusetts state line in 1966, but even today, US-3 uses its old route to Massachusetts. Once in that state, US-3 closely follows the route of the early 19th-century Middlesex Canal. This 27-mile barge canal connected Boston Harbor with the Merrimack River and was completed in 1808. The canal was very successful until railroads were built in the area, forcing it to close in 1851. Some railroads were constructed over portions of the canal right-of-way, as were some roads, perhaps including portions of modern US-3. Significant parts of the canal are still visible though, and prompted the formation of the Middlesex Canal Association in 1962. The organization, which now has a museum in North Billerica, Massachusetts, has erected markers along portions of the canal's path. The surviving pieces of the canal are the subject of a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Middlesex Canal Association.

In Massachusetts, most of US-3 has now been signed as MA-3A, due to freeways taking over the US-3 route. The first section of the Northwest Expressway opened in 1941 as a bypass of the existing US-3, but the onset of World War II delayed further construction. A freeway was intended to continue to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to terminate at the Inner Belt Expressway. The Inner Belt was intended to become I-695, but neither it nor the extension of the Northwest Expressway were ever constructed. Towns in Boston’s inner-ring suburbs successfully fought the extension of the US-3 freeway, so that it was only opened to Burlington, Massachusetts in 1955. Between 1960 and 1967, missing links near Lowell, Massachusetts were filled in, providing a freeway all the way from the F.E. Everett Turnpike to the Boston Outer Belt (MA-128). Unlike most major cities, Boston constructed almost none of the freeway system it planned in the 1950s.

 
Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, Massachusetts, postcard
Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, Massachusetts (postcard from online auction)

The south terminus of US-3 has always been in Boston. The route still runs down Mystic Street and Memorial Drive, over the Boston University Bridge, to end at its junction with US-20. You can find loads of tourist attractions to see in Boston at Roadtrip-'62 ™’s recent post . I hope you enjoy the trip!

   

Fourth of July Fireworks Shows in 1962

(June 27, 2017)

As Independence Day approaches, it seems like a good time for Roadtrip-'62 ™ to review 4th of July fireworks displays in 1962. Fireworks as an Independence Day celebration date back almost to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, before the country had actually won its independence. Just one year after signing, in 1777, the Continental Congress authorized a display in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they met. It’s recorded that thirteen rockets were fired on the commons. Boston, Massachusetts, another hotbed of separatist activity, also had a display on that day. These public displays were arguably better celebrations than some that occurred in 1776, where some colonists celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence by holding mock funerals for King George III, in a triumph of liberty. Fireworks caught on through the new states, with Charleston, South Carolina holding a display in 1783 and New York City in the same general period. They were not annual events though, with both Charleston and New York City canceling fireworks as a Fourth of July event in 1786 due to the risk of fires.

  Grand finale of 2016 Bay City, Michigan fireworks display. (Video by Gregory Varnum, at Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)  

But by 1870, fireworks were a mainstay of Independence Day celebrations. That year, the US Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. The number of cities having displays has continued to grow, so that by 1962 we could find fireworks on nearly any roadtrip we take. For example, there are fireworks in at least 40 cities along our US-23 trip, including at the beginning of the trip at Mackinaw City, Michigan and the end of the trip at Jacksonville, Florida. While not all of these date from at least 1962, the fireworks of Bay City, Michigan do. That first show was funded by Bay City's Fraternal Order of Police at a cost of $2,500 dollars. The event has now grown to include three nights of fireworks, along with a complete carnival, concerts, boat tours on the Saginaw River, and even helicopter rides. The three-night schedule has made it one of the largest fireworks displays in the Midwest.

Columbus, Ohio, also on US-23, takes the prize as the biggest, and by some accounts best, Independence Day fireworks celebration in the Midwest. It also includes great food and music with the fireworks. And to top it off, on July 4th an old-fashioned celebration is held at the Ohio Village 19th-century historical complex. This includes a parade, patriotic speeches, old-time baseball, pie-eating contests, and other events you might have seen in the mid 1800s.

 
Fireworks ad, Hills Department Store, Lorain, Ohio, 1962
Ad for Fourth of July fireworks display at Hills Department Store, Lorain, Ohio, 1962. (Photo from Dan Brady at Brady's Lorain County Nostalgia, used by permission.)

You can also find good displays along our US-6 roadtrip, though some that existed in 1962 are no longer staged. One example of celebrations that no longer exist is the Fourth of July fireworks display at the local Hills Department Store. As the ad above shows, the event was highly publicized, and I’ve found folks who have fond memories of their families piling into the car and heading out to the store. Unfortunately, that store closed after the entire Hills chain was bought by Ames Department Stores, which went bankrupt in 2002. One display from that era that still exists along US-6 is at Peekskill, New York. The Peekskill Volunteer Fire Department funds the fireworks and associated parade through collection of donations, and has since 1962.

Though not on US-6, Granville, Ohio’s fireworks and parade have been held since 1962. These are sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Granville and are produced by Rozzi Fireworks. This company has provided award winning fireworks products and displays since 1895, so you could probably find them behind many displays you would see in 1962. They are located in Cincinnati, Ohio and have been since 1930, when Italian immigrant Paolo Rozzi moved the company from New Castle, Pennsylvania. They are one of the few American pyrotechnic companies still manufacturing products in the United States. If you’re interested in buying fireworks, they also have a consumer fireworks store located in nearby Loveland, Ohio, near US-22. Or try Big Country Fireworks of Revillo, South Dakota, which opened in 1962. It’s located just off US-212, near the Minnesota border.

 
Joe and Louie Zambelli with fireworks
Joe and Louie with special Zambelli multi-break shells. (Promotional photo from Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Company.)

While Rozzi may be one of the few US fireworks manufactures, others also date back to before 1962 and were also founded by Italian immigrants. Garden State Fireworks of Millington, New Jersey was opened in 1890 by Augustine Santore and is now known world-wide for multi-break shells. One of their many customers is the Disney organization, today the world’s largest consumer of fireworks. It’s easy to see why Disney uses so many fireworks, as they use them every night at all of their theme parks, not just on July 4th! You could see the show nightly at Disneyland, even back in 1962.

One other fireworks manufacturer is still located in New Castle, Pennsylvania, where the previously-mentioned Mr. Rozzi was once located. Antonio Zambelli emigrated from Italy in 1893 with a book full of his family’s fireworks recipes and his Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Company has grown to have three locations, including offices in Florida and California. In the 1950s and 1960s, Zambelli produced the Washington Mall display with National Park Service.

 
Independence Day Fireworks, Washington, DC, 2014
Independence Day Fireworks in Washington, DC, 2014
     

Fireworks are often shot from barges in rivers and lakes, and sometimes from bridges, but Lake Waukomis, Missouri, shoots theirs from a dam. The community is located on US-71 and near US-169 and closes the road over the dam for their celebration. The first of what they call “Fourth on Water” was held in 1962 on private property for a crowd of just 650 people, but has grown since then. There are plenty of other Fourth of July fireworks displays around the country that have been running since 1962, besides those along US-23 and US-6. In fact, I have seen fireworks on or near July 4th all over the country on my Roadtrip-'62 ™ travels, in cities large and small. One spectacular display I watched was on the National Mall in Washington, DC, possibly still a Zambelli production, which I saw from my hotel room across the Potomac River in Virginia.

   

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2017 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2017 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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More Fun Stuff:

What's the weather in 1962?

Weather on February 22, 1962 for Adrian, MI, from the National Climatic Data Center:

  • Low = 30°F
  • High = 38°F
  • Precipitation = no data
  • Mean Wind Speed = 13mph

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Here's your chance to buy some actual stuff from 1962! Have Fun!

 

Please visit these sponsors, some of whom were open to serve you in 1962, and others selling great products from that year.

   A. T. Cross Company

Please visit these sponsors, some of whom were open to serve you in 1962, and others selling great products from that year.

Ball / Kerr Fresh Preserving Target Baby Registry Sign-up Roadtrip-'62 merchandise

Here's your chance to buy some actual stuff from 1962! Have Fun!
Your Ad Here

Smokey Bear is the longest running public service ad campaign in Ad Council history, running since 1944. At the beginning, Walt Disney loaned Bambi for use on a poster for one year, but that image proved so popular that it is still being used. The original message was slightly different, as "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires." I hope you enjoy this ad, similar to what you might have seen in 1962, and heed Smokey's message.

Smokey Bear Ad