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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)
  • More Fun From 1962! (everything else that sounds like fun, like special events and more pop culture)
 
 

5 Postcards from a US-36 Roadtrip

December 28, 2021

Time for Roadtrip-'62 ™ to travel highway US-36 as we count down the US-numbered routes. Actually, I’m counting up, but whatever. Highway US-36 currently runs about 1414 miles from Uhrichsville, Ohio to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. It approximates the route of the old Pikes Peak Ocean To Ocean Highway, which dated from the time before 1924 when major transcontinental highway were named instead of numbered. You can find out more about those highways at my US Highway Systems page. Back in 1962, the highway was shorter on the west end but longer on the east end. It then ran from Cadiz, Ohio to Denver, Colorado. The changes were made in 1974, so we would not have traveled the route to the national park. Highway US-36 was extended to use The Denver-Boulder Turnpike. This was constructed as a toll expressway in 1953 and the bonds were paid off in 1967. After the tollbooths were removed, US-36 was extended west from Denver.

 
Downtown Uhrichsville, Ohio, 2012
Downtown Uhrichsville, Ohio, 2012 (Photo by Jon Dawson at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.)

In Uhrichsville, the current beginning of US-36, we find ourselves in clay country. You might not give much thought to clay, but it still provides an important building material. Clay is still used in making bricks, chimney liners and decorative chimney tops, ovens, roof and other tiles, and sewer pipes. Around 1900, when the country was building new cities and most buildings were made of brick, there were 32 clay plants in the area. There is still one today, Superior Clay Corporation, which dates back to that earlier time and still creates its products from local clays. There is also the Uhrichsville Clay Museum, which was not here in 1962 but which shows us that clay-working heritage. Something else that we actually could have seen in 1962 is the Civil War Memorial in Union Cemetery. This is one of the most elaborate memorials I have seen. It is carved from limestone and includes several separate elements. The most dramatic is the large tree-stump in the center of the memorial. Also included are two soldiers, one who appears to have been wounded, and a broken wagon wheel.

Instead, let’s visit some other places along US-36. Our US-23 roadtrip crossed the route at Delaware, Ohio, where we saw a monument at the birthplace of President Rutherford B. Hayes. His birth home is no longer at the site. The Hayes family were renters on the property and, as often happens with rental properties, it fell into disrepair. It was purchased in 1921 by Standard Oil and demolished for a gas station, though the oil company gave the community an opportunity to buy the site after learning it was a presidential birthplace. In 1926, a memorial marker was placed here by the Delaware City Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I mention several other places in Delaware on Day 7 of my US-23 journey.

 
Ohio Caverns, West Liberty, Ohio
Formations in Ohio Caverns, West Liberty, Ohio (photo from a brochure in the author’s collection)

Another worthwhile stop open both in 1962 and today in Ohio is Zane Caverns, now known as Zane Shawnee Caverns and Southwind Park, near Zanesfield, Ohio. I’ve never been to Zane Caverns but have visited nearby Ohio Caverns. Both cave systems were formed by the same glacial process, which deposited a moraine on nearby Campbell Hill. Zane Caverns were discovered in 1892 by a man rescuing a boy and his dog from a sinkhole. They have been operated as a tour cave through most of the 20th century and are currently operated by the Shawnee Nation, URB, an Ohio recognized tribe who claim Shawnee descent. The cave contains many rare formations, such as cave pearls and claws. Nearby Ohio Caverns has been called “America’s most colorful caverns” and are the largest caverns in Ohio. I remember best the thin stalactite structures called soda straws. They have been open for public tours since 1925.

I’ve covered the sites of Indianapolis, Indiana in a post about highway US-31, which also passes through that city, so I won’t repeat them here. On to highway US-36 in Illinois, which traverses a good portion of the area where President Abraham Lincoln lived and worked before becoming President. Near Decatur, Illinois, the Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park & Memorial is located just 2 miles off US-36. A marker on the approximate site of Abraham’s Lincoln’s first home in Illinois was erected in 1904. The park was created in 1938 to commemorate the homesite. The original Lincoln cabin is long gone but the land looks much like it did when he lived here. You can canoe the Sangamon River or hike one of three nature trails in the park.

 
Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Within the capital of Springfield, Illinois, there are five sites linked by the Abraham Lincoln Trail. These include the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and the Lincoln Monument in Oak Ridge Cemetery. The tomb at the Lincoln Monument, dedicated in 1874, is not only the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, but also of his wife Mary, and three of their four sons. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park System located on 4 city blocks. Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln's son, donated the family home to the State of Illinois in 1887 under the condition that it would forever be well maintained and open to the public at no charge. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The home and the adjacent district became a National Historic Site in 1971. The area showcases several homes that remain from the time when Abraham Lincoln lived here. Some homes are open for viewing, tours are available of Mr. Lincoln’s home, and there are outdoor exhibits. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is located just a few blocks outside of the park.

We cross the Mississippi River to reach Missouri at Hannibal, boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, better known as author Mark Twain. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum has been open to the public as a museum since 1912 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962. There are nine properties in the museum complex, with the legendary whitewashed fence of Tom Sawyer bordering the property. Also included are Becky Thatcher's House, right across the street from Tom Sawyer's home, and the Tom and Huck Statue at the foot of Cardiff Hill. The statue was erected in 1926 and is one of the earliest known statues to honor fictional characters. The museum's collection includes many first edition books by Mark Twain, personal items and a large collection of Mark Twain memorabilia. The museum also houses the second largest collection of original Norman Rockwell paintings, which were commissioned as illustrations for a special edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal is also home to Mark Twain Cave, the oldest operating show cave in Missouri. It has exceptionally good examples of maze type of caverns and was the basis for "McDougal's Cave" in Twain’s novel, that Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher became lost in. Geologically, Mark Twain Cave and its nearby neighbor Cameron Cave are believed to be remnants of a much larger cave system cut apart by a glacier and millions of years of erosion. Tours of Cameron Cave are also offered, but unlike Mark Twain Cave, that cave has no electric lights.

The boyhood home of another historical figure, General John J. Pershing, is along highway US-36 near Laclede, Missouri. General Pershing attained the rank of General of the Armies and became the highest-ranking military officer in United States history. The historic site preserves and interprets his boyhood home and the one-room Prairie Mound School, where he taught for a year before attending West Point Military Academy. The Pershing home was acquired by the state of Missouri in 1952 and dedicated as a memorial in 1960, as part of a national centennial celebration of Pershing's birth.

 
Pony Express Stables, St. Joseph, Missouri postcard
Pony Express Stables, St. Joseph, Missouri postcard (photo from an online auction)

At St. Joseph, Missouri, we cross the Pony Express Bridge over the Missouri River, connecting to Elwood, Kansas. The current bridges were built in 1983 to replace a steel truss bridge built in 1929. The bridge is near the Pony Express Stables at that historic route’s eastern terminus. The bridge also passes over the family property of Johnny Fry, the "official" first westbound rider for the Pony Express. Because US-36 closely follows the Pony Express route to Marysville, Kansas, it is designated the Pony Express Memorial Highway. The Pony Express was a mail delivery service and though it only operated for 18 months before telegraph service replaced it, it was an important link in transcontinental communications. It began in St. Joseph because that city was the farthest westward end of railroad tracks in the United States in 1861. The Patee House, a former hotel, served as the headquarters for the Pony Express in St. Joseph. Today, the Patee House Museum and Jesse James House are both owned by The Pony Express Historical Association. They were not open to the public in 1962 but the Patee House was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Another museum, the Pony Express Barn, is located at Marysville.

 
Monument at Geographic Center of 48 continental United States, Lebanon, Kansas, ca. 1958 postcard
Monument at Geographic Center of 48 continental United States, Lebanon, Kansas, ca. 1958 (postcard from an online auction)
 

A more unusual sight along US-36 is the geographic center of the 48 continental United States. This site near Lebanon, Kansas has been surveyed and recognized as the center since 1912, when the states of New Mexico and Arizona were added. Until 1958, when Alaska was added, it was also the center of the United States. A historical marker and small chapel have been erected at a roadside stop near the center point.

Because I cover Denver, Colorado extensively on two pages of my US-6 roadtrip, I won’t repeat myself here. You can read all about it at US-6 Day 29 and US-6 Day 30. And you can read much more about 1962 next time right here on Roadtrip-'62 ™!

 
 

Are We There Yet? – Roadtrip Games

November 30, 2021

This week, Roadtrip-'62 ™ is doing something truly different. I’ve got a few games you can play to pass the time while on the road! When I was young, back in 1962, my brothers and I used to play various games in the car to keep us occupied. My favorite one was to log all the different gas stations or gas station billboards we could find. We would keep track by brand to see who had the most stations in whatever area we were traveling. There were always the familiar Gulf, Standard, Cities Service, Texaco and other big oil company brands and one of these always had the most. But back then, there were a lot of independent stations too. We loved finding one-off brands that were new to us. Today, that pastime would not be as interesting, as I suspect that on any given trip you would not find more than about eight different brands out there.

 
1958 Scrabble Junior board
1958 Scrabble Junior board, just like the one the author had as a kid (Photo by chansen2794 at Board Game Geek, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.)

But you can play games like that any time by yourself. I have a few pencil-and-paper games for you today. First up is a crossword puzzle featuring clues from 1962. I’ve been interested in crossword puzzles since I was about nine years old and constructed many using the tiles and board of Scrabble Junior. I think this game was on the back of a regular Scrabble board we had but I cannot find any evidence it was ever sold that way. Scrabble Junior was first sold in 1958. It was designed to be easier for kids under age nine because it had pre-printed words on the board so you did not have to remember how to spell words. In fact, you probably learned how to spell words just by matching. Anyway, I would design crosswords on the space. Here’s my adult 1962-themed crossword for your enjoyment! (Answers at the end of this post.)

 
crossword puzzle
Roadtrip-'62 ™ crossword puzzle for the following clues
  ACROSS:

3. First done at a Target store in 1962

7. Studebaker car model new in 1962

8. Continent of China-India war of 1962

11. Region of US

12. Owed as a debt

13. US President during 1962

14. One more than one

16. Car used in 1962 James Bond film, “Dr. No” (2 words)

18. First US manned orbiting spacecraft

19. Businessman Billy ___ Estes, investigated in 1962 for fraud

20. Public service announcement acronym

21. Catholic Pope during 1962

23. Poem

24. 7th note of Tonic Sol Fa scale

25. Television communication satellite launched in 1962

  DOWN:

1. 1962 World Series winning team

2. Painted outdoor advertising spaces

3. Industry unsuccessful in raising prices in 1962

4. Informal greeting

5. Cooking utensil

6. transistor device for music listening

9. 1962 World’s Fair city

10. 1962 Kentucky Derby winner

15. Post Kashim Ibrahim was appointed to in Nigeria in 1962

17. African country became independent in 1962

18. Chairman of People’s Republic of China in 1962

19. Pacific island country became independent in 1962

20. Fruit-filled desserts

21. Popular peanut butter brand in 1962

22. President Eisenhower’s nickname

 
Ohio maze
State of Ohio US-Highways Maze

Another of my favorite games is a maze. Here’s a roadtrip maze: get from home on US-6 in Indiana across Ohio to reach Pennsylvania. But NOT on the fastest or straightest route! Instead, the task is to travel at least part of EVERY US-numbered highway in Ohio…in order. Alright, alright, let’s try almost in order. There are a few places where that does not work, but I’ll list those below so you can navigate to the next road that is in order. See the map above for the maze; here are the highways in order and the special instructions.

  ROUTES:
  • US-6
  • US-6A
  • US-20
  • US-20 ALT
  • US-21
  • US-22
  • US-23
  • US-24
  • US-25
  • US-27
  • US-30
  • US-30N
  • US-30S
  • US-33
  • US-35
  • US-36
  • US-40
  • US-42
  • US-50
  • US-50 BYP
  • US-50 ALT
  • US-62
  • US-68
  • US-127
  • US-223
  • US-224
  • US-250
  • US-322
  • US-422
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. You do NOT have to drive US-20 ALT, US-50 BYP, or US-50 ALT.
  2. You can use any of the orange connector routes outside of Ohio at any time, and as often as needed. (These are not numbered highways but merely connectors to ensure that when you leave Ohio you can return.)
  3. When traveling US-30, you can choose either US-30N or US-30S. You will need to retrace part of this area later, to cross from US-68 to US-127, and at that time you must use the opposite route.
  4. EXCEPT for the following, you must travel each route number only ONCE. These links must be traveled TWICE:
    • US-6 and US-20 overlap for a short distance northeasterly from Cleveland.
    • US-21 and US-250 overlap for a short distance.
    • US-22 and US-40 overlap for a short distance.
    • US-23, between US-223 at Toledo and US-224, must be traveled once northbound and once southbound.
    • US-27 and US-33 overlap for a short distance southeast of Fort Wayne, IN.
    • US-36 does not leave Ohio. The easterly end must be accessed from US-250, northwest of Wheeling, WV. You will need to drive this part of US-250 TWICE, traveled once northwestbound and once southeastbound.
  5. From US-52 along the Ohio River, you will need to use a short piece of US-68 out of order, BEFORE you drive US-62. You will travel part of US-50 westbound out of order to return to US-68 northbound.
  6. As mentioned in #3 above, you will need to travel part of either US-30N or US-30S out of order, between US-68 and US-127.
  7. And of course, like any maze, AVOID THE DEAD ENDS.
  8. That’s more than enough driving for one day! I’ll see you next time at Roadtrip-'62 ™ for more sight-seeing. Oh, and click these links to see the crossword and maze answers. I hope you got them all right!

     

    Crossword Answer

       

    Maze Answer

     
     

    5 Postcards from a US-35 Roadtrip

    November 9, 2021

    Today Roadtrip-'62 ™ goes back to a north-south highway, sort of. While US-35 is numbered as a north-south route, it travels just about as far east-west, drawing nearly a 45-degree line on a map. It runs about 416 miles across mostly farm country in Indiana and Ohio, with few truly scenic sites along the way. Highway US-35 has always begun in Michigan City, Indiana, originally in downtown but since shortened by a few miles. The eastern end originally was in Charleston, West Virginia, but it was shortened about 25 miles in 2008 to Scott Depot, West Virginia. It had also been shortened previously, to St. Albans, West Virginia. This was the result of the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge at Gallipolis, Ohio in 1967, which killed 46 people. When a new bridge over the Ohio River was opened in 1969, the highway was moved and shortened to end at US-60 on the south side of the river.

     
    Indiana Dunes State Park, circa 1962 postcard
    Indiana Dunes State Park, circa 1962 (Postcard photo by Steve Shook at Flickr, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

    Michigan City has several attractions, some we could have seen in 1962 that are still around today and some newer. The most famous scenic attraction, Indiana Dunes National Park, did not exist back then. The State of Indiana offered the Indiana Dunes State Park, which opened in 1925 in the same area though. It is now surrounded by the National Park on three sides. Indiana Dunes State Park includes more than three miles of beautiful Lake Michigan beach, a marsh trail, dunes trail, and nature preserve. It includes sand dunes reaching nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan. The value of preserving this area was recognized as early as 1916, when National Parks Director Stephen Mather held hearings in Chicago on the idea of a "Sand Dunes National Park", but nothing came of this early effort. Instead, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was created in 1966 band upgraded to a national park in 2019.

    The harbor at Michigan City has had an effect on the dunes by construction of the harbor breakwall. This has starved some nearby dunes of sand and the dunes can literally blow away. Mount Baldy Beach, just 2 miles west of the old end of US-35 in downtown, is an example where beach erosion is taking away more sand than Lake Michigan’s waves are bringing in. To try and correct this effect, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began feeding sand to the beach in 1974. A combination of fine sand, coarse sand, and even dredged sand has been added over four different years through 1996. The harbor also offers the Old Lighthouse Museum, but the building was closed from 1940 through 1965, so we could not have stopped in. It was not opened as a museum until 1973. This is a lighthouse constructed in 1858, which saw many changes over its years of operation. The original 5th order Fresnel Lens and the 1904 Pierhead Light are both now on display in the Old Lighthouse Museum.

     
    fountain at Washington Park Zoo, Michigan City, Indiana
    Fountain at Washington Park Zoo, Michigan City, Indiana commemorating their original bear (publicity photo from Washington Park Zoo)

    Downtown Michigan City is the location of the Washington Park Zoo, which has been here since 1928. The Washington Park Zoo began informally in 1925 when a retired animal trainer moved his pet bear to the Washington Park lakefront so the animal might have the company of people. A couple of years later, the city began planning the creation of a zoological garden. It now encompasses natural hillside terrain, meandering tree-covered pathways, and over 90 different species of animals native to Australia, Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. It also has the most comprehensive collection of public leisure facilities built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in Indiana. The first major project was the creation of "Monkey Island" in 1934. Other buildings followed, including the observation tower on top of a sand dune east of the zoo. A "Castle" structure that houses the small mammals was built in 1937. A total of eleven buildings within the zoo are on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Heading southeasterly from Michigan City, US-35 travels through lightly populated areas most of the way to West Virginia. Near Kingsbury, Indiana, we run together with US-6 for about five miles through the Kingsford Heights / Kingsbury area and would have seen this road from the other direction on our US-6 roadtrip. Near Logansport, Indiana my 1962 Rand McNally Atlas shows a site called Fitch’s Glen that I have never heard of, so I looked it up. It turns out to have been a spot with some small waterfalls, which are rare in this area. Called one of the most picturesque spots in northern Indiana, Fitch’s Creek tumbled over some broken limestone bluffs and through a small canyon about 100 feet high in some places. It was a popular sightseeing location…until the stream disappeared in 2016! That year, the entire creek disappeared near the top of the falls, after heavy rains in 2015 caused an ancient sinkhole to re-open. Research found the water coming back out from underground near the Wabash River. Very unfortunate for the family that used to operate a park at the site.

     
    Fitch’s Glen, Logansport, Indiana, ca. 1910 postcard
    Fitch’s Glen, Logansport, Indiana, about 1910 (postcard from an online auction)

    Dayton, Ohio is the largest city along US-35 and has several good museums that were around in 1962. I’ve visited the Dayton Art Institute, Carillon Historical Park, and the Dayton Museum of Natural History before it became the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. The Dayton Art Institute has collections of European Art, American Art, Asian Art, and also hosts special exhibits. The Italian Renaissance-style building was opened in 1930 and sits on a hill that makes it a commanding presence as you drive through Dayton on the I-75 freeway. Carillon Historical Park contains 30 historical structures spread throughout a city park along the Great Miami River. In addition to the Deeds Carillon, the largest carillon in Ohio, buildings include Dayton’s oldest building, Newcom’s Tavern, which was erected in 1796, and the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, which houses the 1905 Wright Flyer III. Dayton was the home of the Wright brothers and they conducted their early flight experiments here. The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was originally some natural history exhibits in the library, but in 1958, a brand new building was opened. At that time, we would have seen typical human history, animal and mineral exhibits. In the 1990s, a group working on founding a children’s museum in Dayton merged with the Dayton Museum of Natural History to form the Boonshoft that we see today, a modern children's museum that focuses on science through interactive exhibits.

     
    1924 Sunoco gas station at Carillon Historical Park, Dayton, Ohio
    1924 Sunoco gas station at Carillon Historical Park, Dayton, Ohio (Public domain photo by Nyttend at Wikimedia Commons/.)

    At Chillicothe, Ohio, we crossed our US-23 roadtrip on its ninth day. The city is the site of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. The park was known as the Mound City Group National Monument back in 1962. The park encompasses several mounds and related archeological sites of the Hopewell Indian culture and is well worth a roadtrip stop. The State of Ohio has more than 70 Indian mound sites, many in the Ohio River Valley. These were built by the ancient Native Americans of the Adena and Hopewell cultures between 200 BC to AD 500. Neither name refers to a particular Native American tribe, but are names for two distinctive sets of artifacts, earthworks, and burial practices characteristic of sites in southern Ohio.

    One of those many mounds is on the grounds of the Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande, Ohio, just off US-35. In 1948, the Evans family made their own sausage sold at their 12-stool diner in nearby Gallipolis, Ohio. They had so many visitors come to buy it in bulk at the farm that they opened a restaurant named "The Sausage Shop" on the property in 1962. Today, the Bob Evans Restaurant chain has 500 locations in 18 states, including one right at the farm. The farm has become a tourist attraction, featuring a picturesque windmill, tours, an ancient Indian burial mound, a Revolutionary War cemetery, several reconstructed historic buildings, horseback rides, and the annual Bob Evans Farm Festival in October.

     
    West Virginia Capitol, Charleston postcard
    West Virginia Capitol, Charleston (postcard from an online auction)

    At the end of US-35 in 1962 was Charleston, West Virginia, the state capital. We previously saw the small Shoney's Big Boy Museum here on a trip down US-21. This time, let’s stop at the West Virginia State Capitol. The state capital was not always in Charleston. Early in the state’s history it bounced back and forth between Charleston and Wheeling, but it finally landed permanently here in 1885. The capitol building from that time burned to the ground in 1921 and the legislature occupied temporary quarters until completion of the present Capitol in 1932. It was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who re-used part of his interior design for the United States Supreme Court: that’s just a larger version of the West Virginia Capitol's East Wing! The Capitol consists of three parts, a West Wing, East Wing, and the rotunda connecting the two wings. In the plaza formed by the three parts of the building lie a fountain, statues, the Governor's mansion, a cultural center, other state departments, and a parking garage. At 292 feet high, the Capitol is the tallest building in West Virginia and the gilded dome is five feet taller than the dome of the United States Capitol. Most of the interior is marble and the central rotunda features a chandelier of Czechoslovakian crystal on a 54-foot chain. State Capitol tours, and tours of the Governor’s Mansion are available. You can observe legislative floor sessions from any of the three galleries located in each chamber.

    While at the Capitol, we can stop at the West Virginia State Museum, across the plaza. The museum opened in 1894 to showcase the West Virginia artifacts that had been on exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, as well as exhibiting the valuable collection of the West Virginia Historical Society. In its early days, the museum was housed at the Capitol Annex, which saved its collection from the capitol fire of 1921. When the new Capitol building was completed in 1932, the collection of the state museum was placed on exhibit in the basement. That’s where we could have visited in 1962. But it outgrew the space and a new museum building was opened in 1976. Exhibits change but have recently included clothing, Blenko glass, West Virginia State Police, and the annual quilts exhibit.

    And that’s the end of US-35, so I’ll see you soon when Roadtrip-'62 ™ travels to more 1962 sights!

     
     

    Back to School in 1962

    October 19, 2021

    As 1962 opened I was 9 years old and in third grade. By the end of the year I was 10 and in fourth grade. What do I remember of school that year? Reading, writing and arithmetic, surely, but I also recall recess, walking to school, and my first crush on a girl. Don Milne here, with a Roadtrip-'62 ™ look back at school in 1962. Let’s take a look at it from a child’s point of view and also some of the politics I never knew was going on behind the scenes.

     
    3rd grade class photo, Fuerbringer Elementary School, Saginaw, Michigan
    Author’s 3rd grade class photo, Fuerbringer Elementary School, Saginaw, Michigan

    The first thing that happened every year was of course buying new clothes and school supplies. Stores had back-to-school sales so I got some new clothes at this time of year. Don’t we all look so shiny and new in that class photo above? We soon got down to the business of learning though. I never rode a bus to school, as ours was a neighborhood school and everyone could walk no more than about 8 city blocks to get there. In October, 1962, Congress designated the second week of each October as “National School Lunch Week”. But we came home for lunch, as the school had no cafeteria and no school lunch program. For at least kindergarten and first grade, we did get milk and graham crackers as a snack. We brought our own nickels for the milk vending machine, but I really don’t remember who supplied the crackers. In those grades, we said a short prayer of thanks for the food each day.

    Though I was years beyond the milk and crackers, I suspect the prayer was ended in 1962 as that was the year when the Supreme Court banned school prayer. The case was raised by local opposition to the New Hyde Park, New York school district’s adoption of a non-denominational prayer that students were recommended to recite each day. New York courts found nothing objectionable with the prayer and even noted that students were not required to recite it. But on June 25, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court found by a vote of 6 to 1 that the prayer violated the First Amendment to the Constitution by establishing an official religion and banned prayers in public schools. The problem, of course, was that saying any state-sponsored prayer in a country with over 250 religious practices did indeed establish a state-sponsored religion. The political controversy created by this decision has never been resolved.

     
    Milk vending machine, early 1960s
    Milk vending machine of the early 1960s (photo from an online auction)

    We baby boomers continued to pack the nation’s schools, with over 45.5 million children aged 5-17 for the 1962 year. This was about a 2.8 percent rise from the previous year, and enrollment had been rising for many years. I saw the results of this, as a new school was built in my city that affected my class. Kempton Elementary School opened for the fall of 1961 and took a lot of pressure off of Fuerbringer Elementary School. I lost some friends when it opened, as Fuerbringer was one of the two schools affected by the change and those friends lived across the new boundary. It was a modern-styled building with a front loading area for cars to drop-off and pick-up students, large windows, a central courtyard, and built on only one story. All of Saginaw’s older elementary schools were two-story structures. Kempton was designed by F. Wigen and Associates and was the winner of the 1964 AIA Merit Award for its innovative design. Greenwich, Connecticut opened a new school in 1962 designed for the new concept of “team teaching”, and you can read more at my page on highway US-1.

    Even while cities and suburbs constructed new schools to handle the high numbers of students, rural areas built new schools to consolidate operations. There were still 15,000 single-teacher schools, the old one-room schoolhouse, in 1962! Nearly half of these were in the midwestern states. As they only enrolled 9 percent of the nation’s students, school consolidation was being pursued as a method of both cost savings and raising education quality. High schools were also changing; they were usually midtown, often only a few blocks from downtown. But new high schools were being built out beyond city and village limits and we would soon see a lot more school busses on the roads. The Sutton Historical Society, in Sutton, Nebraska, operates a rural school museum we stopped at on Day 27 of my US-6 roadtrip.

     
    Kempton Elementary School, Saginaw, Michigan
    Kempton Elementary School, Saginaw, Michigan

    I remember a couple of things we learned in third grade were multiplication and cursive writing. I don’t remember whether division was taught with multiplication, but I would assume so. As you can see from the sample below, by the later part of the school year my cursive had assumed a blocky, vertical style. Later in life it would evolve to the typical hard-to-read, slanted adult style. We also had instruction in science, social studies, and music. I think every room in the school had a piano! Some of the social studies was fun as it involved foods. I think that year was the first time I tried pineapple and a taco. And the teacher gave us her date nut bread recipe, which has remained a Christmas treat in my family ever since! I’m sure different schools operated differently, but I don’t believe I had any regular homework in third or fourth grade. Special projects were done at home, such as science fair projects and book reports, but regular work was always done in the classroom. We didn’t even take the schoolbooks home.

     
    school writing assignment from third grade
    Author’s school writing assignment from third grade

    Learning to read became controversial in 1962, as some in the education profession were trying to push a new method of teaching reading. The “look-say” method they were pushing, also known as the whole word method, taught reading by having children learn and recognize whole words instead of the phonetic sounds made by each of the 26 letters. This was more like the Chinese and Japanese written languages, where each symbol means something different and there is no phonetic alphabet. In modern Chinese, there are about 7,000 characters used, though most Chinese are taught about 3,500 and you can read about 98% of the daily written language with just 2,000. It is estimated that the human memory cannot memorize more than around 2,000 abstract symbols. A group named The Reading Reform Foundation was formed around 1962 to retain and restore the teaching of phonetics. I was taught with phonetics and found it so easy that I was soon reading at a 2nd grade level while still in 1st grade. The ability to pick apart and sound out any new word I found made reading fun. Studies have shown that this is a major advantage of phonetics, and that while children taught with the look-say method show higher reading levels at first, they perform more poorly as they encounter longer and more complex words. The number of words in everyday use is about 50,000. Therefore memorizing whole words as abstract symbols will eventually fail.

     
    Weekly Reader,December 10-14, 1962
    Weekly Reader, December 10-14, 1962 issue (photo from an online auction)

    Weekly Reader was a teaching aide that came, as its name suggests, every week during the school year. It was a mini-newspaper designed for kids. I remember that it featured some real news articles about both national and foreign news, along with some activities and a gag cartoon featuring Peanut and Jocko. The activities always fostered learning, such as learning new words, geography, etc. And we were always quizzed on the news articles, to show our reading comprehension. Weekly Reader came in seven editions at this time, one for each elementary grade plus kindergarten. There was also a teachers’ version for each grade that outlined the learning activities to be used for the week. The newspaper began in 1928 as My Weekly Reader. The publishing company also created workbooks, literacy centers, and picture books for younger grades. In 2012, Weekly Reader ceased publication and merged with Scholastic News, which is still published. Scholastic News and the similar publication The Week currently come in both print and digital versions.

    Besides prayer, reading, and school construction, another important nationwide issue affecting schools was desegregation. Federal troops were called to the University of Mississippi to assist James Meredith to enroll and attend classes. But the problem of segregated schools was not only a southern states problem. While those states had laws separating the races, historical population patterns often had the same effect in the north. When you have neighborhood schools and the neighborhood is predominately of one race, then of course the school ends up segregated. Saginaw schools were neighborhood schools and while many were nearly all white students, many others were mixed. There were not enough minority students in the system to effectively desegregate all the schools. It would be at least another decade before enough whites had left the city to create schools with a of majority black students, and by then all the schools would be naturally integrated.

       
    abandoned Fuerbringer Elementary School, Saginaw, Michigan
    The now abandoned Fuerbringer Elementary School, Saginaw, Michigan

    Eventually, Saginaw would lose enough population that my old school would be closed. It’s been vacant for many years and is for sale a second time. Many others in Saginaw have been demolished already. So I’ll end my look at schools on that sad note and see you next time down the road at Roadtrip-'62 ™ .

     

    All photos by the author and Copyright © 2021 - Donald Dale Milne, except as noted.

    All other content Copyright © 2021 - Donald Dale Milne.

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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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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

Discover  Heritage Route 23 in northern Michigan U.S. Route 6 Tourist Association Historic US Route 20 Association