Archive for October, 2011

LINES AND SYMBOLS

October 15, 2011

Working on a writing project based on a highway obviously needs to involve a map, or more than one. I certainly have a growing file but I hadn’t given any thought as to how they began–a drawing of a line and some kind of symbol — that was about it.
Then a friend told me about a NPR broadcast that featured author Ken Jenning and his book called MAPHEAD.
According to him, in the early days of motoring, the only maps for routes between cities were flip books of text and pictures. One page would say “turn left at the red barn” and there would be a picture of a barn. The next page would say something like “go 3 miles and turn right at the grove of poplars” and there would be a picture of the grove.
The Mc Nally people wanted to sell highway maps but text and pictures weren’t going to work. They sent out crews to paint signs with road numbers and colors and then made maps based on the signs.
The states caught on and began numbering important connecting roads. Later the federal roads were also numbered– but on a shield based on the one used by the railroad.
As I study the maps showing up in my file, how complicated they have become over time, it’s fairly easy to see why we
now need computers in our car to interpret all the symbols and give directions to get us from one place to another.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

October 3, 2011

A week with a writing time shortage pushed me toward internet research. This time it paid off, a treasure trove of history. The story of the growth of a city as the Southern Pacific plotted the best route for the tracks through southern Oregon.
Where there was no settlement, not even a house, Medford was formed and grew as an upstart business entity; a place for farmers to ship out products and very rapidly, to buy what they needed. One of the few train stations where there hadn’t even been a stage stop or tavern. With business as it’s base, the city grew differently than other southern Oregon towns, bringing in a core of twenty-five businesses within just a few months. The town was founded in 1883 and called itself a metropolis by 1926. It still draws business from most of the Rogue River Valley.