State Director’s Annual Report

State Director’s Report for 2012-2013

This was a busy year. The first event after the Annual Conference in Canton, Ohio was the Lincoln Highway Parade in DeKalb, Illinois. I rode on the decorated truck sponsored by the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, which is a site for the annual Yard Sale.

Next up was the Lincoln Highway Heritage Festival in Rochelle, Illinois:

On the same weekend in August, the Geneva Concours d’Elegance and the Iowa Motor Tour took place. I attended the Thursday kick off reception in Rochelle for the Iowa Motor Tour that started in Illinois (but not in DeKalb when 4,500 new students all arrived at once at Northern Illinois University) and the Friday evening event in Geneva featuring former race car driver, author, and comedian Burt “B.S.” Levy. I rejoined the Iowa Motor Tour in Clinton, Iowa and traveled it the rest of the day. If you listen carefully, at 1′ 3″ you can hear what is probably what caused the broken clamp on my muffler, which had the auto repair folks stumped until I told them where I drove the car:

In September, I attended the two-day events in Indianapolis celebrating the 100th anniversary of Carl Fisher’s announcement to his wealthy friends in the automobile industry about his idea of building a coast-to-coast highway.

Actor Jeff Keel played the role of Carl Fisher in Indianapolis:

In December, the old Web site became this one, with a complete overhaul and a different Web hosting service.

By luck, the Northern Illinois University football team played in the Orange Bowl in Miami, and I went on a self-guided tour of Carl Fisher’s Miami:

In March, Louis Brass of Northwest Quarterly magazine interviewed several Illinois Chapter Board members and did a photo shoot for an article on the Lincoln Highway.

In April, Duane Paulson earned the Langan Award for Excellence in Local History and gave a talk about the Lincoln Highway in Dixon.

In April, I gave a talk on 100 Years of the Lincoln Highway in DeKalb County which resulted in a lady from the audience donating a concrete marker to Geneva, which searched for an authentic one for the 2013 Concours d’Elegance which will feature automobiles from 100 years ago and the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911.

Kay Shelton as Alice Ramsey and Actor Jeff Keel as Carl Fisher at the Egyptian Theatre.  Photo by Barry Schrader.
Kay Shelton as Alice Ramsey and Actor Jeff Keel as Carl Fisher at the Egyptian Theatre. Photo by Barry Schrader.

On May 18 & 19, there were two days of activities in Illinois for the 100th Anniversary, including two days of driving, a mural dedication in Franklin Grove during the 2nd Annual Lincoln Highway Car Show, there was a small car show in DeKalb, Lyle Headon gave a talk in Creston about the Lincoln Highway in Creston, and authors Cynthia Ogorek and Matt Luzi gave book talks in Frankfort. The big event was the Birthday Celebration at the Egyptian Theatre featuring the music of Switchback, Colleen’s School of Clogging & Celtic Dance based in Sterling, and opening act MahaRa.

Carl Fisher impressionist Jeff Keel reprised his role and I wrote additional monologue material for him. Ross Freier narrated the music of the band Switchback, as I reinterpreted their music (with their blessing) to retell the story of the Lincoln Highway from its beginnings to today.

Carl Fisher at the Egyptian Theatre:

Here are some samples of the narration:

Carl Fisher: On September 10th, 1912, Jim Allison and I invited the leading business owners to dinner in Indianapolis and I announced my idea for a Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway, and the need to raise money to build it. Frank Sieberling, president of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, pledged $300,000 of company money for it, without consulting his Board. He’s lucky they didn’t fire him for spending the company’s money without asking.

Henry Joy, president of Packard Motors, did have the support of his Board. He was a practical man who could make good decisions. The Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway didn’t sound right after a while. I tried renaming it the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. That still didn’t seem to fit either. It was Henry’s idea to name the road the Lincoln Memorial Highway. Abraham Lincoln worked as a lawyer for Henry’s father. Henry became the first president of the Lincoln Highway Association, which he and I established.

That blasted Henry Ford, well, he was another matter. He wasn’t interested. No matter what I did, he didn’t want any part of the Lincoln Highway. Ford didn’t think private money should be used to improve roads or having people participate through subscriptions. Ford thought the government should pay. When you pay your taxes, you can think about Henry Ford.

We didn’t need Henry Ford. We found enough other supporters and good patriots to build our road.

In 1913, Joy and I left Indianapolis with others to choose the route for the road. We didn’t create a new road. We chose already existing roads and pathways and found ways to link them across the United States. We laid out a route from Times Square, New York City to San Francisco, near the Golden Gate Bridge. We continued to raise money to improve the conditions of the roads.

We appealed to patriots to think about our martyred president, ministers gave sermons to their congregations promoting the Lincoln Highway, and we continued to raise money to improve the roads. Many cities held parades on Dedication Day on October 31, 1913, lined the Lincoln Highway with jack-o-lanterns, and some cities had fireworks.

Tonight, though, we will begin quietly by remembering our fallen President Lincoln as well as our fallen soldiers through the music of Switchback. The Lincoln Highway passes through the heart of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which will forever be remembered with Abraham Lincoln and his famous Gettysburg Address.

Narrator: “Four score and seven years ago . . .”

Switchback: “The Death of William Henry” (Click the button for #5 for a sample)

Narrator: While most of the attention on the Lincoln Highway’s history is on the automobile pioneers who developed the ideas like Carl Fisher and Henry Joy, the Lincoln Highway has a continuous history. Like it or not, the Lincoln Highway has a role in remembering another one of the worst days in U.S. history, 9/11. Outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, right along the Lincoln Highway among beautiful rolling hills, United Flight 93 went down on 9/11 after passengers and crew fought back against terrorists. Flight 93 was the only plane that day that did not reach its destination, thanks to those brave people who gave their lives. The Flight 93 National Memorial now stands near the site of the plane crash. Countless victims’ families and visitors travel on the Lincoln Highway to reach that sacred ground. The street address of the Flight 93 Memorial is 6424 Lincoln Highway.

Switchback: “Requiem” (Click the button for#8 for a sample)

. . .

Narrator: The Lincoln Highway was meant to be the fastest route from New York City to San Francisco. Many governors tried to influence the Lincoln Highway Association into choosing their state for the road. Many local elected officials tried to influence the Lincoln Highway Association into choosing their city for the road to travel through, too. The Lincoln Highway Association could not be swayed into choosing a route that strayed off the most direct route except for Colorado. In 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association’s mapping tour group checked out the roads in Colorado but did not include it right from the start. There was an outcry that came from Colorado so the Lincoln Highway Association added it later in 1913, forming a loop that went south from Nebraska to Denver and back north again to Cheyenne. That route took the Lincoln Highway through the mountains and travel was slow going. The Lincoln Highway Association dropped the Colorado Loop in 1915.

Imagine trying to drive in the mountains in 1913 on unpaved roads in the summer.

Now, imagine trying to drive in the mud after the spring thaw, or in the snow in winter.

Switchback performs “Black Mountain” at another venue:

At the two-day tour, a Lincoln Highway and Route 66 member spotted Route 66 decorations at the A&W restaurant in North Aurora. I returned a couple of weeks later and gave them a framed Lincoln Highway magnet.

LHA members Jack and Marilyn Fletcher won a trophy for bringing the best car on the two-day car tour but I missed them to give them their trophy. I saw them again in San Francisco for the kick off for the West Tour but I did not want to bring the trophy in any luggage on the plane. I saw them again in Kearney, Nebraska at the end of the West Tour. By the time I presented them with their trophy, their Lincoln had quite an adventure. It blew a tire and the engine caught fire. Their son drove all night and brought them a replacement car so they could complete the tour and trailored the Lincoln back to Illinois. Paul Gilger, West Tour Coordinator, also presented the Fletchers with the Perseverance Award, which was a piece of the blown tire from the Lincoln. Here is Jack Fletcher holding his Lincoln Highway Birthday Bash trophy and the blown tire at the Holiday Inn in Kearney, Nebraska, Marilyn Fletcher is to the left:


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