Thursday, November 12, 2009

Old Roadside Parks

Many of the old roadside parks which, at one time, dotted the highways across America are now gone. As the interstate highway system rerouted drivers away from the smaller roads that were once used for long distance travel, the antiquated roadside parks, in many cases, became unnecessary.

Now, modern rest stops line the nation’s interstates providing all the latest comforts. In Texas, we call our interstate rest areas, “safety rest areas,” and these are currently being equipped with free wireless internet access, which is being provided along with the other existing modern conveniences.

Out with the old, in with the new? Well, at least in Texas, not quite yet. During the Great Depression, roadside parks were built along the Texas roads by the hundreds. The parks, built in most cases by teenagers and men in their early 20’s as part of a jobs program, provided shelter from the elements and a place to rest for weary travelers. Using whatever construction material was available at the various locations, the parks and the distinct amenities which were part of the specific park were built by hand.

Today, like the roadside parks in other states which were built along smaller roads in an earlier time, many of them are gone. There are, however, quite a few which still remain in Texas. After 70 years since they were first built, they remain a pleasant and often scenic haven, for motorists who drive roads other than the busy interstates. These remaining roadside parks are the legacy from an earlier time when the country was also in the midst of economic trouble and devastating unemployment. Sometimes, small things make a big difference. The building of these parks helped feed families in difficult financial straits, and left the state with something which can be enjoyed a three quarters of a century later.

I wonder, looking 70 years into the future, what the lasting legacy of this generation will be as it copes with the economic problems and high unemployment of today? I do hope your crystal ball is clearer than mine.

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