When I’d drive my Grandfather down Buncombe Road in Greenville, SC he would reminisce about how much had things had changed in his lifetime. I loved to hear him talk about the roads through there and how different they were today. When he was a little boy growing up they were still mainly dirt roads. I wish now that I’d had the foresight to right down or record those memoires, but alas they’re lost.
Today we are so accustomed to paved roads that are interconnected with one another. A hundred years ago that was not the case. Some of the larger cities did have paved roads but “less than ten percent of rural roads had any kind of improved surface.”
So what were the roads made of a hundred years ago? They were made of gravel, mud, brick, shells and oil. Imagine trying to travel when there had been a lot of rain and becoming stuck in the deep, red mud. Yuck! What a mess.
Some medium to large systems had trolleys to take you from one destination to another. If you wanted to travel to another city or cross country the train was the best source at that time.
In the summer of 1919, the United States military decided to take a convoy across country from Washington, DC to San Francisco. One of the reasons was to apparently “highlight the inadequacy of the nation’s roads.” Apparently they were only able to travel six miles an hour and it took them sixty-two days to reach their destination.
Most roads were not paved until the 1930s and the interstate system did not begin construction until 1956.
So the next time the road is a little bumpy, we have to swerve to avoid a pothole or we’re on a private gravel road let’s remember how much we have to be thankful for. At least we don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the mud while it’s raining or traveling six miles an hour.