Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Did it all really start with the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956?
Conceived by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and called the Greatest Public Works Project in History, this act created the Interstate Highway System (IHS) that has been, ever since, an integral part of the American way of life!!!
There were four considerations built into the act. TRAFFIC FLOW: a standardized, well-designed highway system with limited access to provide fast, direct, and uncomplicated routing for travel from point A to point B. SAFETY: the multi-lane, limited access design without stop-signs or traffic lights allows traffic to flow speedily and unimpeded. This is especially important at times requiring mass evacuations from storms, fires, or other localized disasters. ECONOMY: personal auto travel and commercial truck traffic co-exist with efficiency and safety. Merchandise moves quickly from producer to merchant enhancing commerce. More vehicles move more swiftly and with fewer accident-causing distractions. NATIONAL DEFENSE: should it ever be necessary; troop movement would be rapid and responsive to security needs.
And no, the IHS did not initiate the age of auto travel…
…but it did provide a big boost!!! Actually, Americans had eagerly taken to the roads in the early 1900s after Henry Ford introduced the first mass-produced, practical, and affordable Model T automobile. By the 1930s, Americans had created highways across the nation. Carl Fisher, an automotive entrepreneur and founder of the Indianapolis Speedway, was a moving force behind the first transcontinental highway in the United States. Under construction from 1913 to 1928, the Lincoln Highway spanned the continent from Times Square in New York City to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. And then, in 1926, Route 66 was commissioned, beginning at Jackson Boulevard & Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois and concluding at the Santa Monica Pier in California. Assimilating already existing roads, Route 66 was totally paved and operational by the 1930s. Long-distance automobile travel became the norm. And then, President Eisenhower envisioned the IHS and provided motorists with a highly efficient and convenient means of travel. The 1960s saw a surge in road travel. Freeway exit-ramps became hubs of commerce with truck-stops, gas stations, hotels, and restaurants crowding that real estate and enticing the traveler to stop, visit, and explore. That would last ‘til the 1970s when the global oil crisis caused a shortage of fuel accompanied by ever-rising price increases.
And the point of this post?
Well, simply because we recently discovered Buc-ee’s! Buc-ee’s is a chain of convenience stores and gas stations that began in Lake Jackson, Texas in 1982. They grew quite successful and began expanding in 2001 with another store in Luling, Texas. In 2012 they opened the largest convenience store in the world in New Braunfels, Texas: over 66,000 square feet, 120 gas pumps, 1000 parking slots!!! By 2017 they were extending outside Texas. And in March 2021, they opened their 40th store, with great fanfare, in Daytona Beach, Florida.
We couldn’t help but compare today’s version of roadside convenience with what we remembered from our youth–those family road trips of the 1950s and 1960s. There were 2 major chains that dominated the market: the blue-roofed Stuckey’s that started out as a roadside pecan stand in 1937 and grew by the early 1970s to 368 locations across the United States; and the orange-roofed Howard Johnson’s (HoJo’s) that began as a soda fountain inside Howard Deering Johnson’s Quincy ,MA pharmacy in 1925 and blossomed into more than 1,000 hotels, restaurants, and highway convenience stores throughout the United States, Canada, and the Bahamas by 1975. Those were comprehensive rest stops with gas pumps, restrooms, souvenirs, and snacks. Both had restaurants and often hotels attached. By the 1970s mergers and acquisitions brought changes. Stuckey’s merged with Pet, Inc. in 1964; Howard Johnson’s was bought by a conglomerate in 1979. Both went into a decline spurred by the energy crisis of the 1970s. Both Hojo’s and many Stuckey’s wound up abandoned or repurposed. Interestingly, Stephanie Stuckey, grand-daughter of the Stuckey chain’s founder, is today running a modern version of the Stuckey’s chain with 115 franchises in 17 states.
We also have Buc-ee’s!!! Take a look:
Is this the new road trip experience???
To be honest, we hope not; but it is interesting to note that the saying, “old is new again,” is not just a slogan; it does touch upon reality!!! We believe Buc-ee’s will continue to expand.
This sculpted beaver will eventually be visible all over America!!!