Beth's Book Review

The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike by Mitchell E. Dakelman and Neal A. Schorr

The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike by Mitchell E. Dakelman and Neal A. Schorr (Arcadia, 2016)

“Our story begins in the early 1960s with two young boys who had never met. One grew up near Pittsburgh, the other in central New Jersey,” writes Neal A. Schorr in the Introduction to The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Schorr is talking about himself and his writing partner, Mitchell E. Dakelman, who grew up miles apart, but each developed a life-long fascination for the Pennsylvania Turnpike. As adults they became acquainted and realized that they shared a passion for railroads and highways, most especially the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one of the nation's most scenic roadways, but a highway that had past its prime.

The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is Schorr and Dakelman's second endeavor together. Their first work, The Pennsylvania Turnpike, published in 2004, has been reprinted several times. Obviously, there are many fans of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, despite the decline of the engineering phenomenon of the 1930s. Using Dakelman's massive collection of historic turnpike photographs, as well as pictures that he has taken himself, and Schorr's knowledge of highway engineering, the authors created their second volume to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this storied highway, so representative of American automotive travel.

Sign Up for E-News

The authors concurred that in order to do justice to the incredible collection of photographs to be included in the new volume, it would have to be printed in a much larger format than their first endeavor. That notion paid off because the rich detail in each picture can be appreciated and studied for its historical value.

The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike begins with the story of how the Pennsylvania Turnpike was conceived. In the early years of mechanized travel, trains were the primary mode of travel and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania was endeavoring to put in its own line, the South Penn. However, when J.P. Morgan realized the both the South Penn and the West Shore Railroads that were being built would duplicate the main lines of the Pennsy and New York Central Lines, work on the railroads was abandoned. The first chapter of The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike includes eerie and desolate photos of abandoned tunnels and trails that would have been part of those esteemed railway lines.

Fifty years later, when the automobile was becoming the main mode of mass transportation, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was created on May 21, 1937. “The job of the commission would be to construct a new express highway through the mountains using the South Penn right of way. Unfortunately, the legislation failed to provide funding for the project. Therefore, the first job of the commission was to obtain the financing to construct the new 160 mile long highway,” the authors tell us. (p.22)

In October 1938 the first contract to build the “world's greatest highway,” was granted and one of the greatest challenges of modern travel was tackled. Since Pennsylvania happens to be quite mountainous, figuring out how to carve roadways through the treacherous terrain presented engineering problems of great magnitude. Here again, the authors include photographs detailing the initial work of excavating hillsides and ridge tops. One photograph shows a rare panoramic view taken of the excavation work on the turnpike in Aliquippa Gap. Other photos depict the equipment used to build the highway, predecessors of the bulldozers of today.

Aside from telling the tale of the struggle to build the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Dakelman and Schorr, the writing duo emphasize how the highway is representative of American culture from its inception until the present day. Schorr writes, “The truth is that when the highway first opened, and for many years thereafter, it was a source of wonder and amazement to everyone who used it. It was a supreme engineering achievement, and it was a harbinger of the huge social changes that would impact our nation in the post-World War II era.” (p.8)

As time passed, however, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, due to poor maintenance and primitive roadway engineering, the Pennsylvania Turnpike fell into disrepair. For thirty years the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission did not keep up with needed repairs and improvement. Fortunately, the authors point out, “At the beginning of the 21st century, the turnpike commission adopted a new approach to the reconstruction of the highway.” (p. 158) The important decision was made to create a new six-lane design, including replacement bridges. Not only were these improvements beneficial to efficient travel, “the most important aspect of the (bridge) design was the attention to aesthetics.” (p. 158) Instead of being straight concrete structures, the new bridges were constructed of faux stone or brick masonry work, making them more artistic and interesting in design.

Another major improvement to enhance the appeal of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to contemporary travelers, was the renovation to the original service plaza buildings. When rebuilt, the commission maintained the stone architecture that portrayed Colonial Pennsylvania, but inside the buildings now offer a food court, a convenience store, and clean restrooms.

When we think about how often we travel the Garden State Parkway, or the workhorse of New Jersey transportation, the New Jersey Turnpike, rarely do we think about the history of either of these important conduits of automobile travel. As drivers, we take them for granted, complaining when we have to pay the tolls for their upkeep, so necessary in the Jersey climate. For those who do consider the history of a major highway to be fascinating, both from the vantage point of transportation history, or from a purely social perspective, what Dakelman and Schorr have done in The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is outstanding. This stimulating new volume is available at www.arcadiapublishing.com for $26.99.

Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at trackdak19@hotmail.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

North Plainfield/Green Brook/Watchung

Missing Dog in Warren: Have You Seen Fonzi?

September 14, 2017

WARREN, NJ - Update: Found.

Fonzi is an 80 pound Italian Mastiff and was last seen about 9:45am Thursday in the Deerwood Trail/ Wychwood Way area. 

 

Fonzi is a friendly dog and should come right to you if you see him and call him or clap. He is wearing a collar with a tag with phone number.

 

Call 973-699-2387 if you spot him.

Remembering 9/11: a Warren resident remembers

September 11, 2017

Sixteen years. The day that changed my life and our country.

 

Last year my son asked me what I remembered about that day for an assignment he was doing for social studies. And for the first time, I told him some details.  I was there, guessing I was pregnant with our first child, the son who asked the question, and through a dumb move with broken glass, my husband was at ...

Fundraising Site Launched After 16- Year Old Dies During Lacrosse Game at Rutgers

September 18, 2017

HOLMDEL, NJ - A GoFundMe site was launched Monday by the Holmdel Lacrosse Team to support the family of their friend, classmate and teammate Jack Dowd, who died after collapsing at a lacrosse game at Rutgers University on Sunday. You can find it and assist the family by clicking here:

https://www.gofundme.com/jack-dowd-fundraiser

On Sunday, September ...

Great Whites Finn and Amagansett Paths Converging Along Jersey Coast

JERSEY SHORE, NJ — Two young great white sharks remain off the coast of New Jersey, moving toward each other in the waters between Asbury Park and Seaside Heights.

Ocearch’s Global Shark Tracker “pinged” Finn at 10:30 a.m. on September 14 about 10 miles off the Asbury Park shoreline, moving along a southbound track. Amagansett ‘s last known whereabouts was about ...

Help Save Sabattis Adventure Camp for Our Boy Scouts

September 10, 2017

Dear Editor:

All of the other troops think that Blackfoot is the worst campsite at Sabattis Adventure Camp. That’s because it’s the furthest walk to the center of camp. Troop 77 knows that Blackfoot is the best campsite at Sabattis. We’ve been camping at that campsite every summer for years, far longer than our current scouts or their older brothers can remember.

Obituaries

South Plainfield – Ellen Parker, 76, passed away on Monday, August 21, 2017 in JFK Haven ...
Read more

Attention Warren Commuters:NJ Transit Gladstone Branch to Resume Service Thursday Afternoon

September 21, 2017

NJ TRANSIT’s Gladstone Branch rail service along the Morris & Essex Lines will resume full regularly schedule service beginning at approximately 12:30 this afternoon following emergency repair work. 

The P.M. peak period ride home will have full regularly scheduled service originating in Penn Station New York and Hoboken making all scheduled stops.

The first trains to operate ...

Mindfulness in Warren: Linda Lantieri Speaks to Watchung Hills Staff on Social and Emotional Learning

September 21, 2017

WARREN, NJ - Keynote Speaker Linda Lantieri, co-founder and Senior Program Advisor for Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), urged teachers at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) to not only teach with a more fundamental awareness of the social and emotional influences on students’ readiness to learn, ...

WHRHS Soccer: Watchung Hills Girls Win in Double OT, Boys Fall to Montgomery

 

WARREN, NJ - The Watchung Hills boys and girls varsity soccer teams split their games with Montgomery on Tuesday.

 

In Montgomery, Chloe Ferreira scored twice to lift WHRHS over Montgomery, 3-2, with 36 seconds left in double overtime. Lindsay Wolf scored one and Nicole Entrup made four saves.

 

At home, Jack Callan scored one goal and had one ...

WHRHS Football: Watchung Hills Falls to Elizabeth on Future Warrior Night, 27-7

WARREN, NJ -  The Watchung Hills Warriors Varsity football team started strong on Friday against the Elizabeth Minutemen, but the first win of the 2017 was not to be. The Warriors fell to the Minutemen, 27-7.

Prior to the game all youth football and cheer organizations were invited to participate in Future Warrior Night where they were announced onto the field before kick off.

Upcoming Events

Wed, October 11, 10:00 AM

Oktoberfest Watching Seniors bus ride, Watchung

Watchung Senior Bus Ride

Arts & Entertainment

Two Towns, Two Schools, Two Teams Unite to Remember, Honor Police Detective Tarentino and His Family

September 17, 2017

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Joined in a sea of emotions that includes sorrow, grief, love and pride, Summit and Somerville will always now share a more distinctive link because of the late Summit Police Department Detective Matthew Tarentino and his family.

Two big parts of the towns -- Immaculata High School and Summit High School -- came together Friday night to honor and ...

Somerset County Teacher of the Year:  An Honor He Chooses To Share with Those Who Taught Him

SOMERVILLE, NJ - The electronic horn resonates in the hallways of Somerville High School to signal the end of the school day, but outside Room 214 a crowd of freshmen with backpacks and book bags congregates waiting for the door to open.

The students file in, right arms extended, to fist bump the teacher who greets them just inside the room. It’s the usual routine, every Monday and ...