The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .
The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.
Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso,
Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 18.
Motor Car, Modern Roads And Speed Mania, Bring Many Problems and Perils
BY JOHN WARD WHEELER
(State Highway Commissioner)
In presenting the development in highways over the past one hundred years in Porter county we must bear in mind that the great development has come in the last twenty-five of those eventful hundred years. Perhaps twenty-five years will not cover the active period but I am confident that we will agree that we came up to the turn of the century with the same kind of roads we had in 1836 -- dirt roads.
These roads sufficed for what we had to use on them and we got along pretty well, except when the frost was going out in the spring, until the advent of the motor vehicle. In the days of the animal-drawn transportation, if the road was so bad that two head of stock could not pull it, we merely put on four and went through. It is true that we had started to build gravel and macadam roads for horsedrawn traffic and had few miles in Porter county when the first chugging motor car made its appearance. We would, however, have been many years building much of a system for horse-drawn vehicles.
With the advent of the motor car, good roads became a mania. This new contraption called the automobile was looked upon by many as merely a fad that would soon run its course, but in just a few years it became apparent that it had come to stay.
At this particular time the great mistake was made. The builders of automobiles and the public both felt that an automobile was a unit of transportation when in reality it was merely a part of a unit, and a good road was the other part. From that time on down to the present we have all been willing to pay for the car but none of us have been willing to pay for the other half of the transportation unit -- the highway.
In the beginning you will recall, real estate or general property taxes paid for all the roads; then the pendulum swung clear over until now there is no general tax and roads are all built and maintained by gas tax and motor vehicle tax.
In the last twenty-five or thirty years of the one hundred that we are now commemorating in Porter county we have seen highway transportation develop from an average of six miles an hour to fifty miles an hour. This speed of highway transportation has been both expensive and destructive. We have spent millions of dollars in Porter county for roads and on these roads we have killed many people. In the United States in 1935 we killed 36,100 people and I contend that the speed and the convenience of speed was not worth 36,100 lives in 1935. If you and I and the balance of the motor owning public would be satisfied with a lower speed, we would save much money in road costs and many lives.
At a centennial where we are celebrating one hundred years of progress in Porter county it is not a fitting time and place for we to ask my favorite question, "What's the hurry?" Why this tearing up and down the road at eighty and ninety miles per hour; where are we going and what are we going there for; and why are we going so fast?
At this one hundredth milestone in Porter county's history let us walk down the highway to the sixty-fourth milestone or to the year 1900. Let us stand there and look down the highway both ways. Looking from 1900 down the highway to 1836 we see poor roads and great effort by man and beast to ravel over them, but all in all it was a happy road with only a normal amount of sorrow on it. Then let us turn around and look down the highway from 1900 to 1936. We see a beautiful highway, wide and smooth, but it carries along with the happiness it has bought a sad story of death and injury due to its abuse by you and me and perhaps all of us.
Our present day speed costs us dearly in money and lives, and after existing one hundred years it might be well to ask ourselves if the present day speed worth what we are paying or in the language of the street, "What the hell is the hurry?"
Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook