Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, Pennsylvania Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike turns 70 this year, and the Turnpike Commission is celebrating by gathering and exhibiting artifacts and curios related to the road's considerable history. Last week in southern-central Pennsylvania on our way to Maryland, Amy and I pulled over at a rest area, luckily for me one of the stops displaying a glass-enclosed, nostalgia-inducing exhibit. During childhood, my family annually visited my mom's parents in western Ohio; one stretch of the long drive from suburban Washington D.C. to Coldwater rolled along the Pennsylvania Turnpike (which we picked up in Breezewood, a place I write a bit about here.) The "beautiful mountains and fields of grass" (see below)—not to mention the smell of diesel fuel, the exotic lure of picnic tables, and the roar of trucks—are forever embedded in me. Here are some of the objects on display:

That 45 single above is my favorite item: "Pennsylvania Turnpike, I Love You," by Dick Todd and the Appalachian Wildcats. (What a name!)  "This country song appeared in the late 1970’s," according to the Commission.
It was composed by Vaughn Horton.
Vaughn Horton was not only a composer, but a singer, author, entertainer and was known through many radio appearances. He went to Pennsylvania State College.
“Pennsylvania Turnpike, I Love You” was one of many compositions. Horton also wrote “Address Unknown”, “Come What May”, Teardrops in My Heart” and many others … 28 of his songs became gold records. He was inducted into the Nashville Song Writer’s Hall of Fame in 1971.
Horton’s songs were recorded by many artists, including Gene Autry, Lionel Hampton and Jimmie Rogers.
Click here to listen to the song, and to dig more of the history of the great Pennsylvania Turnpike.

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