7 Things Created in a Tavern

 

It is amazing the things that can be imagined in a bar or tavern. Here’s a list of ideas that came from tipping a few drinks back, drunken or boastful wagers, or just because a tavern is the best place to get together.

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Not everything came from a beer serving tavern. In 1600s England, coffeehouse were just as rambunctious and tawdry as the taverns.

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Other lists from FTKC

10 Odd Historical Facts That Might Make You Rethink History and Time

9 Things You May Not Know About The U.S. Interstate Highway System

10 Random New Year’s Facts That Will Make You The Cliff Claven Of Your Party

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9 Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Interstate Highways

Last Christmas some 85.8 million people were expected to drive more than fifty miles from their homes. With gas prices falling and the weather across much of the U.S. tolerable, we can only expect that number to rise this year. Last Christmas, nearly 30 percent of those people took a trip with one in four taking a road trip. And there is one thing all these drivers had in common: At one point or another, they all utilized the U.S.’s vast Interstate Highway system.

“When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.” 

—John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America

Here are 9 facts to annoy your fellow travelers with….

1. The Highways Weren’t Eisenhower’s Idea

Eisenhower gets quite a bit of credit for the Interstate Highway system, but he was far from the first leader to push for a nationwide, limited access motorway–fancy way of saying Interstate. In reality, the U.S. had already kicked the tires as it were on a freeway system as early as 1939. Congress debated the construction of a system of interlinking toll and free roads, but nothing came of it. In 1944, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, but it never established funding or construction means. That would not come until the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that Eisenhower signed.

Köln-Bonn Autobahn 1932, with overpass allowing for clear, free traffic

Köln-Bonn Autobahn 1932, with overpass allowing for clear, free traffic

While it is true that Eisenhower got the highway bug in his system while rolling along with the U.S. Army toward Berlin on wonderfully wide roads that Adolf Hitler had built. Though Hitler is widely credited as the first freeway builder–the German Autobahns–this is also wrong. That title belongs to Hitler’s partner in crime, Benito Mussolini. Italy’s 80-mile long autostrada connecting Milan to Verese, designed by Piero Puricelli, was the world’s first limited-access motorway and opened in 1924. This beat Germany’s Köln-Bonn Autobahn by five years.

2. The “Semi”

The true paladins of the open road, truckers are either the bane of automobile drivers–clogging the highways by trying to pass other trucks–or white knights who rescue stranded drivers along desolate stretches of American wastelands. One thing is for sure, truckers and their rigs are an integral cog in the mechanisms of American economics.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

As you cruise down the highway toward Grandma’s house, just accept the fact that you will not be able to avoid the semi trailers careening down the road. There are close to 5.6 million of them registered in the U.S. And it is from these trailers that the “semi” truck got its name. These trailers are called semi trailers because they lack any front wheels and must be pulled. The term semi truck evolved from that.

As to the other “semi”, a Harris Interactive poll found that of the 1,832 U.S. adults who participated in the survey 11% admitted to “having participated in a sexual activity while driving.” So, if you find yourself working more than one stick on the highway, remember two things: 1. You’re not the first and, 2. Truckers in their semi’s have a prime perch for watching it all.

3. Non-Interstate Interstates

By definition, interstate means “existing between or including different states”. This makes perfect sense for anyone driving I-10 from California to Florida, but what is the deal with Interstates H-1, H-2, and H-3 in Hawaii?

Interstates H-1 and H-3 in Hawaii

Interstates H-1 and H-3 in Hawaii

How can there be “Interstates” in a state with no possible border to another state? In order for Hawaii to truly have interstates there would need to be a bridge nearly 2,400 miles long to connect it to San Francisco. For perspective, that would be a bridge nearly the length of I-10. What gives Hawaii?

Turns out Hawaii’s statehood movement had a lot to do with their getting Interstates. When the first interstates were being constructed, they had to meet a number of criteria including: Aid to national defense, whether the road is integral as a connector for population centers, service to industry (links to factories, mining, fishing, forestry, agriculture), and population. Hawaii gained statehood in the midst of this frenzied road building and the Federal Government enacted a study to decide if there was a need in Hawaii based on the criteria used for all the other roads. In 1960, a 50-mile system was recommended. And so, Hawaii got its Federal Interstate Highway system. They were given the “H” designation to set them apart from the primary Interstate system

As a side note: Alaska and Puerto Rico also have Federal Interstate Highways though they also are not contiguous to the main 48. Alaska’s highways are designated A 1-4 and Puerto Rico’s are designated PRI 1-3.

Second note: Not all of the interstates in the main 48 are true interstates, either. Several, including I-97 in Maryland, I-73 in North Carolina, and I-19 in Arizona, do not leave their states. It all comes down to where they got their funding.

4. Numbering the Roads and The Missing Interstates

Unlike nearly everything else the government does, there is actually a rhyme and reason to the numbering of the U.S. Interstates.  And this is one of the rare times where government intervention actually did something good.

Prior to the Federal Interstate Highway system, the United States was criss-crossed by roads built by for profit groups. During the 1920s many of these roads could barely be called roads as they were more mud, dirt and ditches than road. But, as Henry Ford continued to churn out automobiles, more and more of these state highways popped up across the landscape. Most of these roads followed old trails or Transcontinental Trails like the Oregon and Santa Fe. One of the first transcontinental highways was the Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco. It was a rock road and privately financed; Henry Ford wanted nothing to do with it because he thought roads and highways should be funded by the government. As the 1920s progress other groups formed to build and promote their own highways. By 1925, there were over 250 named highways, each with their own colored signs, names, and random sign placement. Without government oversight, many of these roads were re-routed into cities so that the clubs and groups that built them could profit from them.

Lincoln Highway between Fernley and Hazen, Nevada

Lincoln Highway between Fernley and Hazen, Nevada

In the midst of this chaos, the Federal government got involved in 1924 and started numbering all of these roads. Odd numbers ran North to South with the numbers increasing from East to West, and Even numbers run East to West with the numbers increasing from North to South. So, U.S. Route 1 runs along the Eastern Seaboard while U.S. Route 10 runs along the Canadian border.

When the Interstate Highways came along, the government decided to use the mirror image of the numbering system to avoid any confusion. Interstate 10 runs through the southern states while I-5 is in California. Thankfully, the government was wise enough to help avoid the classic “How could you get us lost?” fight between drivers and map readers. Where the two systems, the routes and the Interstates, meet in the middle of the country it was decided that there would be no Interstate 50 to avoid confusion with U.S. Route 50 which runs from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD. This is the same for Interstate 60.

5. #1, #2, A Walk, And A Stretch, But No Food

For many Americans, a road trip means getting from point A to point B. In my house, my father’s mantra was: “The gas tank is full and our bladders are empty. We drive until the opposite is true.” This meant that I got to miss the many wonderful, and some not so wonderful, road side rest stops along the way.

The idea of a road side park predates the Interstate. Allen Williams, county engineer with the Ionia, MI County Roads Commission, is often credited with creating the road side stop.  In the late 1920s, he saw a young family trying to enjoy a picnic lunch along side the road, but they were sitting in the dirt with their food on a tree stump. A short while later, Williams put up a couple picnic tables he and his road crew had constructed along Route 16 just outside Saranac.

Rest Area sign on I-80 in Nevada

Rest Area sign on I-80 in Nevada

The Safety Rest Area as we know them grew as the Interstates were built with the first ones constructed in the late 1950s. One thing that has stayed constant with the Rest Areas–other than the smell–is that there is no food for sale at any of them. During the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act there was some debate as to allow commercial sales at the Rest Areas. However, House Representative Charles A. Vanik (D-OH) made clear Congress’ goals for the highways and their rest areas when he said, “Let the highway traveler turn off the Interstate system if he requires food, motor-vehicle service, lodging or Stuckey’s pecans.” This was done so that the small towns along the way wouldn’t lose out on customers. The safety areas are solely so the driver can get out, stretch, shake off drowsiness, take care of #1 and #2, and get right back on the road. In 1982, the law was amended a bit to allow for vending machines, however, in rural or remote parts of the country the rest areas are without so pack a lunch.

6. You Can’t Get There From Here

There are some places that the Interstate just can’t take you. And I don’t mean some small little village in the middle of the corn in Iowa. There are four state capitals that are not served by the Interstate system. You cannot get to Juneau, Alaska; Dover, Delaware; Jefferson City, Missouri; or Pierre, South Dakota on an interstate. Some internet trivia sites will list five state capitals, but the fifth, Carson City, Nevada, has recently been linked to the interstate system by I-580 running from Carson City to Reno (and I-80). And, it also happens that I-580 is yet another non-interstate interstate.

Eisenhower National Highway System

Eisenhower National Highway System

It isn’t just state capitals that the interstates avoid. There are some pretty large cities that are not served by the interstate system. Of the top 10, nine are in California including: Fresno (#37 on the 2000 census; cities with 100,000+ population), Bakersfield (#68), and Modesto (#101). Brownsville, TX (#150) comes in as the seventh largest city not served.

If you happen to live near an interstate and want to get away there are some pretty remote places that let you escape the noise, pollution, and trash. Your first option would be Barrow, Alaska. There are NO roads to Barrow. The nearest road would be in Prudhoe Bay and that is 197 miles. The nearest interstate would be in Fairbanks over 500 miles away… by plane. If that is too extreme, you could chose Morgan, MT 183 miles in a direct line away from I-15. Earl Swift, author of Big Roads, chose this hamlet of a few houses and white-tailed deer as the place furthest from the interstate. However, if you want to have neighbors, you might choose Whitewater, MT with a population of 64 (2010 census) and 175 miles from I-95. Tonopah, NV (150 miles as the crow flies from I-80) has a population of 2,478 (2010 census). Based on driving distance Key West, Florida (pop. 24,649 in 2010) is 162 miles from I-95 in Miami. And, it is a tropical paradise to boot!

7. Landing Strips and Curvy Bends?

While these might be popular in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, that they are purposely built into the National Highway System is false. These two items–highways as runways and curves for monotony–are the most widely perpetuated myths of the entire Interstate System. (Just an FYI–Googling “landing strip” is definitely NSFW, especially an image search).

Let’s look at the first myth: Every ____ number of miles has to be straight to use as a runway in time of war. Proponents of this myth use Eisenhower and the Autobahn as their source, and, as with every myth, there is a bit of truth in the story. The German Autobahn was designed in the 1920s and 30s to have sections used as runways, and Eisenhower may very well been aware of this, or even had seen it happen during the war. Autobahn’s as runways was true even through the Cold War. The A-29 between Ahlhorn and Groβenkneten is one example where NATO planners built a road to accommodate the Air Force if war with the Soviets broke out.

An A-10 Warthog using the A-29 autobahn as a landing strip in 1984

An A-10 Warthog using the A-29 autobahn as a landing strip in 1984

However, this was never the intent of the highway system or of Eisenhower himself. In fact, Eisenhower’s support for the highways had little to do with national defense at all. He understood the need for a system of roads to move the military around the nation and as a means to get civilians out of cities targeted by Soviet nukes, but his primary support was for economic development and traveler safety. The dual purpose of the highway system did interest the Air Force in the 1950s and they even sent people to Europe to investigate, and requested Congress that the highways have for every 50 miles three straight miles to accommodate American bombers. Though the investigators decided it was feasible, the plan was scrapped. What was built, and probably helped begin the myth, were flight strips located next to major highways whose purpose was to serve as auxiliary runways during World War II.

The second myth is that of a requirement to have curves in the road every so many miles. This one is also false, but has more truth in it than the runway story. You can look at any map of the highway system to see that this one isn’t true. There are some abysmally long, straight stretches of road in the Interstate system. One such chunk of asphalt is I-80 outside Salt Lake City to the Nevada border. This section of road crosses the Bonneville Salt Flats and is nearly 50 miles of perfectly straight road.

I-80 as it crosses the Salt Flats between Wendover, NV and Salt Lake City, UT

I-80 as it crosses the Salt Flats between Wendover, NV and Salt Lake City, UT

The Federal-Aid Highway Act (1956) makes no requirements of curves in the highway at any specific distance, but curves are often introduced when the road needs to avoid an area of cultural significance, environmentally sensitive areas, or when the terrain demands a curve. Road designers understand that excessively long “tangent sections” (straight road) can lead to boredom, drowsiness and accidents so curves are included, but the Act itself instructs that roads be as direct as practical and consistent with the land. I couldn’t imagine the Salt Flat section being any one bit longer than it already is, and for that, I’m glad there aren’t any curves.

8. Secret Highways

There are 19 secret highways in the United States. These aren’t clandestine routes used by the Illuminati to get from meeting to meeting, or private roads for the rich and powerful to avoid the rabble in traffic.

I-595 in Maryland... better known as US 50 or US 301

I-595 in Maryland… better known as US 50 or US 301

These are, instead, highways that are officially a part of the Eisenhower Interstate system on paper only. You will not see any signage of their existence on the roadways. The main purpose behind keeping these 19 roads “secret” is to not confuse drivers with additional numbers and signage for the routes. For example: I-305 in Sacramento, CA is signed as Business Loop I-80. The longest of these secret routes is I-595 in Maryland. At almost 20 miles it is known to drivers as US 50 and US 301. Complicating matters is that Florida also has an I-595. Alaska’s four main routes are technically part of the Interstate system, but are signed as Alaska State Routes. This also applies to Puerto Rico. Here is a link to all 19.

9. Looking for Adventure, And Whatever Comes Our Way

Before you fill up the gas tank, crank up Steppenwolf, and cruise down America’s roads, it is advisable to know which ones might end up leading you on a highway to hell. Though America can only claim one road on the world’s most deadly list (Alaska’s Dalton Highway between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay) and we certainly have nothing to compare with the North Yungas Road in Bolivia–often cited as the most deadly road in the world, also known as the “Road of Death–we have some dangerous highways of our own.

North Yungas Road in Bolivia. Also called "The Road of Death".

North Yungas Road in Bolivia. Also called “The Road of Death”.

I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is often credited as the most dangerous road in the United States. According the the Nevada AAA, the 180 mile stretch of road had more fatalities on it than any other in the state. With close to 8 million drivers annually, it isn’t a surprise that I-15 takes the top spot. Apparently, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas: Drinking and driving and distracted driving account for nearly all the accidents. It doesn’t help that I-15 through San Bernardino County is one of the straightest, most barren strips of concrete in America causing drivers to become inattentive, bored, and forgetful of their speeds.

I-15 in San Bernardino County, CA

I-15 in San Bernardino County, CA

Other highways that rank high in accidents and death include the 8 mile stretch of I-95 near Norwalk, Connecticut. Almost 10% of deaths on the entire 100 mile stretch occur on this little section. I-95 in Florida has nearly 1.73 fatal accidents per mile and has it’s own attorney to help you sue that darn trucker that rear ended you. Between 2000-2010, I-26 in South Carolina saw 325 fatalities with short sections that have triple the amount as other portions closer to Charleston. Finally, I-10 from Phoenix to the California border is notoriously dangerous with 85 fatalities a year.

As you pile the family in the car, remember, you aren’t the only one out there on our secret, hazardous, non-runway interstates.

Sources:

http://german.about.com/library/blgermyth08.htm

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/faq.htm

http://www.restareahistory.org/History.html

http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/10-of-americas-most-dangerous-roads#slide-1

Lies That Altered U.S. History (Part 2)


 

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Event: Red Scare/McCarthyism

Lie: “I have here in my hand a list of 205… a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” –Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Wheeling, W. Va, Feb. 9, 1950 (accuracy of the number presented is not certain)

American fears of all things red dates back to the late 1800s and the immigrant push from southern Europe and their bringing socialistic tendencies to the United States. Various immigration quotas were set in place to curb this influx, but the seeds of anxiety had been planted, fed, and raised since. During the 1930s, it was fashionable for members of Hollywood and the wealthy elite to frequent communist parties, but in 1940, Congress would pass the Smith Act which made it illegal to assist any groups “who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of the government of the United States by force or violence.” By 1950, the United States had witnessed the Soviet Union envelop all of Eastern Europe into its sphere of influence, Churchill issue his “Iron Curtain” speech, the passage of Executive Order 9835 (loyalty oaths for all federal employees), the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood Ten, the trial of Alger Hiss, China “falling to communism,” and the Soviet Union detonating its first atomic bomb.

For men like Joseph McCarthy, there was only answer to the menacing spread of communism across the globe and the specter of atomic death: Communists had infiltrated America.

Telegram from Sen. McCarthy to Pres. Truman

Telegram from Sen. McCarthy to Pres. Truman

Unfortunately for McCarthy, the places he found communists were in his alcohol-induced hazes. After telling a group of Republican Women on Feb. 9 that he had a list of 205 suspected communists–the list was probably a blank scrap of paper–he fired off a telegram to President Truman where he claimed the number was 57. On the 20th, he addressed the Senate and announced 81 communists. Even if we are to accept the 205 count inaccurate, McCarthy could never settle on a single number and refused to list the names on his document or provide specific evidence.

Lasting Impact: It’s a shame no one stood up and shouted, “Liar, liar pants on fire.” No one did and McCarthy’s four years of terror warped America in ways unimaginable. Victor Navasky said this of McCarthyism in his book Naming Names

The social costs of what came to be called McCarthyism have yet to be computed. By conferring its prestige on the red hunt, the state did more than bring misery to the lives of hundreds of thousands of Communists, former Communists, fellow travelers, and unlucky liberals. It weakened American culture and it weakened itself.

Our modern-day witch hunt destroyed the lives of people far removed from politics as hblock2state and local governments ran their own personal hunts. Men and women lost their jobs, found their names on countless blacklists, and watched as their children were ostracized by society around them. Libraries yanked copies of such subversive titles as Robin Hood because it proposed the notion of “stealing from the rich to give to the poor.” Unions were condemned as anti-American, and the AFL and CIO were forced to merge in 1955 just to survive. But the political ramifications were just as severe. No one would dare open debate on trade with China. In the aftermath of the Korean War, though people’s private thoughts may have harbored it, no one would speak out and question the U.S.’s role in Southeast Asia. McCarthyism taught America not to question the state, and that the average, good American didn’t criticize, conformed, and ostracized those who were different.

Smallest amount of lying goes the longest way: Belief. Had it not been for McCarthy’s public assault on the Army in 1954 and his apparent drunken stupor live in every American home with a television, McCarthy’s reign of terror may very well have lasted into the 1960s. Imagine a deeper seated Red Scare during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For Joseph McCarthy, his belief that communists had entrenched themselves in the highest levels of government altered how we believe our own leaders today. Repeat the lie long enough, and it eventually becomes truth.


 

North Vietnamese motor boats attacking the USS Maddox

North Vietnamese motor boats attacking the USS Maddox

Event: Gulf of Tonkin

Lie: “Last night I announced to the American people that the North Vietnamese regime had conducted further deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating in international waters, and therefore directed air action against gunboats and supporting facilities used in these hostile operations.”–Lyndon Johnson

Troop increases in Vietnam post-Tonkin Resolution

Troop increases in Vietnam post-Tonkin Resolution

Lyndon Johnson was a product of his time. While not an avid historian as other presidents had been, Johnson understood that foreign policy issues would come to define his administration. He’d watched as Franklin D. Roosevelt had tried to sway America off of its isolationist island during the 1930s (and how only an attack against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor would swing America into war). He watched as Truman’s last years as president were marred by the specter that “he’d lost China to the communists.” Closer to home, he was there as Kennedy struggled to deal with Castro in Cuba and had first hand experience with Eisenhower and Kennedy’s Vietnam crisis and eventual war. After Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson had no choice but to confront the hand grenade sitting squarely in his lap. The 1964 election was the moment that pulled the pin and left Johnson holding what would ultimately make or destroy his presidency. In taped phone records, Johnson admits that he didn’t “think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out.” (Source) However, history had shown Johnson that he had no choice and he decided that he “wouldn’t be the President that let Southeast Asia go the way China went.”

Johnson needed his own Pearl Harbor, a USS Maine to rally Americans to a cause that he knew would ultimately doom America.

Lasting Impact: That the incident with the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin was 17_News_Fight_if_we_must_3-12-26-01completely manipulated, misconstrued, and misrepresented to Congress is without a doubt. That Congress–414 to 0 in the House and 88 to 2 in the Senate–passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the President carte blanche power to wage war in Vietnam as he saw fit shouldn’t surprise anyone either. Just look at how willing Congress was to authorize war with Mexico in 1848 and Spain in 1898 on dubious grounds to see that our political leaders don’t really understand their history. This is the lasting impact. The idea that we don’t understand our history and that, post-McCarthy, no one was willing to question leadership. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution briefly signed away a power specifically handed to Congress–war powers–to the Commander-in-Chief, and for six tenuous years we had exactly what the Framers of the Constitution hoped would never happen. James Madison said this of keeping war away from the President:

“The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.”

And that legislature abdicated its duty to the American citizen.

Smallest amount of lying goes the longest way: Integrity. When we elect our political leaders there is an inherent belief on our part that these men and women will represent us with a certain level of integrity. We believe them. We trust them. It is a strange belief and trust in someone we have never spent any time with, someone we do not really know on a personal level. We accept their lies because we believe that they have what is best for us in mind. The Gulf of Tonkin shook that view of integrity. Not into our cores, our psyche, yet, but a growing distrust in the “other”–the party contrary to ours–began to fester. And yet, despite a nagging question inside us, we still believe in our leaders. We still hold in them an integrity that they may not have earned, and their lies have a strange way of solidifying that belief.

Read Part 3 “Lies That Altered U.S. History” here

Read Part 1 “Lies That Altered U.S. History” here