Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Second Night's" abstract

(About two weeks ago I offered up some topics for you, the reader, to vote upon. Since Jack Thunder voted for it, I will provide a small piece of information about my Masters thesis, detailing the effect of interstate construction on one Georgia town. What follows is the brief abstract of my thesis, as it was completed in 1997.)

I first thought of this topic when I was helping conduct oral history interviews in my college town for the county's bicentennial celebration. One of the people I interviewed was the daughter of a family that once operated a local restaurant. In the course of talking to her I saw that her family had witnessed a steady stream of tourism through town during the 1950s and 1960s prior to the construction of Interstate 95. The construction of this interstate, which diverted traffic further east and away from the local state highway, altered the previous traffic flow. I began to wonder how this shift in traffic flow impacted this particular town and several other towns that existed along the same stretch of state highway.

Thus was the kernel of the idea that became "'The Second Night's Stop': Effects of U.S. Highway 301, Tourism, and Interstate 95 Upon Statesboro, Georgia, 1950-1975."


I admit that I am nervous about writing this here, sure as I am that it is written childishly or that the thoughts are obvious. But, this is the simplest and briefest overview of my research. Sometime, after some more work, I might post the full thesis separately for everyone to ignore.

Anyway, ignore if you like, read if you want, be kind or don't be.


The history of the automobile is a vital part of the history of the twentieth century United States. The automobile began to significantly reshape America following the second World War. The construction of the enormous National Interstate and Defense Highway System assured the dominance of personally-owned automobiles as the mode of transportation in the United States. Improved highways made far-flung suburban communities possible and the 41,000 miles of Interstate highway traversing our nation and entering the metropolitan areas assured crowded city streets and time-consuming traffic jams.

What, however, has the Interstate system done to the rural areas of our nation? This examination of Statesboro, Georgia gives some insight. The invasion of Interstate 95 down the eastern coastal area of Georgia radically altered the existing traffic and tourism patterns that had slowly developed since the 1920s and rose to its highest levels in the 1950s and 1960s. Statesboro--as its police shoulder badges attested--was known as the "Tourist City" and relied upon Northeasterners visiting Florida for a significant portion of its yearly income. The main travel artery that carried this traffic before the Interstate system was U.S. Highway 301, which ran through the heart of downtown Statesboro. The Interstate system could have a profound effect upon rural communities, depending upon where the highway was routed. In Statesboro's case, Interstate 95 was constructed fifty miles away, effectively cutting the community off from the traffic that would use the newer road. The loss of tourist traffic, due to I-95's construction was an additional hardship upon Statesboro.

Statesboro's tourism memory and the reaction to the Interstate are the heart of this work, as well as a look at where Statesboro is today and efforts to revitalize some tourist traffic on the old regional highway. Along the way, the changing world of highway travel will also be examined, paying special attention to the "homogenization" of the roadside experience, from chain restaurants, to impersonal motels, to the death of small towns.

1 comment:

Sven Golly said...

Man, you and Lileks really are kindred spirits. We are all (most of us) children of the postwar boom, and you are its chroniclers. I'm looking forward to more installments.