When you followed Pilgrim hats to the Pike

Turnpike marker

Driving through Oak Square this morning, I noticed the little sign pointing the way up Washington Street to the turnpike. By itself, no big deal, except note that it shows a green Pilgrim hat - a remnant of the days when the Massachusetts Turnpike had its own authority and for some reason decided to use green Pilgrim hats for its logo (after discarding an earlier logo that featured a Pilgrim hat with an arrow through it and economy-sized toll cards featuring a Pilgrim who was remarkably happy given that he'd just had an arrow shot through his head).




Free tagging: 


...a Pilgrim who was

...a Pilgrim who was remarkably happy given that he'd just had an arrow shot through his head

He was thinking "That's all right, you'll all be dead of smallpox soon."

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I remember those old trailblazers well

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At one point, the Pike put them up at nearly every entrance ramp to any Interstate or freeway in Massachusetts that one could conceivably connect to the Turnpike from, even if it was tens of miles away and/or wasn't the most direct route to get there.

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Melnea Cass & Hampden

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Like this!

I've always thought the sign guys must be chuckling at the thought of a family from NH driving around lost in Roxbury/Dorchester trying to use those signs to guide them to the zoo.

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You mean, you don't think it's helpful to anyone to give directions from Boston Common to the zoo?! I guarantee you that two people per year actually go to the zoo via the Common. TWO!

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A Zoo sign on Newbury Street westbound. Also, an MFA sign on Comm Ave inbound in Packard's Corner.

Neither sign is remotely helpful.

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Yes, I remember this. What I

Yes, I remember this. What I loved about that ambitious project was that the signs were not the least bit helpful because, if you managed to spot the small sign, there was usually no follow through with additional signage. There was one on a road in my hometown as you crossed over the state line from CT. Fine, except at that point you were probably at least 10 miles from any Pike interchange and as far as I know there were no additional signs further on that would continue to direct drivers. After that one sign that told you was that the Pike was north of there (heck, so was almost the entire state,) you were on your own.

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Call me cynical...

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But I'm willing to bet more than a lunch that someone in the Pike's management structure, at the time, had a brother-in-law is the sign business. Who had an excess of green paint.

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A More Graphic Graphic ... And One That's Adorable!

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This 1964 Turnpike marker captured by Michael Summa shows the Pilgrim's hat being blown apart by an enormous arrow!

Remember, this was before Interstate Highways were designated. Toll roads like the Massachusetts Turnpike and the New York State Thruway didn't even have a (public) route number assigned to them, yet they needed to promote themselves so as to attract drivers that were accustomed to traveling on older free roads. The roadgeek site AARoads has a very nice gallery with thousands old shields and signs, such as this 1953 Thruway shield from Mike Traverse:

When I lived in Florida, some of the expressways had "wild" designation shields. Before it was resigned to SR-528, melissophobic drivers traveling between Cocoa and Orlando were terrorized by these menacing signs on the Bee Line Expressway:

... Oh no! ... is there a giant bee in the car?!!! ...

My favorite road marker shields of all time were the original signs for the Sawgrass Expressway:

When it was first built, the Sawgrass Expressway was quite literally a "road to nowhere". Running along the far edge of development west of Ft. Lauderdale, it didn't connect to anything yet, so the marketing company hired to promote the toll road created a frog named Cecil B. Sawgrass. Signs were placed all over the county with Cecil begging people to take his expressway, even though it was miles out of the way to be useful from the signs' locations. Sometimes referred to derogatorily as the "toad road", neighborhood opposition prevented the completion of the planned northern termination at I-95, and it was years before I-75 and I-595 were completed and connected to the Sawgrass Expressway at its southern end.

In the classic style of urban sprawl, the road today is a just another hideous mess of South Florida traffic. Re-signed years ago as SR-869, all the shields with Cecil's smiling face are long gone, but when the Sawgrass Expressway was new, the signs were absolutely Adorable!
photo by Michael Summa

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