Saturday, June 25, 2011

H Towns

I do love exploring small towns when I travel for business and often I find myself visiting a manufacturing plant far removed from a major city, especially in the Midwest or South. This past week I was about an hour west of St. Louis for a client (yes, prime tornado country I know) and stayed in the small town of Warrenton (pop. ~5,000+). The facility I was visiting was actually just across the town line into a bustling burg of ~375 folks – funny because the plant employs 200 itself.

Leaving St. Louis, Interstate 70 cuts east to west and its right of way alignment skims the edges of each small burg it encounters, including Warrenton and Wright City.  For the most part I-70 parallels old State Route 40 which now serves as a continuous two-lane “service road,” as transportation planners like to call them. Because the interstate divides one area of town from the other, a second access road was constructed on the other side of I-70, also in parallel fashion.

But the net effect of this interstate construction was to create towns with a distinct “H” pattern of main thoroughfares and traffic flow as development built up along each leg of the H. The interstate’s interchange and overpass forms the connecting bar of the H.

An H on its side with the service roads forming the legs.
When you find yourself way down one leg of the H and need to travel to an opposite leg, it’s up to the overpass across the highway and down the leg on the other side. Just something I’m not at all used to here in New England. And since there are no guard rails or fences separating these service roads from the interstate payment, I do find it a little disconcerting to be driving 50 miles an hour on a two lane road but facing semi trucks that are coming toward me at 80 mph. I guess your brain probably adjusts with time. But if one of those rig drivers loses his attention and wanders in my direction, we’re closing at 130 mph! Some small planes don’t fly that fast.

A sampling of Warrenton and Wright City – at least the sights that interest me and my cell phone camera.

Lots of elbow room on Main Street Warrenton

One chair, possible waiting
When was the last time you saw a Sinclair station?

Truesdale, MO

Sign bones, Warrenton

Availability on the service road, Wright City

Wright City shops


Anonymous said...

Just a shame no one ever posted a comment to recognize your effort for this post. But then, perhaps there aren't many who'd appreciate it. Much belated, I will wander past and do so now and say thanks for the pics. I am originally from Truesdale (and so few of us are). Back then, it was just 256 people. I suppose my replacement brought friends. My entire family is from Truesdale, Warrenton and Wright City going back to when most of the area only spoke German (which was only two generations ago). In some ways it's changed due to the invention of the "H", but in some more hardscrabble ways, it hasn't at all.

I'm now living in Australia and the entry was both a nice moment of nostalgia that I was seeking; a reminder of why I don't live there now; and an interesting, objective viewpoint of someplace I could never see without blinders on.

ps - a note of possible interest. The area's one claim to fame is that Wright City is the birthplace of the Niebuhrs, all of whom became known in their fields, but Reinhold was best known for having written the famous Prayer of Serenity. "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change...". He attended church with my grandmother.

Not really my politics or religion as he ended up, but not a boring guy.

Take care, keep writing.

Thanks again,
Cliff W, Melbourne

Mike said...

My dad worked in that Sinclair station as a teenager in the late 60's. It was, by all accounts an idyllic time in idyllic Midwestern Americana. High school kids raced around in suped-up American metal (my dad would race his '64 1/2 Mustang against much bigger engines, and according to his friends-I asked them on a visit to the town as an adult, since I was somewhat skeptical of the old man's stories-he almost always won). Imagine that ghost town bustling with action on a summer Saturday afternoon, just before the kids came out to look for fun.