Fountain Valley News - Your Hometown Community Newspaper

Map or GPS??


August 7, 2019

I have done a few stories about the changes to Colorado with the use of automobiles. There have been tales about how the roads changed, along with the advent of driving rules, but today I want to bring up something quite important to traveling, but maybe not thought about. In these times some drivers may not really need road signs, driving using their GPS, but a hundred years ago there were problems with signs.

I have a book that was printed in 1915 about the road that we now know as U.S. 24. It tells how to follow the road. Follow this road, turn at this barn, take this fork in the road, go by this business in this town, taking this street out of town, but rarely does it mention signs. The signs started being posted in the 1920's, but even in the 1930's when Colorado was starting to build "modern" paved roads did the need for standard signs become a subject.

The paved road south from Denver to Pueblo brought numerous changes to driving. In the late 1920's it took half a day to make the trip on the rough dirt road. The new road was much straighter, even though it went through just about every town along the way. Dangerous intersections and railroad crossings were mainly eliminated. The distance was now even shorter. The next problem was with road signs, explaining lots of needed information. In Fountain the businesses were upset because now the traffic was not coming through town. At this time new shops were opening on Santa Fe, the new highway through town.

Standard road signs were still a long way off. Even with the modern, smooth highway, most towns were left to put up their own identification and direction signs. Some were painted on old wooden boards, some even on the sides of buildings. The tales often big towns to do something to let the travelers know what town they are approaching. Signs on main highways could be found in the larger towns, mainly east of the Mississippi River! But it would be almost 10 more years before there were uniform federal standards. State and county roads are sometimes still poorly marked. Travelers on trains knew where they were stopping because there were big clear signs. In a town there might not even be a sign telling that they needed to turn up different street to get out of town!

I have read in the Colorado Springs papers of the time where tourists coming west from Limon found themselves half way to Pueblo (near Fountain) before they figured out that where they really wanted to go was up Ute Pass, or even Palmer Lake. It was also at this time that oil companies, like the gas stations, started having maps available.


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