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Old highway memories

August 4, 2008 - Jim Bartholow
Heard the other day that part of Washington County 10 by the MIE plant may be vacated. Before the days of Interstate 77 and four-lane, limited-access highways that used to be a major thoroughfare between Marietta, Belpre and Parkersburg.

 It's hard to imagine it now, but travelers decades ago had to endure two-lane, often winding, congested highways to get from here to there. I can remember my in-laws telling me it took them 12 hours to get from their home in Cleveland south on U.S. 21 into West Virginia on their way to and from my father-in-law's relatives in the Beckley area. And they made the trip leaving on Friday and returning home Sunday!!!

That was back in the day when the running joke was that Akron was the capital of West Virginia, because so many from the Mountain State left the coal mines to work in the Rubber City's factories. I'm told it was a steady stream of cars to and from Now, the trip would take six hours, if I'm driving, less if anyone else is behind the wheel.

Anyway, I can remember reading in The Times' archives that there was quite a bit of fanfare about the opening of the four-lane Ohio 7 between Marietta and Belpre. If you look closely, you can see the number of gas stations and other buildings that aren't used much now, but probably were pretty busy years ago, both on the four lane and on the old two-lane road that's now off the beaten path. I bet that was quite a site on what's now Ohio 821 as streams of cars and trucks sound their way through Washington County. It's really difficult to imagine. There must be some stories to tell about those days.

Radio memories I've noticed that my oldies radio station has updated its format a bit, focusing more on the '60s and '70s. Some songs they're playing were originally looked upon as progressive music hits at the time ("Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf, and the early hits of Santana).

That takes me back to 1967 and '68, as a high school junior and senior. We'd tune in to an obscure FM station (WZAK) in Cleveland that played polka tunes all day and night, until 10 p.m., when rock took over the airwaves for two hours. It's where I first heard Steppenwolf's "Pusher Man," and "Magic Carpet,' Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Traffic, Cream, The Mothers of Invention.

The songs were too far out for AM, top 40 radio at the time. I couldn't get enough of them. I was hooked for good on progressive rock, especially Led Zeppelin, which was developing at the time, too. Forty years later, I still enjoy hearing those songs.


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