Monday, June 7, 2010

There Was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe--Really

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hagerstown, MD to Intercourse, PA

174 miles today, 977 miles total

Before there was Route 66 there was Route 30, the Lincoln Highway. It began in 1915, stretching over 3,000 miles (some of them unpaved) to link New York City's Times Square with the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The route was marked by telephone poles painted with stripes of red, white and blue.

The colorful telephone poles are gone now, but intrepid road scholars can still follow "Historic Lincoln Highway" signs across the rural landscapes of Pennsylvania, as we did today. Our travels took us past fields of corn and hay, and cows grazing on rock-strewn green hills. We drove through the middle of small towns showing their age, some more gracefully than others. In several, the highway formed a traffic circle around the town square, with a park, a bandstand, a memorial monument, or all of these in the middle. In a couple particularly quaint places we drove around the town square traffic circle twice just to enjoy the view. (Is a square circle an oxymoron?)

Any old highway worth its salt sports a few weird roadside attractions, and The Lincoln Highway does not disappoint. Our pick of the day was The Shoe House in Hallam, built in 1948 by Mahlon Haines, a flamboyant local character who owned a chain of more than 50 shoe stores. Mr. Haines was an advertising genius, and decided that a shoe-shaped house near the highway would really grab people's attention. So, he handed an old work boot to an architect, asked him to design a house that looked like it, and he got his wish, complete with stained glass windows with shoes in them and a shoe-shaped dog house out back.

He never actually lived in the shoe--he much preferred his huge mansion far from the highway. But, "The Shoe Wizard," as he liked to be known, was a generous man, and here's where the old woman who lived in the shoe comes in. Each year he offered 38 elderly couples an all expenses paid weekend stay in the shoe, with a maid and butler attending to their every need. He also offered his newlywed employees luxury week-long honeymoons in the shoe. All guests, newlywed and elderly, walked away from their stays with new shoes.

The Shoe House is now open for tours Wednesday through Saturday. Since today is Monday, it wasn't open, but we did meet the owner, who was repairing his fence when we drove up. He told us about the history of the Shoe House and invited us to walk around and take pictures. He used to have a family-run restaurant, but had to give it up when his daughter couldn't keep working there. He and his wife were looking to downsize, and when they learned about the Shoe House, they thought it was perfect. "You can't downsize much more than a shoe," he said.

From the shoe it was only a short drive to Lancaster, the gateway to Amish Country. We picked up maps and brochures, and talked to the somewhat taciturn fellow staffing the desk at the Pennsylvania Dutch Visitor Center there. Then we hopped in the car to find a place to stay out in the Amish countryside. We found the place, and we are enjoying Intercourse so much that we decided to extend our stay. Dick says I need to clarify that I am referring to the charming little village of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, but you knew that, didn't you?

Tomorrow we will share our adventures in the Amish farmlands. Here is a short pictorial preview of coming attractions.

1 comment:

  1. Square Circle is not an my life. Loving the pictures and the guys should publish both!