FAIRFIELD — Despite the more popular Highway 40 moniker, plenty of residents remember the name Lincoln Highway with fondness.
It brings them back to the days of “mom-and-pop” America that is bypassed today with the interstate and mass corporate food and lodging establishments that sprang up along with Interstate 80.
Patrick Yench, 73, lives a block off North Texas Street. He’s lived there since 1969, but grew up on the Lincoln Highway in Chicago. He joked that from door-to-door, he never left the highway. On Lincoln Highway trips to and from California, before and after he moved, he recalled a mostly two-lane highway “until you got into the big cities.”
“Then it was four lanes with stop lights,” he said.
As progress took hold, he said he saw more of the Lincoln/Highway 40 converted to Interstate 80.
“Slowly but surely, you’d run out of (Highway) 40 and you’d be on (Interstate) 80 and you’d run out of small towns,” he said. “All these little towns had a special interest, and now they’re being bypassed. That’s the price of progress.”
In California, the pre-Lincoln Highway started about 1916 or 1917 as a state legislative route, said Gary Kinst, a Rio Vista resident and the California chapter historian for the Lincoln Highway Association. It turned into Highway 40 about the mid-1920s and took on the name Lincoln Highway during a third generation realignment after the completion of the Carquinez Bridge in 1927.
These days, much of the Lincoln Highway in California is taken over by other highways and roads – Pedrick and Midway roads, East Monte Vista Avenue and Merchant Street to name just a few. But a lot of the original highway lies on private land, too, Kinst said.
The Lincoln Highway Association, after its slowdown and demise around the late 1920s, was resurrected in 1992. When it was formed, the idea was to encourage and instill the need for good roads. These days, the national organization, including the California chapter, works to preserve the highway and “keep the history alive,” Kinst said.
His enthusiasm for the highway matches his knowledge as he rattles off interesting facts, figures and anecdotes about the fabled roadway. His father owned a service station on the Lincoln Highway. When Kinst moved to Tracy, he lived along the Lincoln Highway. He remembers driving the highway as a child, stopping at the local cafes and all the roadside attractions such as dinosaurs, tepees and iron claw machines.
“That stuff is all gone . . . just all gone,” he said.
It might be gone, but the Lincoln Highway Association works to keep the highway’s memory alive.
For more information, go to www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.