Reminiscing about Hope roads

By William P. Pearse Sr. | Apr 28, 2012

Hope — When I was younger than I am today, the roads in the town of Hope were considerably different than they are now.

In a lot of cases the roads were low; sometimes lower than the surrounding countryside, and the water tend to run off in the roads, as there were no ditches. Given that the town of Hope has no natural gravel supply, the only material in the roads were either rocks or clay dirt.

With the spring came the melting of the snow and frost coming out of the ground. I can remember standing in the road and looking down through a hole, which was 2 to 3 feet deep, where the frost had come out and seeing the water running under the roadway, washing away what dirt there was in the road. In some cases these holes were as big as modern day recliner chairs. Just imagine hitting that type of pot hole with today's vehicles.

When such holes emerged they use to take and fill them in with rocks, as they couldn't haul in gravel to fill the holes since the town had no natural gravel deposit, plus the road itself couldn't support the weight of the wagon hauling the gravel.

In late May or early June, the town would come around with a road machine to grade the roads. They'd pull the sod and dirt from the side of the road into the actual road itself, building the road back up.

This road machine was graders pulled by four horses with a two-man crew. One man would lead the team while the other man would be on the grading machine adjusting the two wheels to get the pitch of the grade right. Tyle Noyse had a team that he used to do the grading, and you could hear him all over town as he talked so loud as he drove his team.

After the grader went by, a crew of men would come along and hand rake the road, raking up the rocks in piles which would later be picked up and hauled away — usually to be put in holes in the road. Of course the big drawback to this was that if it rained they couldn't do anything to the road as it was too slippery for the next day or so.

In the fall when the road started to freeze and thaw, ruts developed. It wasn't too bad when you had horses and wagons but was a totally different situation when automobiles came along. While technology advanced, replacing the horse and wagon with automobiles, it didn't advance in relation to construction of the road.

These ruts made by the wagons and cars would become quite numerous in the roadway, and you'd find yourself at times cross-threaded in driving down the road, as the front wheels would be in one set of ruts and the back wheels would be in another set and you'd crawl along like a crab as you attempted to drive. It was quite hard on the side walls of the tires running in these deep ruts and why most cars had high wheels so they'd have lot of ground clearance.

Finally in the late 1930s or early 1940s, the state came in and built the first state-aided road. They started at Hope General Store and went up current day Route 235 to Howard Coos' house. You all know where that is, it was located just beyond the elephant house. They built 1,500 feet of road, building up the roadway, putting in ditches that worked and the road was two cars wide. Looked quite impressive at the time.

The town raised some money and the state matched it. The road was built out of rocks and gravel, which was still hard to come by and had to be trucked in. Later, Route 105 was constructed and they tarred the road.

Back then tarring the road was not like it is today. They'd come along with a truck loaded with sand and dump small piles of sand along the side of the road. Then they'd come along with a truck loaded with liquid tar and spray it on the road, followed by a crew of men who'd spread the small piles of sand across the sprayed tar. You'd have to keep your car off the road when they were doing this as you didn't want to get your car sticky with the tar.

In the winter, Tyle Noyse was one of the people who'd plow the roads. He had an old triangle plow hooked under a sled and have it hooked to a team of six horses who'd pull the plow to plow the roads. If the snow got too deep then the men would have to shovel the snow until they could get through with the horses.

In the stretch of road from the farm down to Bill's house, the roads were down low, and had stone walls on both sides of the road. The snow would drift and fill the roadway in. Some years when it snowed, the snow was so deep you couldn't even see the car's coming through that stretch.

In 1932 Elmer True thought he'd plow the road with his V8 Ford Truck. The truck had a long wheelbase under it and it didn't work out too well. Ditches, such as they were, were soft and water would run in the roads making them muddy and he'd end up stuck a lot.

By 1934 Herbert Hardy did the plowing.

Ollie Allen did some plowing as well. Neal Libby drove the truck and in those days they had cross chains on the tires in order to get more traction. Neal was always breaking those chains and having to stop and having to repair them.

One year he was plowing and we had had a lot of snow, just below the farm he drove off the road. Dad went down with his team of horses and pulled him out. Then while still hooked to the front of the plow proceeded to help pull him along. Made a big difference to Neal in being able to plow the road.

Over the years there have been numerous adventures and events on the roads, one that comes to mind is one about a couple that lived up the road from the farm and they went to a dance in Hope Corner one night. As they returned from the dance, the woman said she stepped in a hole at one of the rock culverts and blackened both eyes. The only problem was she didn't twist an ankle or shin a shin, but had two black eyes.

Dad was road commissioner at the time and Mr. Wellman, who lived up the road from us, came down and was quite upset about the matter and said the town needed to do something or they might get sued.

Dad called Maynard Bowlie, who at the time was first selectman, and Maynard's response was "Let them sue!"

Come to find out the couple had had a fight at the dance.

William P. Pearse Sr. of Hope submitted this column for publication.

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