I especially like the stars denoting danger. I don’t know what made the railroads and trolleys so cross, but it would be best to avoid them.
Our elders had the hardships of the Great Depression and the Second World War, and they weren’t shy about telling us how soft we had it. My generation had civil unrest (race riots, Vietnam protests, the Generation Gap), the Cold War, and only three television channels. And while it’s hard to scare kids going through today’s Depression with stories of Kent State and the Watts riots, I’m not shy about telling how hard life was with only three television channels. (Yes, you could say there were four, if you counted what was still called “educational televsion,” and if you could stand in just the right spot, holding onto the UHF antenna in just the perfect way to would bring in what looked like a signal, if you squinted just right.) Why, in my day . . .
This schedule from October 12, 1966, shows the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area channels. Channel 6 was WRGB in Schenectady, the NBC affiliate since television and networks were invented. Channel 10 was WTEN in Albany, the CBS affiliate. Channel 13 was WAST (Albany Schenectady Troy) in Menands, the ABC affiliate and the channel with the worst signal when I was growing up. Except for Channel 17, WMHT, on the UHF band, which required special pliers to adjust the tuning knob and a contortionist to get the antenna into the right arrangement. (Channel 2 here is a Utica station; Channel 3 came from Burlington. Neither one could be picked up in our area but the Schenectady Gazette, source of this listing, was widely distributed.)
Google Street View is a great idea, especially for traveling through towns you’ve never been to before. You can see every intersection in advance, giving you great visual cues.
It was a great idea a century ago, too. In 1907, Photo-Auto Maps were published, with enjoyable rides laid out for the new pasttime of motoring, turn-by-turn directions, and photographs of major intersections and landmarks. At that time, roads were rarely paved and more rarely marked in any way. Even city streets were usually indicated only with signs tacked to the sides of buildings at the corners. There were no stop signs or red lights, no railroad crossing gates, no numbered routes, no real way to know where you were going. And so guides like the Photo-Auto Maps were indispensable.
Roads being what they are, many of these routes have changed over time, but some of the routes are surprisingly traceable. I thought it would be interesting to see what these early Street Views look like today. In the cities, some of the buildings are still the same. in other places, the streets are unrecognizable.
Photo-Auto Maps are found at the David Rumsey Map Collection, www.davidrumsey.com
The routes were traced and Google Street Views collected by Carl Johnson, www.mynonurbanlife.com
Click on the image below for Street View, then and now.
- Albany’s official nickname is “The City Without a Nickname.”
- Once known as “The City That Lights and Hauls the World,” Schenectady is now best known as “The City That Could Use A Hug.”
- Cohoes, known as “The Spindle City,” was also home of the once-popular phrase “Sit On It And Rotate” (origin obscure).
- Ballston Spa’s name has been making fifth graders giggle since fifth grade was invented.
- Troy is proud of its association with technologies that fall out of favor: water wheels, parlor stoves, detachable collars.
- When carpet manufacturers were leaving Amsterdam for cheap labor in the south, Rug City officials launched a desperate campaign to retain the “welcome mat” portion of the business.
- Henry Hudson’s crew failed to appreciate the future importance of the beaver, using only the tails of the aquatic rodents to deliver naval discipline.