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Stephen F. Austin State University

Highway Prompts Celebration (October 2011)

Highway Prompts Celebration
By Wanda Bobinger

The formal opening of the Airline highway, state road No. 35, was held in Livingston on Thursday, April 10, 1930. An article in the Polk County Enterprise estimated the crowd to be 8,000, from all over Texas.
A ceremony took place in front of the J.W. Cochran store, where streets were closed by a large ribbon of canvas stretched across, one end held by Col. F.M. Witherspoon, who represented the City of Shreveport, and the other end being held by Mayor W.E. Monteith of Houston. The actual cutting was performed by R.S. Sterling, chairman of the State Highway Commission.
The first car to pass through was a Highway Department auto bearing Texas Governor Dan Moody. The Livingston Band played "When Dreams Come True."
Lunch was served to the visitors at noon. Tables had been prepared by women of the city, who also baked cakes and bread. Miss Gertrude Blodgett, district supervisor of home demonstration, led the loyal ladies in their efforts. The Livingston Bakery donated cakes, as did Schotts Bakery of Houston. Duncan Coffee Co. of Houston supplied the coffee for the huge crowd, which also served barbecued beef and pork.
People were asked to line up and pass through one at a time. There was little delay and no confusion. By 1:30 p.m., 5,000 people had been served. The program was opened with an introductory talk by Will West, former publisher of The Enterprise.
The welcome address was delivered by E.T. Murphy, state representative from Polk County. Response was given by Col. F.M. Witherspoon. Other speakers were Judge W.O. Huggins of Houston, president of the Gulf Coast Good Roads Association; W.G. Jones, manager of the South Texas Motor League; Guy Blount, State Highway Commission; W.P. Hobby, president of the Houston Post Dispatch; and Governor Dan Moody.
The governor, in his lengthy speech addressed the injustice of the present method of taxing the property owner to finance the building of good roads, and urged a statewide bond election, placing the cost on the traffic instead of the farmer and small home owner.
Music was furnished by bands from Timpson, Joaquin, Lufkin and Livingston. They played throughout the day.
Much hard work went into the planning of this event and a lot of credit went to A.S. Jones, chairman of the committee, on arrangements and to directors of the Chamber of Commerce.
There was another individual to whom the celebration brought a lot of work and that was Bridger Kalens, the courthouse janitor, who normally worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The week of the celebration, Bridger worked until l0 p.m. to wash every window at the courthouse and to make everything spic and span.
On Friday morning, following the celebration, his work had to be done again, as visitors had trashed the courthouse and the lawn outside. As the janitor worked, he was heard to comment that he was a strong believer in good roads, but hoped Livingston would be anxious to celebrate somewhere else.