PA Turnpike Celebrating 75 Years!

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Memories Archive

Several people have shared their memories of the Pa. Turnpike with us, and we would now like to share them with you. These are memories and in some cases photos from Pa. Turnpike employees and Turnpike enthusiasts who just wanted to share their experiences. New stories will be featured throughout the coming months. If you are interested in telling us your story, just fill out the form on our contact page to submit your information.

Click on a story title below to read the memory.

Dottie's Dad - Dottie Ross, Training and Development Specialist, Pa. Turnpike Commission
  • Dottie's Dad

    Dotties Dad banner

    "Being an employee of the Pa. Turnpike for the past 32 years, I have a million memories that I could share, but none stand out more to me than the ones of my dad. My father was former Pa. Senator James E. Ross. Many of you may recognize the name because the Beaver Valley Expressway is named for him – it became the James E. Ross Highway back in 1992.

    As a little girl, back in 1968, my first memory of the Turnpike was when I was 7 years old, and we were headed to the Jersey shore. My sister, brother and I were so excited to be traveling the Turnpike and stopping at a service plaza! We stopped at the Howard Johnson’s at South Midway plaza where my dad bought my younger sister, Barbie and I a patent leather, round purse that had pictures of Pennsylvania roadside attractions. Both of us were so excited and thrilled to carry that purse anywhere and everywhere we went.

    Those memories of my dad driving us along the Turnpike to the Jersey shore will forever be cherished by me and my family. And to this day, I am still amazed that the superhighway my family was so excited to travel is where I have been employed since 1983."

    Dottie Ross, Training and Development Specialist, Pa. Turnpike Commission

Oh, Baby! - Stephanie Washington, Interchange Manager, PA Turnpike
  • Oh, Baby!

    Just a little funny note about one of my days at Willow Grove Interchange. This was about 1991, and I was a collector working the lanes. One day a gentlemen walked to my lane screaming I need you to come with me pulling my hand and hollering - my wife, she is in trouble.

    Without thinking I closed my lane and went over to the end of lane 10, where he had his car parked and the door open. Well, when I looked inside I saw his wife was in labor. I told her wait one minute I am going to call for the trooper, she gripped my hand so tight and said no don’t go. I told her your husband will be here until I come back, but she would not let me go.

    So I waved for another collector to come over and told them to call for a trooper. In the meantime, a collector found a blanket and I told her she was going to be alright. By this time a trooper did arrive and when he got there I said ok I can go now, he said - no you are doing just fine.

    We were about to have a baby! Well, the baby arrived and the trooper was on the side of the car getting sick. When the medical team arrived, the baby was already out, so all they had to do was cut the cord and take the mom and baby to the hospital.

    Channel 3 was out to interview the collector involved, needless to say one year later, I was expecting a little one.

    -- Stephanie Washington, Interchange Manager, PA Turnpike

The White Roads - Karen M. Muro, Human Resources, PA Turnpike
  • The White Roads

    When I was a little girl, I remember going on road trips with my family and would always ask my parents.... "Why can't we ride on the white roads?" The answer was always different, but it never seemed to happen.

    As we traveled east to west, always reviewing the maps, I noticed that there were two roads that went across the state of PA and thought "how much easier it would be if we could just be on one of them" realizing that those roads were Route 80 and the PA Turnpike.

    In the following years, as those trips continued, I made it clear to my parents, that "When I drive, I am going to drive on the white roads so that I can get to our destinations faster?"

    Many years later, in keeping the tradition alive, my husband, daughter and I would take road trips, however, it was my rule that we had to take the PA Turnpike so that we could enjoy the destinations sooner than later. Then life changed.....

    In 2010, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The only way to make it to the doctors' appointments on time and avoid the long drives due to my illness was to travel the Northeast Extension to the PA Turnpike east, traveling fifty to sixty minutes each way, every day for appointments and treatments. The road was always free of clutter and no matter what the weather was; it was always clear.

    Embracing the power and strength of this highway, I told my husband that if I survived this journey, I wanted to be a part of the organization that was so instrumental in my care. We laughed at my childhood memory and stated that the "white roads" of the PA Turnpike kept me safe during a very difficult time of my life.

    Ironically, a position became available in the Human Resources Department. I took a risk, applied and received a call for an interview. The following week, I left the hospital from treatment and drove straight from Bensalem to the Central Administration Building. Five weeks later, I received an offer of employment.

    The PA Turnpike is a roadway that leads you on a journey of unexpected results. It is a roadway that enables families to reunite, journeys to be accomplished and beauty that surrounds you from the Ohio line to New Jersey, up to Scranton and back around again.

    Today, I am thankful for the "white roads" of the PA Turnpike. This roadway has truly made a difference in my life. It has proven a childhood vision to become an adult reality. It is a roadway that leads to success and accomplishment, no matter where your journey takes you.

    -- Karen M. Muro, Human Resources, PA Turnpike

Pay As You Go - Joel Weisberg, Mount Joy, PA
  • Pay As You Go

    Before the middle of the 1970's restrooms in the Howard Johnson facilities charged 10 cents to use most of their toilets - not all. During this time, I served as the Director of Consumer Protection through the Milton Shapp years. The Governor called me one afternoon to complain that he had to pay to use a restroom on the Turnpike as he traveled to Harrisburg from Philadelphia. He demanded that I do something about this.

    One of the first things I did was to contact the State Police and request that they check and inform me of the number of pay and non-pay toilets. As you might imagine they were not too pleased with my request. I informed them that I was operating on direct orders from the Governor to have the offending toilets removed.

    Meanwhile, I was also checking the contract that Howard Johnson had with the Turnpike to compare prices of gasoline and food items. Then, without telling anyone, Howard Johnson went through their facilities and had the pay slots removed from the toilet stalls. The only difference between the two toilets, was that the pay toilets had a small lock on the door that could be opened by depositing 10 cents into a slot on the lock. They acted so quickly that in many places they left the once offending toilets without any locking mechanism.

    So, with the help of the State Police, we succeeded in having the pay toilets removed. The Governor often said after that that he did not want to only be remembered as the Governor who removed the pay toilets from the turnpike. I, of course, did not mind being remembered for that.

    -- Joel Weisberg, Mount Joy, PA

My Turnpike Story - Chris Maugans, ETC Analyst of Business Systems, PA Turnpike
  • My Turnpike Story

    For most of my life, I have had a relationship with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. When I was three years old, my family moved from Norfolk, Virginia, to Levittown, Pennsylvania. My father, formerly on active duty in the Navy, decided to pursue a civilian career. His new job was closer to "home"-my parents both grew up in Harrisburg and their large families remained in Central Pennsylvania.

    When we lived in Virginia, there weren't many opportunities to see family, except at Christmas. The move to Levittown meant we were only two hours away. You could find us on America's First Superhighway at birthdays, funerals, holidays, and more. The fastest and safest travel route between Harrisburg and Philadelphia back then was the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This is still true today.

    Some of my earliest memories are of meeting my grandparents at the Valley Forge Interchange. I can recall carrying my kid-sized suitcase across the parking lot to go home to Mechanicsburg with them. When we had a house fire in 1979, mom and I moved back home with my grandparents while our house was being repaired. We can thank that fire for our still being in Central Pennsylvania during the Three Mile Island incident.

    We were a one-car, stay-at-home-mom kind of family in those days, as were many families. Dad needed the car to go to work every day, so Mom and I decided to "Go Greyhound and Leave the Driving to Us" for a few trips home. As a kid those were pretty memorable experiences, especially attempting to use the restroom while the bus was in motion.

    Although most of our trips remain a blur, I can distinctly remember knowing that we were almost home when we were crossing the old Susquehanna River Bridge. I can still picture the billboard on the West Shore advertising "Breezewood-The Town of Motels." And, of course, I fondly remember eating at the various Howard Johnson's rest stops-now called "service plazas"-along the Pike. I doubt I've had a better hot dog since. And how about that ice cream!

    We moved to the Harrisburg area in 1983 and settled in Mechanicsburg near my grandparents. One might think that my frequent Turnpike trips would have ended with our extended families reunited-but they did not. I continued traveling the Pike to Willow Grove with my father for his reserve weekends. I cherish those memories, even more so since his passing. We would have to get up early in the morning to make the one-and-a-half-hour trip in time for "muster" at 7:00 a.m. Our first stop after muster was the chow hall for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, buttered toast and all the things my doctor would yell at me for today. Those eggs were so well-done-they would cut a block of them out of the pan with a knife. That's probably why I can't eat runny eggs to this day.

    In the late 1980s, when Dad tired of the early mornings and the long drive, he transferred to a National Guard unit in Harrisburg and my connection to the Turnpike waned. We would only travel occasionally, usually for weekend trips or vacations. But in the 1990s I was a frequent Turnpike traveler again. My father was laid off and accepted a new job in Radnor, outside of Valley Forge. Rather than drive back and forth every day, he stayed and roomed with a coworker. So every weekend for over a year, either we were on the Pike or he was. Gratefully, he later found another job much closer to home.

    I entered college in the middle of the decade and had what could be described as an "active" social life. I made quite a few trips to Philadelphia, Altoona, State College and Lancaster to visit friends at other schools-always taking the Turnpike to get there. I spent several spring breaks driving across the state to pick up box trucks in Michigan for a company in Mechanicsburg. In addition to being paid, I had the added bonus of working with my grandfather on those trips.

    In 1998, I began my strongest relationship to the Pennsylvania Turnpike to date-I was hired as an employee. Sixteen years later, I'm still here and I travel the Pike at least twice a day. I consider myself fortunate to have worked with so many dedicated, hard-working people.

    Looking back, I've ridden the Turnpike for so many years that at times it feels like we grew up together. Sometimes I find myself reflecting on all the memories I have of traveling this highway. I think about families like mine, separated by distance and using the Turnpike to be reunited. And I wonder if there's a child riding past the administration building who may someday also find him or herself working here.

    This is what I believe the Pennsylvania Turnpike's central mission is-bringing the traveling public, and especially our loved ones, home as quickly and safely as possible.

    -- Chris Maugans, ETC Analyst of Business Systems, PA Turnpike

My Memories of the Pennsylvania Turnpike - Gerald "Jerry" Stewart
  • My Memories of the Pennsylvania Turnpike

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike holds seventy-eight years of nostalgic memories in my mind. Reflections of my boyhood home and the Pennsylvania Turnpike remain vividly with me, and the turnpike still holds significance for me today.

    This is "My Story": I was born in 1929. My home was a stone farmhouse, located on a hill about 500 feet from the present mile marker 194 on the PA Turnpike. When I was a child, our homestead was nestled quietly among the beautiful green hills and mountains of Amberson Valley. In 1937 an exciting adventure began! Turnpike officials visited our home. They discussed with my parents, their plan for a four-lane super highway to be built directly through our farmland. It would be "America's first super highway."

    In 1938 my mother and I walked about 55 feet into the west entrance of the partially completed Kittatinny Tunnel. The excavation was started, and then was abandoned by the South Penn Railroad Company. This tunnel would now become part of the new super highway. Later that year my parents and I traveled by car to the Newville, PA area, where we had the unique experience of watching the very beginning excavation of the PA Turnpike. The next year, in the spring of 1939, my mother, dad and I watched a big caterpillar bulldozer enter our farm. It was quite thrilling for me to watch the powerful machine push away a huge rock where the super highway construction began on our land. In addition to beginning road excavation, a culvert about six feet high was constructed under the new super highway site. The small underpass allowed our cattle to walk through to pasture land.

    There was soon a necessity for people living in our area to room and board turnpike workers. Several neighbors in our area opened their homes to the workers. My parents accepted sixteen boarders who worked different eight hour shifts in every twenty-four hours. My mother was an excellent cook. She, with some neighbor's help, cooked and kept the house in order. Our quiet "Norman Rockwell" lifestyle was interestingly interrupted. We enjoyed being with the workers who shared many stories about their lives. They often played with me and expressed their appreciation to my dad and mother for boarding them. During this time my dad operated a roller on the turnpike.

    A new adventure began for me. The turnpike workers needed to keep hydrated, and I needed a little bit of income. Thus, I started making lemonade, and carried it to the construction site everyday where the workers paid me five cents a glass for a cool drink. My lemonade money was saved, from which I bought a brand new bicycle. This new purchase brought me great joy! Everyday I rode my bicycle along the new dirt highway where I saw construction employees. They looked forward to seeing me.

    There was plenty of snow on the ground during the winter in 1940. A high bank was excavated on the turnpike ground behind the little school house that I attended. During our lunch hour, several students and I had great fun sliding down the excavated bank on our sleds.

    Springtime in 1940 brought about a change in our house. We lost our boarder friends because turnpike excavating work was completed. Soon new boarder friends came when workers were obtained to construct roadway paving and tunnel completion. My dad entered the road work with two dump trucks. He hauled mixed concrete to the nearby Kittatinny Tunnel until the tunnel was completed. My bicycle riding continued. It was an educational experience to see concrete being mixed and poured for the new four-lane highway.

    The turnpike opened October 1, 1940. My parents and I took our first automobile ride on the turnpike as soon as we were allowed. We entered the turnpike at the Willow Hill Interchange. The toll gate was brightly lit. We received a turnpike toll ticket from a collector, and travelled east on an exceptionally exciting, nighttime trip. The highway had shiny reflectors in the median strip and along the outer shoulder. Having never seen highway reflectors, I was amazed. When we entered both the Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels, we were delighted to see bright lights. Exiting the Blue Mountain Interchange, we felt exhilarated to have been among the first people to ride on the super highway and to have seen the progress of its formation from beginning to completion. When we gave our turnpike ticket to the collector, our toll cost was ten cents.

    During the years in 1959 through 1969 I was teaching school. From the windows in my classroom I could see the traffic moving on the turnpike. During summers and on holidays I drove for Greyhound, Trailways and Rohrer bus companies. From 1969 through 1987, I worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. During these years I still worked part time with the bus companies. I've driven hundreds of trips - thousands of miles - on the PA Turnpike, from Harrisburg, PA east to the New Jersey border, and west to the Ohio border. After driving on other highways, it was a relaxing pleasure to drive on the turnpike, free of traffic lights and railroad crossings, on which one could easily keep a driving schedule. An outstanding feature of turnpike traveling was stopping at immaculately clean Howard Johnson Restaurants. The buildings' outside structures were completed with beautiful gray limestones. The Breezewood Interchange was an exception. Every Greyhound bus had to give their passengers a 20 minute rest stop at the Greyhound Post House - located just off the turnpike interchange - while the bus was serviced.

    Today in 2015, my wife and I live on a hill where we can see the Gettysburg Pike Interchange on the Pa Turnpike. We can quickly enter the turnpike, then travel about 55 miles west to visit my old family homestead and our present motorhome campsite, where the turnpike land borders our tree lined land. Who says, "You Can't Go Home Again?" (words: from song title by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora)

    Finally, in reflecting seventy-eight of my eighty-six years, I realize what an impact the Pennsylvania Turnpike has had in my life. Most importantly, I enjoyed seeing and being part of so many aspects of "America's first four-lane highway" being completed. However, at the time I was unaware of how privileged I was to be witnessing the harbinger of numerous new important technologies that would change landscapes and lifestyles, not only for our quiet valley and me, but for our entire nation.

    -- Gerald "Jerry" Stewart

Sound Memories - Douglas Kemp
  • Sound Memories

    As a young boy growing up a mile from the Irwin Interchange of the PA turnpike in the 1970's, it provided a way to travel to Pittsburgh for any of the great sporting events. It also provided way to travel to the laurel mountains in the winter for skiing and other winter activities.

    But the best and ironically most comforting memory were hearing the distant sounds of the turnpike when my friends and I would sleep in our backyards on hot summer nights. Never noisy but a quiet murmur of travelers covering many miles for the many journeys planned.

    As an adult living in Philadelphia, it is way back home to visit family and friends in Western PA.

    Learning its rich history is even more fascinating than just America's first superhighway. Its birth from the Vanderbilt's follies to its innovative present day mode of transportation makes more than a highway but a part of the Pennsylvania's economic development.

    I look forward to continuing to make it a part of my life across this state. Happy Anniversary PA Turnpike!

    -- Douglas Kemp


If you want to tell us your story, just fill out the form on our contact page to submit your information.