Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What in the World is Tarvia?

by Connie Cortright

That's a good question. According to Logos Database, Tarvia was trademarked on August 23, 1911 and described as: "Pitch prepared from natural or manufactured bituminous oils and tars for road and pavement construction, roofing, waterproofing, and insulating." That may help you figure out what tarvia is, but doesn't tell you too much.

It all started back in Chicago by Samuel Barrett who owned a small roofing company. He noticed that the residents of his fair city were often stuck in the mud while trying to maneuver on the city streets. He started experimenting with roofing tar and other materials to find out what would work to pave the streets.

By 1903 he formed the Barrett Manufacturing Company and began paving roads with a substance later named Tarvia. The forerunner of what we think of today as asphalt, tarvia was a soft tar similar to roofing tar that was sprayed over roadbeds and then covered with a thin layer of sand or crushed rock. The sand would adhere to the liquid material and after a couple days become a firm surface.

We have to remember that in the early 1900s Model T cars and other vehicles were first coming into use. All the roads in the entire country were made up of gravel or even dirt. During winter months or after rains, these roads would turn into long patches of mud. Horses didn't have too much trouble traversing these mucky surfaces, but the new vehicles couldn't go anywhere in muddy conditions.

Local governments had to be persuaded to spend the money to put hard surfaces on the roads so that auto traffic could maneuver no matter what the weather was. That's where the Barrett Company came in. They advertised their wonderful new roads, encouraging the population to persuade the government to pave the roads. By 1920, many cities and counties around the country realized that this newfangled contraption called a car needed hard roads to drive on.

The Barrett Company. based in Jamesville, New York, supplied train cars of Tarvia  - in one case 50,000 gallons of tarvia at 16 cents per gallon - and applied two coats to the graded and rolled road bed. After covering the tarviated surface with crushed rock, the road would "cure" for a couple days and then was ready for traffic. This process cost county governments about $900 per mile, but was worth it to the drivers.

However, in many cases this hard surface didn't hold up under heavy vehicles, such as farm machinery and trucks. If the road beds weren't solid underneath the thin layer, the new tarviated surface broke up after a short time. That was the beginning of potholes.

Over the next several years, the company expanded into other Eastern and Midwest states, paving the roads for many happy drivers - at least until the potholes appeared.

I'd love to hear any stories for anyone who can remember anything about Tarvia.

Information taken from Barrett Industry History and Madison's Heritage Online.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Shoe Wars

by Connie Cortright

Nike wasn't the first one to put competition in the sales of shoes for kids. During the early 1900s and into the 20s and 30s the purchase of children's shoes was very competitive between several brands on the market: Red Goose, Buster Brown and Poll Parrot.

Around the turn of the century, the majority of shoes were made in St. Louis, Missouri. One company in particular - Gieseke-D'Oench-Hayes - started manufacturing shoes for the pioneer families who headed west on wagon trains leaving from St. Louis. It was probably natural for people to purchase new shoes for the long trip in the city where they formed the wagon trains. Gieseke Shoe Company grew from this starting point.

Around 1900 they started manufacturing shoes for children, using a goose logo on the boxes. During the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, some stock boys painted the goose red and started referring to these shoes as Red Goose Shoes. The name stuck and was trademarked shortly after that, selling Red Goose boys' and girls' shoes. The company changed hands several times after that and was finally owned by International Shoes, who dropped the Red Goose line in the 1960s.

Brown Shoe Company, across town from Red Goose Shoes, wanted to compete with Red Goose for the market of children's shoes, so started the Buster Brown line of shoes in the early 20th Century. They obtained the name Buster Brown from the comic strip that was very popular in 1904 by the same name. The girl's line was named Mary Jane after Buster's sister in the comic strip.

In 1925 a third company entered the competition. Paul Parrot Shoes started marketing their children's line under the name of Poll Parrot. Paul even had a live parrot in his first store where the new line of Poll Parrot Shoes were sold, much to the delight of the children. After that, wherever these shoes were sold, the store would have a parrot statue on display, some ever were animated, to get the attention of the children shoppers.
Since these three companies were competing for the same customers, they depended on advertising and gimmicks to keep the customers coming back for more. Red Goose Shoes actually had a red goose in every store where their shoes were sold. Any child, that bought a pair of shoes, was allowed to pull the string on the Red Goose display, delivering a golden egg to the boy or girl. The egg held a surprise toy, piece of candy, or shoe tokens. I'm sure the parents loved the tokens the best since they were good for money off the next pair of shoes.

Parrot Shoes tried to stay competitive by giving away trinkets and comic books to buyers. They also sponsored children's radio shoes and eventually television shoes.

We can probably guess that Buster Brown Shoes were the best success story, since these shoes are the only ones still manufactured for children today.

Of the three, the only one I remember from my early days are Buster Brown shoes. I'd love to hear your stories about shoe wars from your younger days. Did you ever see a Red Goose that laid a golden egg?

Information taken from Whatever happened to Buster Brown shoes? and Poll Parrot history.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hate the Time Change? It Could Be Worse

by Connie Cortright

If you're like me, every time the clocks are changed it gets harder to make the adjustment-lose an hour in March and gain an hour in November. We're on "regular" time only about four months of the year now. My husband has often bemoaned the fact that they even bother to disrupt everyone twice a year. We can't figure out why they don't just let it stay Daylight Savings Time and be done with it. How did all this come about?

Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest adjusting our clocks in the spring to allow people to take advantage of early morning sunlight. People were asleep when the sun rose at 4:00 AM, so he jokingly hinted that they get up one hour earlier.
No one took him seriously, so the idea never came to anything in the 1700s.

However, William Willett proposed moving the clocks in 1905 to take advantage of the light later into the evening. This British builder had a rather peculiar idea to accomplish this time change. He suggested that in the spring all clocks would be set ahead by twenty minutes for four consecutive weeks and then the opposite would happen for four weeks in the fall.

Can you imagine if we set the clocks ahead by 20 minutes every Sunday four weeks in a row? What chaos would ensue! No one would know what time it was if all the schedules would be off 20 minutes from the previous week. Think about airline schedules - off by 20 minutes. Of course, maybe that really wouldn't make much of a difference since planes are usually off anyway.

Did you figure out that at the end of the month, the time would actually be off 1 hour and 20 minutes from where it started? I told you things could be worse than what we have today. Good thing no one listened to him.

England did start changing their clocks in 1914 to conserve energy costs during World War I. They called it Summer Time instead of Daylight Savings Time, however. To this day, they switch to Summer Time in spring and switch back to regular time in fall.

Here in the U.S., the thrust for changing to Daylight Savings Time (DST) also came with the World Wars. In 1918 the US started changing their clocks for the summer months, following the example of Great Britain. Then again in WWII from 1942-1945 our government used DST all year in order to save energy resources. They never changed the clocks back again for the winter months. Too bad they didn't leave it like that. During those years, they called it War Time, instead of DST however.

When the government didn't regulate the time change between the wars and after 1945, different states and cities made up their own laws about time changes. This led to confusion for riders on a bus going from Moundsville, West Virginia to Steubenville, Ohio. They had to change their watches seven times during this thirty-five mile trip. The time change occurred on different days in bordering counties, cities, and states. I guess that would be worse than what we have today, also.

When air travel became more universal during the 1960s, the airline industry lobbied Congress to make standard time for the entire country to limit the chaos that had arisen. By 1966 the Uniform Time Act brought standardized time nationwide with a set day in April and October to change the clocks to Daylight Savings Time. The dates for this time change has expanded several times, but at least everyone in the country (and Canada) changes their clocks on the same days.

In this case, I guess the government has done us a favor by regulating this aspect in our lives, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. It's harder every year for me to get up, or go to bed after our clocks are adjusted. Now it's time for me to go to bed to make up for the hour I lost a couple days ago.

Information take from History of Daylight Savings Time and Wikipedia - History of Time.