Ladybird Tuesday has had another unplanned break. Blame a poorly little one, and a bit of a crazy time being a school governor. The combination of the two has meant very little time with a laptop or a book lately.
In that time AWOL from here I have had my usual crazy school run routine to follow – which some days results in about three hours on the road. As I found myself sat on the M1 one day staring at the signs it made me think about when a motorway like that was new and how strange it must have seemed. That in turn got me thinking about the Ladybird book on the subject (because, after all there were Ladybird books on pretty much EVERYTHING back then) The Road Makers, one of the titles from the People At Work series (606B).
We’ve visited this series several times now on Ladybird Tuesday (The Fireman, The Builder, The Soldier, The Policeman, The Car Makers, In a Hotel) and it’s one that I keep coming back to again and again as I love it so much. It’s a wonderful snapshot of how things used to be back when they were first published in the 1960s.
The Road Makers starts with some of the history of road making from tracks from village to village, to Roman roads, Turnpike roads and through to the first roads designed for motor cars. The most interesting fact for me was that the word “tarmac” comes from “tarmacadam”. This name comes from an engineer called Macadam who designed roads with smaller stones in layers and then a top layer finished with broken stone and grit. These roads were first used for horse drawn vehicles, but when the motor car came along these roads wore away more quickly, so to make the roads wear better tar was mixed with small stones and used for the top layer. This became tarmacadam or tarmac as we know it today.
As road use increased further, the Minster of Transport came into being and this is where The Road Makers starts to show the gender imbalance that was very much present in the 1960s. The book goes on to explain that the Minister’s role is to build new and even better roads, and so as part of doing that he “asks men” to work out where new roads are needed. I’m pretty sure women could have done the job just as well, but in the 1960s they simply didn’t.
After talking about how the new roads and layouts are designed (just look at all those men in the drawing office) and engineered we go on to hear about the men who actually go out and build them physically. And from what I can gather from the pictures in the book, it seems that quite a few tractors are involved in the process!
Civil engineering was never really my forte, but the book provides a fair bit of information on how the roads are built – talking about some of the different stages in the process. I do love the page on service stations though. Out in the open, it looks so quaint and uncluttered compared to what we are used to today.
It is also nice to see mention of the roadside telephones that were installed for people to be able to call for help if they breakdown. With most people carrying mobile phones I guess many of these motorway telephones are now redundant, but I have to admit to having not actually noticed if they are still there or not. I guess I ought to take a look the next time I’m driving on a motorway.
Ladybird Tuesday is a regular feature here on Penny Reads where I delve into my Ladybird book collection and choose a title to share with my readers. The weekly series originally started on my old blog, Being Mrs C, and this post originally appeared on there. I’m now in the process of moving all those posts over to Penny Reads and also adding titles that I have acquired since then. A list is currently being compiled here of all the titles I have in my collection.