Dedication of the West Virginia Turnpike

Charleston Gazette
November 9, 1954

Schools Close, 'Homefolks' Line Pike Route For Ceremony

As Afternoon Lengthened So Did the Road

by Lois M. Amick
(Staff Writer for The Gazette)

The people who came by foot across the hills and through the dales made yesterday's West Virginia Turnpike dedication successful.

Many resident along the path of the new superhighway stretch from Beckley to Charleston, walked miles to witness the seven ceremonies.

True, the many dignitaries who marked the opening of the Beckley-to-Charleston-length of the 88 mile turnpike, were the ones on whom cameras and TV lights were focused - but life was added to the celebrating by "local people."

Probably the youngest making the trip was Venessa Blake, 15-week-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roy T. Blake. The 21-year-old father and his 17-year-old wife carried their baby "across the mountain" to a Paint Creek site. They had a personal interest. Blake was employed as driller and truck driver for 14 months during turnpike construction. With the major project completed, Blake says he will now "draw unemployment."

At Mossy, two of the spectators, Mrs. Terry Wriston and Miss Laura Belle Wriston, had walked more than a mile from their Scarbro, RFD 1, home to see the turnpike for the first time.

While they didn't adorn themselves in furs and fancy clothe's like many of the ceremony witnesses - the "local people" took time to don their walking shoes and an extra coat of make-up for the occasion.

And some area schools, especially in Fayette County, were closed for the turnpike dedication. Hills were lined in many areas with school children who waved greetings to the passing caravan. Pupils from the Kingston School came out in large groups - and surrounded the speaker' platform for the occasion. It was like"parade day" for them.

Actually, most of the actual ceremonies are characterized by one-one - "sameness." Most speakers called the turnpike a "ribbon on concrete."

Gov. William C. Marland took the "future state turnpike to the Northern Panhandle in his first remarks. As ceremonies and hours passed by, the turnpike lengthened. It finally "reached" the Canadian border.

The only sign of real emotion came during the dedication of the Stanley Bender Bridge. The wife of the Congressional Medal of Honor winner had tears streaming down her face as she unveiled the plaque marking the bridge dedication.

And the assistant Turnpike manager, Mrs. Rosalind Funk, also added emotion to act. As Mrs. Bender started to pull the cord to unveil the plaque, Mrs. Funk was heard remarking, "Oh, I think that's the wrong plaque" and she shielded her eyes with her hands. A newsman watched and found that bender had unveiled the right plaque - not the adjacent one for Memorial Tunnel.

Bender, a Beckley resident was accompanied to the ceremonies by his wife and two daughters, Shirley, 12, and Evelyn Marie, 8. Mrs. Bender was wearing an orchid corsage and Evelyn had a white carnation corsage pinned to her coat - but Shirley had no flowers. Seems the former Army sergeant marked the occasion by purchasing a corsage for his wife. So did the turnpike commission, so Evelyn, being the younger, got one of the corsages.

Thousands of cars are expected to travel the new roadway daily-but the hundreds who came from the hills (many of whom probably never will have the occasion to ride the turnpike) are the people who gave the dedication "the human touch."