Remembering should have meaning
When I am dead and gone, please - please - try to refrain from naming a measly mile or two of roadway after me, especially if cars travel as fast as they do along the stretch of I-43 just north of Milwaukee that our state legislators have now vot...
When I am dead and gone, please - please - try to refrain from naming a measly mile or two of roadway after me, especially if cars travel as fast as they do along the stretch of I-43 just north of Milwaukee that our state legislators have now voted to name after Jeannetta Simpson-Robinson.
Moving at normal speeds, you'd barely to able to read "Welcome to the Jeannetta Simpson-Robinson Memorial Highway" before you'd read "Thank you for travelling the Jeanetta Simpson-Robinson Memorial Highway."
I suppose we could hope for lots of traffic jams - although the state has a better solution: Put the signs where drivers won't be able to see them at all.
People who push for official memorial highways seem to think there will invariably be signs on overpasses or something.
Such signs are typically placed on a marker "outside the visual zone of the roadway," according to Chris Klein, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation - and, even then, only if state funds are not used. Money for the signs has to come from local governments or private sources.
Keeping a gazillion highway memorial signs off highways makes sense, of course.
Which doesn't mean we don't have a gazillion memorial bridges and highways.
I am not talking about makeshift memorials to people who, tragically, die in car accidents. I find those touching and logical. I am talking about memorials to people who deserve to be remembered, but who would probably laugh, or at least scratch their heads, at the notion of having an arbitrary patch of concrete named after them.
We have long stretches of highway and bridges in this state named after everyone from artist Georgia O'Keeffe to architect Frank Lloyd Wright to astronaut "Deke" Slayton to our first governor, Nelson Dewey - who, surely, spent a lot less time in a car than on a horse. He died 1889.
Many of our memorial highways and bridges are named for veterans, and some memorial stretches do have visible signs. We have the Veterans of the American Revolution Memorial Bridge in Columbia County. We have the Avery Wilber Memorial Bridge in Shawano County. We have memorial highways named after everybody from citizen soldiers to World War II aces to the 84th Division "Railsplitters." We also have the Cinco De Mayo Memorial Highway in the city of Milwaukee, and both the Polish Heritage Highway (east of Stevens Point) and the Polish Veterans Memorial Highway (near Pulaski).
How many citizens of Polish descent does it take exactly to make a light go on?
This is getting out of control.
We have bridges or roads named after everyone from former legislators to civic leaders known for preserving the environment to, now - if the governor signs off on it - a tiny stretch of road named after Simpson-Robinson.
Nobody could argue that the champion of the poor in Milwaukee doesn't deserve to be remembered in as memorable a way as possible. Simpson-Robinson was and is a heroine to many. Legislative records indicate, however, that memorial plaques typically must be located in a "rest area, scenic overlook, recreational area, or other appropriate location where parking is provided with the signing inconspicuously located relative to vehicle operations along the highway."
In other words, you gotta put it where no one driving in a car can see it.
I called the office of state Sen. Spencer Coggs, the sponsor of the legislation to remember Simpson-Robinson, and was told the exact placement of signs has not been worked out.
Of course, that didn't stop a majority of legislators from voting in favor of it.
Creating invisible memorials is much easier, after all, than doing something anybody might actually notice.
Contact Mike Nichols at MRNichols@wi.rr.com .