Traffic lights have become such a common part of our lives that we rarely give them a second thought. Well. Not quite. I do a lot of driving between our three cities here in the corridor and it dawned on me the other day that Anna, being the largest, has only one traffic light. Melissa with half of the population of Anna also has only one and Van Alstyne, the smallest, has all of four.
I can already hear some of our readers grumbling, “Ken sure has a cushy job with the newspapers, driving around and counting traffic lights.” Well, folks, let’s just chalk that up to research.
So in the spirit of research did you know that traffic signals go back to the 1860s when they were introduced in London to direct horse carriage traffic? But sad to say the inventor did not have access to electricity, so he used the same gas that lit the city’s lamps after dark. All of that led to bad results when a gas leak met the open flame resulting in widespread injuries. And it was back to the drawing board.
Some 50 years later the world’s first electric traffic signal was installed on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 5, 1914. Having spent most of my life in Northeast Ohio, I can still picture that intersection, although at the time I didn’t have a clue of its historic significance.
And should you wonder why red means stop, we need to go back to the early days of rail travel when workers needed a way to warn trains of danger ahead. They chose red because blood is red…
Speaking of red lights, I am still puzzled by a question to which I have no answer. More than once, when I had to stop and ask for directions the inevitable directions always were, “Make a turn at the next red light.” OK. But what do I do if the light is green?
But since we started all this with traffic lights in our towns, it’s only fitting to end with a recent incident in the corridor.
Two elderly ladies headed out on a road trip to Van Alstyne. Tiny little ladies that they were, both could barely see over the car’s dashboard. As they cruised out of Melissa all went well. But when they got to Anna’s major intersection while the traffic light was red they sailed right through. The lady in the passenger seat thought to herself, “I must be losing it. I could have sworn that we just went through a red light.”
After 15 minutes or so they got to Van Alstyne. Another intersection, another red light and they went right through it without even slowing down. The passenger now was not only concerned but downright worried.
At the last traffic light in town the same thing happened — right through a red light. She turned to her friend, “Mildred, do you know that we just ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us both.”
Mildred glanced over to her, “Oh darn, am I driving?”