On the last night of the conference, the LHA usually holds a big dinner. This year the Awards Banquet is at South Bend’s Century Center.
There’s a guest speaker: Terry Shellwell, the very serious and sincere leader of this summer’s vintage-truck-and-military-vehicle convoy that has been re-creating the famous military convoy of 1919. (That original convoy included a young officer named Dwight Eisenhower, and his interest in improving America’s highways may have been the result of the difficult trek of that original group of trucks.) This summer’s ride is officially the “Military Vehicle Preservation Association 90th Anniversary Convoy.”
This revival (tribute?) convoy sounds like it could be a hoot, a lark, a very cool adventure. Also: an organizational nightmare, a constant road blocker, a cross-country trip in a line of unchanging traffic made up of vintage vehicles that may develop all sorts of troubles. But why not? And the organizers timed it to be here in South Bend for the Lincoln Highway conference. With a parade on Friday morning!
That was just one of the many other amazing events and activities that were all put together by the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association for the edification of their fellow members. Let’s face it: it was a great conference.
Anyway, at this dinner, they give out awards. Awards to thank state organizations for outstanding work. Awards to state directors for things they’ve done. (Jerry Peppers got one for the work he did in New York City this year.)
Various awards for various people. (The conference organizers, Bill Arick and Jan Shupert-Arick, were recognized as well as all their loyal and wonderful Hoosier helpers who got this wingding together.)
And the #1 Cool Thing About The Lincoln Highway Conference in South Bend: they gave me an award for producing the PBS program called A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY. I wish Bob and Glenn and Jarrett and Kevin and Matt and Paula and Frank and Buddy Nutt could all have been there too. It’s always nice to be recognized for your work, but I don’t do any of this by myself.
Nonetheless, the award I got was the first Gregory Franzwa Award, established in honor of one of the leaders of this organization who died earlier this year. Gregory Franzwa was one of the organizers and instigators who got the new Lincoln Highway Association started in 1992. He was the first president of this new group, and he remained active over the years, editing the Lincoln Highway Forum magazine, writing extensively about the highway in a series of books that explained the highway and its history on a state by state basis.
As a regular reader of Brian Butko’s Lincoln Highway News blog, I remembered reading about Mr. Franzwa’s failing health and his passing (an apt term for a highway enthusiast!) and the tributes to him from other members and current LHA president Bob Dieterich. I’m sorry that our paths never crossed last year, but I’ve heard Jay Banta talk very fondly about Gregory Franzwa, always including the points that while their political philosophies were quite different, they both had no great affection for the Bush administration, and that Greg was a wonderful friend. And I’m encouraged that he and his small press were involved with many different national roads because I like to think that all this work on the Lincoln Highway is just a beginning.
I am delighted and inspired to receive an honor in memory of such a guy. I want to dub it “the Gregory.” (That way it sounds more like an Oscar or an Emmy, and “the Franzwa” sounds a bit odd.) It’s been established to recognize folks who help promote the Lincoln Highway and the Lincoln Highway Association, and if our show did some of that, hooray!
I think we all enjoy riding these old highways because we’ve been guided by wise men like Gregory Franzwa, and his passion for all these roads is worth preserving and carrying on. We do that by driving, by paying attention, by reading guides and histories about all aspects of the roads, and by recognizing how important these pathways are to all of us in America.