Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

End of an Era: Our friend Bernie Queneau

December 8, 2014



The Boy Scout Safety Tour visited the Linn County Courthouse, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on July 19, 1928. From left, Carl Zapffe, Edward Pratt, Mark Hughes, driver Reese Davis, Bernard Queneau, BSA Tour Manager Charles Mills, BSA Director of Demonstrations Reno Lombardi, and their Reo Speed Wagon.


If you attended a Lincoln Highway event in the past decade, you know there was only one celebrity who fans waited to see: Bernie Queneau, with his deep voice and big smile. Of course, his world was much larger than the Lincoln Highway. When I last spoke with him, an interview actually, he asked if we could talk about something else. “There was more to my life than that trip” he said, not grouchy but proudly.

Still, to Lincoln Highway fans he will always be the Scout on the 1928 coast-to-coast Safety Tour, the last connection to a long-gone era when Model T’s dominated the dusty/muddy, roads.

Bernie was born in Liege, Belgium, on July 14, 1912—Bastille Day he liked to point out—two months before Carl Fisher gathered auto industry friends to propose his crazy cross-country highway idea. Bernie had vague memories of WWI, and then at 13, his family moved to Minneapolis. Thanks to his advanced education, they made him a high school sophomore. His family moved again to New Rochelle, New Jersey, where he graduated in 1928 at age 15.

He entered a contest for Eagle Scouts to go to Africa and was one of seven finalists. After three were chosen, Bernie and the remaining three were offered a tour along the Lincoln Highway that would promote both Scouting and the road itself, which was being superseded (as were all named trails) by the Federal highway numbering system. Much of the Lincoln Highway from Pennsylvania to Wyoming was marked as U.S. 30, but they were different paths, and many bypassed parts of the Lincoln never did receive a number. Those are the parts the Scouts would have traveled.

I first met Bernie when LHA President Esther Oyster tracked him down in 1997. I was a founding director of the LHA and had published my first book about the road the year before. Esther was looking for a special speaker at the upcoming LHA conference in Ohio and was surprised to find one of the Scouts still living. Bernie was 84 and here in my hometown of Pittsburgh. She arranged for us to interview him on March 20 at my workplace, the Senator John Heinz History Center, where I still work. Bernie was amazed that anyone had heard of his road trip seven decades earlier, let alone might be interested in it.

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Esther and Bernie at the fun, informal premier of Rick Sebak’s PBS program about the Lincoln Highway. Sebak’s impromptu showing of clips on the wall pleased fans crowded into the Road Toad near Ligonier, Pa., September 20, 2008.

Esther and Bernie met again at the 2002 LHA conference in San Francisco, where he dedicated a replacement marker at the Western Terminus, and a few months later they invited me to lunch. Plans were made for the William Penn Hotel, a prestigious venue in downtown Pittsburgh, opened 1916. We three reunited at the History Center, and as we walked outside I asked Bernie where he was parked. “We’ll walk” he said and for the next seven blocks it was hard to keep up with this sprightly 90-year-old! Their treat that day was to tell me they’d gotten engaged!

Bernie liked to joke about meeting Esther’s family, that they teased him whether he had any piercings or if he worried about being 12 years older. He joked back that he thought Esther would be sufficiently mature. They were married and in Summer 2003 they re-drove his trip across the country with an LHA tour group that celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, the 75th anniversary of the Scout trip, and their marriage.

Every few years our paths would cross, usually at a Lincoln Highway event. Last year, after a historical society evening banquet, the older audience was ready to go home, but Bernie ordered another bottle of wine. After lunch just a few months ago, he jumped behind the wheel of his new car and drove Esther home on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, Pittsburgh’s frantic 4-lane successor to the old Lincoln Highway through town.

The History Center will open a WWII exhibit next Spring, hence my invitation to Bernie for another oral history. The three of us met up here once again, and for a couple hours he held us spellbound with first-hand recollections of being in the Navy 1939-1946. He used his Ph.D. in Metallurgy to investigate many important applications, from oxygen tanks to aircraft armor to improved ballistics. After the war, he joined U. S. Steel, rising in 1970 to General Manager Quality Assurance for the entire company, which was producing 25 million tons of steel a year. He retired in 1977 only to become a Consulting Engineer, not really retiring for another decade.

Of course, even real retirement for Bernie was busier than a workday for the rest of us. He volunteered for Meals on Wheels, as a hospital escort, and more recently at the used book store at his nearby Mt. Lebanon Library. He and Esther saw a great deal of the world together. He was even a bit late to his own big 100th birthday party, having toured the city all day.

On Saturday, December 6, 2014, he was bestowed the rare Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for outstanding career achievement, on Esther’s 90th birthday. He passed away hours later, on Sunday, Pearl Harbor Day.

There is so much more to his life but it’s the Scout trip that always fascinated Lincoln Highway fans. His 1928 diary holds the precious insights of a teenager on an arduous and monotonous trip.

In New Jersey: “We saw the mayor and veteran of Civil War…. we did over 60 on the crowded highway.”

“Ohio is full of pigs, cattle, bad roads, and rain.”

And Utah: “On and on and on over the worst U.S. route I ever hope to see.”

We’ll miss his honesty, his thoughtful observations, his sense of humor, his love of history and good food. Most of all, I will miss his steady demeanor behind all those other things. As Esther likes to say, he was an old-school gentleman. When in his company, you felt you should do better too, be a better person … and be at least half as active. We’ll miss Bernie but he surely has 102 years of friends waiting for him….

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Tired Scouts in a Hudson convertible on the long trip home. Bernie is at right.


Ceremony Saturday for Abe Lincoln statue in NJ

February 11, 2011

On Saturday, February 12, 2011, noon, an annual ceremony will be held along the Lincoln Highway at the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the entrance of Lincoln Park, Kennedy Boulevard and Belmont Avenue in Jersey City. Lincoln Association VP Michael Ricciardone will host the ceremony, and Past President Dr. Jules Ladenheim will recite a letter or speech of President Lincoln. A local chorale will provide patriotic music, and the ceremony will conclude with a placing of a wreath at the monument. At 6 pm, the Association will host the One Hundred Forty-Sixth Annual Dinner at the Casino in the Park, Lincoln Park, Jersey City.

Lincoln Highway diner demolished (?) in NJ

December 9, 2010

UPDATE: The local newspaper now reports the diner was moved to Pennsylvania.

A vintage diner along the Lincoln Highway in New Brunswick, NJ, has been demolished, reportedly on December 7, 2010. The 1941 Fodero-brand Mack’s Diner stopped serving food in 1968. It became a grocery, then was bought in 1976 for $7,250 and operated as All Ears’ Records until criminal activity closed that business in 2005.

A 2008 article in noted that owner Tareq Algharaybeh was hoping to find a buyer for the dilapidated diner:

Flanked by a record shop and a mini market on French between Seaman and Suydam streets, the Mack’s turquoise shell glimpsed daylight recently. Last month, the advertising posters that have for years obscured nearly its entire facade were taken down.

For about a week, the words “Mack” and “Diner,” on either side of the brick and aluminum portico tethered to the patina of decades, were again visible.

Inside, what appears to be the diner’s original tile and wood counter teeters against the test of time. But other than the ventilation hoods, stripped of their exhaust fans, little trace remains of the diner’s days and nights as a restaurant.

But Algharaybeh, who bought the diner two years ago, says it is otherwise sturdy…. Algharaybeh, who also owns and runs Sam’s Pizza and Chicken two blocks south on French Street, has little use for this period piece. With three years left on the lease for the pizza establishment, Algharaybeh wants to move that business, which he has operated for 20 years at French and Alexander streets, onto the Mack’s lot.

Edison Tower restoration continues in NJ

September 2, 2010

Al Pfingstl sent an update on the Edison Tower in Edison, New Jersey, the site of the inventor’s Menlo Park laboratory. It’s part of the 36-acre Edison State Park, which is also being rejuvenated to include a newly constructed museum (replacing a tiny one from 1947) and outdoor interpretive exhibits.

The building contractor has begun interior demolition. The old baseboard electrical heaters, some of which were almost falling off the wall, are being replaced. The original 1940s Men’s and Ladies’ rooms, neither of which met modern requirements for handicapped accessibility, are being gutted. By redesigning the restroom entrance location, architect Alice Deupree with the Jersey City firm of LWDMR & Associates PC, has combined the two original restrooms into one accessible unisex restroom. The existing floor is being removed for replacement with new flooring material.

However, an even newer update on the web site notes the uncovering of asbestos.

Built in 1937, the Edison Tower now suffers from crumbling concrete and was named by Preservation New Jersey as one of New Jersey’s Ten Most Endangered historic resources. Since 2006, over $3 million has been raised towards the Tower restoration and a new museum. One side of the park fronts the Lincoln Highway/NJ 27 but the tower and museum are accessed via Christie Street. Learn more about them at (source of the image below).

Celebration set for Lincoln statue in Jersey CIty

January 7, 2009

Al Pfingstl, NJ LHA director, writes about an annual celebration at the Abraham Lincoln statue located along the Lincoln Highway in Jersey City, as seen in his photo below. This year is special in that it’s the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

The Lincoln Association of Jersey City is the oldest organization in the country dedicated to the memory, preservation, and understanding of Abraham Lincoln and what he stood for. Begun in 1865, it was formally founded in 1867, 2 years after the death of the President and provides a forum to present scholarship concerning the life, career, and legacy of the 16th President of the United States. The Lincoln Association of Jersey City strives to promote fellowship as well as scholarship in the spirit of Lincoln.


On Thursday, February 12, 2009, at Noon at the statue of Lincoln at the entrance of Lincoln Park, Kennedy Boulevard, and Belmont Avenue in Jersey City, First Vice President Guy Catrillo will host the annual monument ceremony. Dr. Jules Ladenheim, a Past President of the Lincoln Association, will deliver one of President Lincoln’s memorable speeches. The ceremony will conclude with a placing of a wreath at the statue.

At 5:30 PM, the Association will host the 144th Annual Dinner at the Casino in the Park, with a featured speaker to be announced. Cost of the dinner is $60 if you reserve a space or $70 at the door.

To reserve a dinner spot or for more information contact or send a check with your name and the names of those attending, and your postal and e-mail addresses to the Secretary of the Lincoln Association, 9120 Columbia Ave., North Bergen NJ 07047.

Deco station a twin to Dunkle's Gulf in Bedford

December 10, 2008

Postcard expert Russell Rein picked up a 1930s postcard that shows a station near Asbury Park, New Jersey, that’s very similar to the well-known Dunkle’s Gulf along the Lincoln Highway in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Dunkle’s is a popular stop and an extremely rare survivor from that era — and they still pump gas!



Though it’s known that others were made in this c. 1930 style, no others are known to have survived. By the look of the Google satellite view, the one in New Jersey is gone too.


How to order your NJ Lincoln Highway book

September 12, 2008

Al Pfingstl reports that his new book about the Lincoln Highway in New Jersey is available from him for $19.95 + $3.00 shipping. That’s because Al is a one-man operation — writer, designer, publisher, and bookseller. His book arrived and it’s packed with info about towns, buildings, monuments, and markers. It’s broken into chapters by county and features some maps courtesy of MapQuest. Note that it does not include roadside businesses such as motels and diners but is rather a look at local history.

Al Pfingstl
83 Princeton Rd
Parlin, NJ 08859
(732) 721 9307

Book explores Lincoln Highway in New Jersey

September 4, 2008

Al Pfingstl, LHA NJ Chapter Director, has just completed Sixty-Three Miles of History: The Lincoln Highway in New Jersey. Al says it took him a year to compile, edit, format, and print the book.

“This endeavor was at the urging of my wife, after the passing of my dog ‘Winter’ who was my best friend, research assistant, and traveling partner along the Lincoln Highway. We both traveled on and visited sites as far west as Bedford, PA.”

We’ll let you know when the book, published by Winter Haven Publishing, is available for purchase.

Tunnel Diner in Jersey City slated for demolition

March 26, 2008

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor folks received word that the Tunnel Diner in Jersey City, New Jersey, is slated for demolition. This classic factory-built diner (1950s interior, 1960s redo outside) at 184 14th Street is along the later Lincoln Highway, once it was rerouted between New York City and New Jersey due to the opening of the Holland Tunnel in November 1927. It had closed in 2007. The cover of the album Tunnel Diner (by Steve Mackay and the Radon Ensemble on Qbico Records) shows one of the diner’s most memorable features, a vertical neon sign. The diner reportedly appeared in the 1996 film City Hall about the accidental shooting of a boy in New York City, with a cast headed by Al Pacino, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda, and Danny Aiello.


Anyone know more about the closing and scheduled demolition?

The Sky(way) is falling! Well, not yet anyhow.

January 8, 2008

An article in The New York Times examines the current state of the Pulaski Skyway, an overhead road that bypassed part of the Lincoln Highway in northern New Jersey in 1932. The 3-mile-long superhighway, named for Revolutionary War general Casimir Pulaski, was built to handle the traffic resulting from the opening of the Holland Tunnel in 1927. It carries traffic above the region’s heavy industrial and commercial areas. On its first day of operation, 48,611 cars used it; today the average is 85,000 according to the Department of Transportation. The skyway was an engineering marvel when opened in 1938: the American Institute of Steel Construction called it the most beautiful steel bridge, and it still is a grand structure. But its lanes are narrow, and after the tragic collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis that employed the same antiquated design, it’s again being reviewed. All of the 700-such bridges in the US lack a secondary support, “meaning that the failure of just one piece of steel could send them plummeting to the ground.”


NJ Governor Jon S. Corzine says that “instead of spending the $10 million a year now planned to keep the skyway safe and operational, it might be wiser to replace it,” but that would cost $1 billion. The bridge was inspected in spring 2007, but the NJ Department of Transportation, “citing security concerns, refused to release the records of that inspection or discuss whether the findings differed substantially from those of the previous inspection.” Another inspection was ordered after the Minneapolis collapse.

So the most recent data is from a 2004 inspection. On a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 being perfect and 0 requiring a shutdown, the skyway was rated 4 for the physical condition of its structural members and 5 for the physical condition of its piers and other substructure components.

According to the Times, “Those numbers are not dire. But the scores are similar to those assigned to the bridge in Minneapolis. It received a 4 for structure and 6 for substructure during its most recent inspection.” That makes it “structurally deficient” though “not a risk of imminent collapse.”

Although it is 35 years older than the Minneapolis span, it may actually be safer; since less was known about structural support then, more steel was often used than was needed. And because Jersey City banned trucks from the bridge in 1934, it’s taken less of a beating. That’s why officials want to assure drivers not to panic, that there’s plenty of time to plan for repairs or replacement. Let’s hope so.