Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Life’s come a long way since work first began on ‘The Slab’

My steady boyfriend was an engineering student at Missouri University. "Chub" and I kept putting away a few dollars every week "for a trip to California."

We knew that marriage was for later and used our money only for things we were sure to need: a good set of woodworking tools for Chub, a Pekingese puppy for me and money in a joint account in Postal Savings for us both.

He had bought a used truck for his self-made job of hauling big cans of fresh milk from neighbors’ farms to retail dairies in Columbia.

Chub’s family responsibilities were overwhelming and, when I was a journalism student, I made less than $3 for each time I fiddled for a square dance, so I sometimes carried food and drink at the Coronoda when they needed me.

Suddenly there was a need for a physical education teacher, part time, at Christian College. My instructors at the university recommended me while I was still in journalism at MU. I taught tennis and team sports the first year to get my foot in Christian College’s door. Later, I taught swimming there in the beautiful white-tiled swimming pool and dressing area for 33 years!

Eugene Briggs was college president when I asked, "Would it be all right for me to marry Walter Frank Gerard during Christian’s three-week Christmas vacation?"

I almost kissed Briggs when he said, "A married teacher is a better teacher, and I wish you and Chub many happy years together."

Years later, we finally made that trip to California, camping a lot and enjoying it enough to go again, not camping but taking Chub’s parents, Albert and Nellie Gerard, to visit their relatives near Los Angeles.

We had two great children and more than 60 wonderful years together before Chub’s last illness in l998.

Our children are Nancy Russell, teacher, writer and antiques dealer; and Walt Johnson-Gerard, a successful bike shop dealer who discovered more rewards in helping people with mobility problems get the most possible out of their lives. They both live in the Columbia area and are very helpful to me as I gnaw into my 90s.

I had never seen men and machines working to pave a continuous slab that reached all of the way across the United States from New York to Los Angeles. I was curious about how the sand, gravel and cement were mixed and spread. The only way I had seen concrete mixed was to stir it in a low, flat box with hoes and shovels.

East of Columbia, we saw an endless ribbon of concrete come oozing out of the front of a machine that crept along at a snail’s pace. This cross-country slab followed close to the old road we called Fulton Gravel Road. It was called "the shortest route from New York to Los Angeles," and it became a very busy route, as we all know.

Last week, proposals for new routes east of Columbia were discussed and changes proposed by people who use these routes. Few people know it was Fulton Gravel Road. Few take time to see farms with black-and-white dairy cows on lush green pastures.

I’ve not forgotten seeing mules pull road graders and men pay their poll tax with mules and gravel wagons, shaking the sand and rocks to unload those special gravel wagons with movable boards in the bottom.

The times, they keep a’ changin’.

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