New Book Explores Massachusetts' Route 20
'Massachusetts does not lack for interesting places,' author says.
A new book about such Massachusetts Route 20 landmarks as Shrewsbury's Hebert Candy Mansion -- "America's first roadside candy store" -- started with a joke, author Michael Till says.
Till grew up in Iowa on Highway 20, which crosses the nation, and says,"Our joke in high school was, 'What was the best thing that ever came out of Independence, Iowa? Highway 20.'"
"We couldn't wait to get out of there. But, I've always retained an interest in the road," Till said during a recent book signing at Westborough's Tatnuck Bookseller.
"Along Massachusetts's Historic Route 20" is meant as part of a series on the road, each book covering Route 20 in that particular state, Till said.
Till said he and his wife began collecting postcards 10 to 12 years ago. Now, they have more than 2,500 cards.
"We thought, 'We've enjoyed it. There must be other people in the world that enjoy seeing what the road looked like,'" he said.
"The original road is over 90 percent in tact, and you can still follow it."
Till said that "a lot of people don't realize that Highway 20 is the longest of all the original federal highways: 3,365 miles."
"It goes from Kenmore Square, across 12 states and ends up in Newport, Oreg., on the Pacific Ocean," said Till, a Minnesota resident.
Much of Route 20 from here to Springfield was "laid out by Benjamin Franklin," he said.
Franklin created an odometer for his carriage, Till noted.
"As he rode along what became the Boston Post Road, every time he got a mile, they'd pound in a stake. Workers would come along later and erected a stone milestone. That was used not only to determine how far it was, but even more importantly, to determine how much postage to charge," he said.
Besides the Hebert store, the Longfellow Wayside Inn in Sudbury and Old Sturbridge Village are among the landmarks on Massachusetts' Route 20, Till said.
"Massachusetts does not lack for interesting places," he said.
Till said he hopes the book "rekindles people's interest in the road."
"I hope that people will get a sense of nostalgia. And for a grandparent to possibly point out to their grandchildren, 'This is the way it was when I was a little kid,'" he said.
"It's dedicated to everyone who remembers being in the back seat of the family car before the days of DVDs and iPods, when you had to look on the right and on the left to see who counted the most cows."
What are your favorite memories of Route 20? Share them in the comments section below.