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Published Thursday, October 25, 2001

Man's journey takes on special meaning
Fire truck trip commemorates Lincoln Highway, firefighters


Last modified at 12:05 a.m. on Thursday, October 25, 2001
 
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photo: news
Independent/Scott Kingsley
Craig Harmon, founder and director of the Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives in Galion, Ohio, raises an American flag attached to the 100-foot ladder of the 1964 Maxim fire truck. Harmon began his trip more than a year ago to celebrate The Lincoln Highway and it has since evolved into a trip that also honors firefighters.

By Harold Reutter
hreutter@theindependent.com

A journey that began more than a year ago to celebrate the Lincoln Highway has evolved into a trip that also honors firefighters, especially New York City firefighters.

Craig Harmon, founder and director of the Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives in Galion, Ohio, is driving an open-cab 1964 Maxim fire truck with a 100-foot ladder across the country.

He visited two Grand Island fire stations and a school on Wednesday.

He calls the Lincoln Highway, which stretches from New York City to San Francisco, "a living memorial" to Abraham Lincoln.

Harmon began his cross-country trip on July 29, 2000, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and then drove to New York City.

There, he took a nighttime photo of his fire truck with an upraised American flag against a backdrop of a Manhattan skyline featuring the lighted twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Harmon had intended to complete his trip last year as a celebration of the 85th anniversary of the 1915 Lincoln Highway Film and Flag trip.

photo: news
Independent/Scott Kingsley
Craig Harmon, founder and director of the Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives in Galion, Ohio, holds a giant American flag in preparation of raising it to the sky on the ladder of his 1964 Maxim fire truck.

During his trip, he planned to raise a large American flag and a Lincoln Highway flag in each of the 450 towns along the route but only made it as far as Irwin, Pa.

Harmon resumed his travels this year as part of a trip he is calling "The Unfinished Journey."

As he travels, Harmon is collecting information about the Lincoln Highway and its towns.

Central City, he noted, is one of only two cities that had a convention or meeting to ratify the Lincoln Highway Proclamation.

Grand Island had a double parade on Oct. 31, 1913, to dedicate the Lincoln Highway and also the war memorial statue on the east side of the Hall County Courthouse, he said.

The Grand Island Independent published several articles leading up to the event, including one which quoted a Salt Like City minister's sermon.

That minister said, "It (the highway) brings back to us the lank figure of the growing boy walking the country roadway with borrowed books; the dreaming out, surveying and building his highway of the soul.''

Since Sept. 11, Harmon also has used the trip to honor firefighters.

Harmon collected numerous Grand Island firefighters' signatures on a Grand Island Fire Department helmet Wednesday. While in Nebraska, he has gathered signed firefighter helmets from many communities, including Central City, Clarks, Silver Creek, Cedar Rapids and Chapman.

Harmon is not only collecting memorabilia but also carrying it down the highway. He has a small framed photo of Abraham Lincoln with a lock of Lincoln's hair in the opposite frame. He borrowed the item from a museum.

"It's quite an honor, really," he said. "Mr. Lincoln never got across the country."

Harmon stopped Wednesday at Seedling Mile Elementary School, located on Seedling Mile Road.

Seedling Mile Road was the highway's first "seedling mile" in Nebraska, with a mile-long stretch of paved road on the south side of the school. That section is no longer part of the Lincoln Highway, which most people now know as Highway 30. Highway 30 is north of Seedling Mile Elementary.

Harmon also stopped at Stuhr Museum after learning that it had historical materials about the Lincoln Highway.

"I found some significant photos of the Lincoln Highway," he said.

He also visited Grand Island resident Mary Elizabeth Anderson, who wrote a children's book about the historic Lincoln Highway called "Link Across America."

Unscheduled side trips have been a regular part of his trek, Harmon said. Every time he talks to somebody, he finds out about another person or institution with information about the Lincoln Highway.

"It's one exciting thing after another," he said.

Harmon wants to reach San Francisco in six weeks. After he arrives, he hopes to get his fire truck loaded on a flat-bed railroad car for a return visit to New York City.

He'd like to raise his flags again near the site of the former World Trade Center and honor firefighters there by presenting mementos from his trip to New York City fire officials.


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