George Preston – A True Lincoln Highway Icon

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

Long before the conception of the National Lincoln Highway Association, as we spoke of in my last post, a character from Eastern Iowa was telling the story of the Lincoln Highway.  His name was George Preston.

george

George Preston was a self-promoter of that great road, the Lincoln Highway, and his own gas station, which is located along the Highway in Belle Plaine, Iowa. I personally met this iconic character back for the first time in 1990, around the same time he made his debut on the Johnny Carson Show. George was a collector who was proud of his finds and showed every individual each unique piece he had found over the years.

The last time I sat with Mr. Preston to hear his tales of the road was in the Spring of 1992.  His tales wound far and wide, bringing those who would listen deep into the story and making it hard for anyone, including myself, to want to leave. On this last occasion, George was promoting one of those cassette tapes of his very own work.  He asked me to buy one, and as I listened, I learned he had recorded himself rapping along to Burma Shave slogans. These slogans were put along the road to match the rhythms you would feel as you travelled along. As you drove, you would see such signs as: “When you grow old/And thin/Your head grows bald/But not your chin/BURMA SHAVE.” Now just imagine this fellow friend of the road rapping out to such a tune.

For a mere five dollars, I was able to own this lyrical treasure. Back then, a cassette tape was usually not quite as much, so I told George that five dollars was a bit high, but he assured me that the money was going to the restoration of his gas station.

This past year, I decided to create a George Preston likeness, and using the cassette tape I had purchased those many years ago, I created an interactive musical menagerie where anyone who visited the national Lincoln Highway conference could experience his talent.

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I unveiled this mechanical wonder to the public at the conference for all to experience In present day, it stands proudly in our humble museum in Grand Junction, Iowa, for all who visit to push the button and enjoy.

If you ever find yourselves traveling through Grand Junction, stop and get a few words of advice from my fellow friend of the road, Mr. George Preston.  It is a musical moment none should miss.

From the Open Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

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