By Jim Kennedy
4:23 PM EDT, September 10, 2012
At the I-95 bridge over Little Gunpowder Falls, the boundary separating Baltimore and Harford counties, there are new welcome signs.
Commuting to the south, the sign on the Harford County side, as of this writing is complete. It's the one that welcomes commuters to Baltimore County, passers-through and people whose destination actually is Baltimore County.
On the return trip, the sign in Baltimore County is incomplete. It's the one that welcomes me back to Harford County. As of this writing, the Harford County welcome sign is incomplete as it is missing the county seal; presumably this will be affixed to the sign in short order. To be fair, the Baltimore County seal was a few weeks in coming to the Baltimore County sign.
Like just about everyone who has ever gone on vacation by car, I've seen my share of welcome to signs, and more than a few of their reverse sides, the signs that say things like "Y'all come back now," "Hope you enjoyed your visit" and the like. Typically, state governments are the only ones with enough money to waste on signs wishing people farewell. I'm guessing I have a lot in common with other drivers when I say I'm either coming back or I'm not, and it doesn't have anything to do with how nice the comments are on the sign that I see when I'm leaving. The bottom line is I'm either happy to come back, or pleased that I'm seeing some forlorn piece of real estate in my rearview mirror for the last time.
Traveling through most of the country, at least the 20 some states that I've been in, most of the local signs denote moving from county to county or into big towns and cities, but there are places like Pennsylvania where every few thousand yards there's a sign denoting a different town, township, borough, berg or Podunk.
Be they big or small, flashy or weather-beaten, or even emblazoned with things like "Armaments and agriculture," "Steam City" or "Not the Birthplace and Boyhood Home of Jim Thorpe," seeing the signs does nothing for me. I feel no different in crossing the border of Maryland into Delaware than I do driving on a section of back road in the middle of Jefferson County, New York.
Granted, it's always nice to know where you are, that way you can check on a map (if you're like me) or GPS (if you're like my wife) to see if you're lost. Then again, the route numbers and street names are a better indication of location when traveling, except for the state routes that change when you cross from one state into another.
So back to the new signs on I-95 at Little Gunpowder Falls. The new Baltimore County seal is large enough that it appears to be a circular reduction of the state flag. Curiously, it's not a re-working of the Baltimore County flag, which is a lot like the Maryland flag, except the red and white quads of the state flag, the Crossland family symbol, replaced with an ox-drawn plow in one and a cog in the other, presumably symbolic of agriculture and industry, never mind the slight to the family of the matriarch of the lords Baltimore.
Presumably, the Harford seal will be the one that features a shield with three wavy blue bands through the middle and a quill and sword above the shield. The blue bands signify the three major creeks that run through the county proper (Deer Creek, Winters Run and Bynum Run, though curiously not Broad Creek or Little Gunpowder Falls). The symbolic qualities of quill and sword should be fairly obvious.
So do we really need these seals on the I-95 signs at county borders? Are the signs even necessary?
I guess it's nice to have them, even if the seals are a little on the small side, especially when viewed at 65 mph.
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