Remembering JFK cutting the ribbon to open the Northeastern Expressway

My parents were not of the same political persuasion even though they voted in the same primary. Daddy was a Johnson Democrat, and Mother was a Kennedy Democrat. Daddy held his convictions quietly, but not Mother.

She organized coffees and got out the vote. Home raising four children, she made phone calls, hundreds of them. So when the alert came to Harford County that President Kennedy would come to the Maryland-Delaware line to open the Northeastern Expressway himself, she got the word. Amazed that she would take us out of school, Beth from Bakerfield Elementary, Jimmy from Aberdeen Junior High and me from Aberdeen High (Mary Helen was a freshman at College Park by then), we accompanied her to the ribbon cutting.

There was quite a crowd. The day was cold and cloudy. There were police mounted on horseback. I wasn't any taller than I am now, so I had to tiptoe to see the President as he left the helicopter, walked through the crowd smiling and shook hands.

He was wearing a topcoat but not a hat. We were behind a chain link fence not 20 yards away. We turned to the left as he approached the dais, also only several yards away. The dignitaries were men we knew: State Senator William S. James, County Commissioner Tommy Hatem, gentle and cordial as always, and future U.S. Senator Joe Tydings.

Gov. Millard Tawes presided, and the President snipped the wide yellow satin ribbon.

We needed the new highway. Route 40, having subsumed Front Street in Aberdeen a generation before, had gotten bogged down in commerce. And the segregation of its diners and inns brought us bad press, even in Life Magazine.

The boulevard no longer served our transportation needs. That next Sunday, Daddy paid the dollar toll and took us for a drive. There was hardly another car on the road. It was like Route 301 in Kent County is now.

Would Mother be amazed at today's traffic jams at White Marsh, then a swamp; or at Joppatowne, the county's first planned unit development, then barely under construction; or at Aberdeen, a farming town consumed by the Army?

No. Mother, who taught citizenship to immigrants at Bata Shoe Company and the Proving Ground, had a sense of history. She knew the megalopolis was coming. She had explained it to us then, back in the early '60s.

A lifelong resident of Aberdeen, Barbara Osborn Kreamer is a former Harford County councilwoman, Maryland state delegate and school teacher.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad