Looking back

Going to town on Car-Census Day

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 1/22/20

Once a year in the 1940s, Anna Cooper sat on a front porch in Pea Brook, NY and counted cars. 

This was Car-Census Day, reported Ruthanne Nevin in The Echo (the Basket Historical …

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Looking back

Going to town on Car-Census Day

Posted

Once a year in the 1940s, Anna Cooper sat on a front porch in Pea Brook, NY and counted cars. 

This was Car-Census Day, reported Ruthanne Nevin in The Echo (the Basket Historical Society’s newsletter) in 1980. Basically, for eight hours Anna would count the cars that passed on Route 97. As in, “one…two….three…”

 “At first, she made a tally with pencil and paper, but in later years she was furnished with a ‘counter’ which she clicked every time a car passed,” Nevin wrote. 

The more cars that used a road, the better your budget for maintenance. Cars were counted each time they went by, even if it was the same car. Said Nevin, “Community members interested in the condition of their roads would plan their trips to town” for Car-Census Day.

This would matter for tiny Pea Brook, which is located between Long Eddy and Hancock.

Possibly sweetening the pot was Roosevelt’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944. It was supposed to create feeder roads in rural areas, which would channel traffic to larger highways, but would also improve rural mail service, school bus routes and would get food from farm to market. Seems like a busy road would be more likely to be a feeder road, which meant federal dollars, so the more trips to town, the better.

No idea if Pea Brook got any money from the census, but Route 97 through the town still exists. 

“Taking the Car-Census” ran in The Echo’s first issue. 

For information about the Basket Historical Society, call 845/887-6703.

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