Dear out-of-towners,

There are a number of you in town this week for the world’s largest Independence Day rodeo, and we welcome you and your spending money.  Potterville is the place to be for PRCA action this week!

But, please:  if you stop a local to ask for directions, try to listen to us and answer our questions so that we can help you find your way around.  Some urban planning genius back in the ninteenth century decided that it was a terrific idea to name our avenues (the North-South axes) and streets (the East-West axes) by the same damn numbers, so when we ask you which “twentieth” you want, don’t scream at us “Twentieth!  The road!” as though we’re daft.  And when we point out that the name of the place you’re looking for is associated with a geographical formation on the other side of town (such as, for example, “Two Rivers,” which usually refers to the southwest edge of town, don’t insist that you’re on the right side of town just because “we were there last night!!!”

After all:  I’m not the one who doesn’t know where she’s going.  I drove right past the place you were looking for, and as I suspected, you were on the wrong side of town, about 7 miles northwest of where you wanted to be.


Your pal,


12 thoughts on “Dear out-of-towners,

  1. This reminds me of an encounter some years ago, when a young Japanese woman stopped me in the 700 block of Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, and wanted to know how to find an address – when I looked at her paper, I could see that she was looking for a business in the 700 block of Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles – same road but different numbering system, and about 15 miles away, probably 30 minutes minimum by car. Her English was not great, and she either didn’t understand or refused to believe me when I tried to explain that she was not even in the right city. She went on to stop the next person who came along. I don’t know if she ever got to her destination.

    Local duplicate names and numbers etc. can be so confusing! There are several like this in LA, which geographically surrounds smaller cities like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, which insist on their own numbers once a street crosses the border between cities.


  2. In one of the two towns I sometimes live in, 45th St. and 43rd St. come together in a sharp point, forcing 44th to screech to a halt like an ice cream truck cut off between two converging cement trucks. In the other, 9th St. tees into 6th. 7th and 8th got lost that far up years ago and nobody knows where to look for them. Fortunately, we don’t drive steers through either of these places, so the downside element is somewhat limited. And don’t get me started on Columbus, Ohio, which has a whole range of numbers stretching along something called “East North Broad Street,” where you’ll never locate the branch of your Fifth Third Bank!!


  3. The same numbers for both streets and avenues is a terrific way to screw up what should be a completely transparent and rational grid plan. But then, I’ve heard that the Town Fathers back in the 1870s and 1880s never seriously thought that Potterville would extend west of 14th Ave., so maybe they thought it would be more like NYC? (Horace Potterville was the editor of the New York Tribune who sent Nathan Meeker out here to found a garden in a desert way back when. . .)


  4. William Penn almost screwed up the original American grid plan by assuming that half of his investors wouldn’t mind getting their “free” town plots on Schuylkill Front Street (right out my back window), instead of Delaware, which would be followed by Schuylkill Second Street, Third Street, etc. and that the town would slowly grow together back-to-back as the two “half grids” met at Broad Street. (About in time to import some English Mummers for a mid-winter parade). The investors laughed him right out of town.

    Old Man Potter situated the Trib at a place in New York where a diagonal alley, Broadway I think, slashes awkwardly through the grid. With humans, students, and other ruminants wandering around, you just can’t win with a grid.


  5. Ha! Yes, here in DC, we have numbered streets going out both directions east-west from the Capitol, and lettered streets going out both directions north-south from the Capitol. Which means the same street address can be in FOUR SEPARATE PLACES if you don’t know which quadrant you’re supposed to be in.

    And of course, this is invisible to tourists, of which we have many.


  6. I must confess that each time I am in Potterville it takes me many days to remember which way the Aves go and which way the Sts go. I have the same problem with more than 2 light switches on a plate, too. I lived in a house for almost 20 years and could never remember which of the 3 switches went to which light. But, in my defense, I must say that I can fight my way out of a paper bag.


  7. St Louis is another city with a semi grid. The original city (the present downtown) was a square two miles on a side, divided into 24 blocks on a side, with NS numbered streets and EW streets named for trees (Olive, Locust, Pine, Chestnut). If they had stuck to that, we would be ok, but the curve of the river interferes, and urban renewal scooped out big chunks; for example, the ground occupied by the Arch used to be 1st through 3rd streets. Outside downtown, it gets even weirder, because St Louis annexed smaller towns as it grew, each with its own, slightly different grid.

    I don’t know how tourists do it, it took me a year to work it out.


  8. For the first 7 years of my life, I grew up on a house halfway between Going street and Going place. I thought it was funny (and easy to remember for a first-grader, so yay, that). But by the time I turned seven, I was already tired of the “going, going, gone!” jokes that every single bus driver had to make when I told them my stop.


  9. Wow–I live on a corner like that, Notorious, with (let’s call it) Blibbityblab Boulevard and Blibbityblab Road. But that’s not as funny as the intersection of the Goings.

    Couldn’t the town mothers and fathers come up with any more interesting street names? Srsly? Is it that difficult to think up new and interesting street names?


  10. There’s actually a thread on a noirish blog called “The Fedora Lounge” entitled “Famous Intersections.” I learned this when I googled to double-check on my memory of a New Yorker cartoon in which a very pickled drunk late at night looks out of a phone booth and tells his would be ride that he’s “at the corner of Telephone and Telephone…” GPS before the era of the smart phone.


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