History’s little oddities: Our turn to brag
Nevada County claims many “firsts” in mining technology. We are exceptionally proud of our railroad heritage, of our pioneering long distance telephony and Lake City’s yacht club. Nevada City’s Fathers Day bicycle race is the second oldest in the United States and, according to many riders, the toughest two previous race contestants have gone on to win the prestigious Tour de France. Probably the least known of our superlatives is Nevada City’s claim to the “widest street in the world!” To this end, I checked the Guinness Book of World Records online and found no category listed for “widest street.” Therefore, Nevada City’s claim must be valid! To explain …
For many years Nevada City residents could boast that their town had the widest street in the known world. They pointed with pride to the black and white enameled AAA road signs on Broad Street near City Hall and across at the intersection of York Street.
Through the years, until completion of the Golden Center Freeway in 1968, portions of State Sign Routes 49 and 20, traversed various Nevada City streets. At one time 49-20’s route flowed west on Broad Street. At the intersection York, signs directed the motorist to SSR 20, then called the Tahoe-Ukiah Highway, and off to Truckee and Lake Tahoe.
Now, here’s where the fun begins! From the pictured sign in front of the H&P Food Store (top left), across fewer than 100 actual feet of street to the sign under and right of the Variety Save More sign, (bottom left) is the distance a person must travel to get from one side of Broad Street to the other. Voila! That distance is one mile as it relates to Truckee. For whatever reason, the distance to the little town of Washington remains constant.
Additionally the American Automobile Association denies any notion of a conspiracy to fix distances. Nevertheless the good folk of Washington, Nevada County, did celebrate the fact that their town had the common sense to stay put!
What, you ask is going on in the large photograph? It is June 1961, and we see a portion of the first Tour of Nevada City bicycle race. Notice the sparse audience, which consisted mainly of racers’ friends, family and a few curious locals. That race was won by Los Gatos schoolteacher Bob Tetzlaff (top right), left, with the race’s originator Charles Allert. Tetzlaff also won the second race.
The first seven Nevada City bicycle races produced only two winners. Tetzlaff the first two and Bob Parsons (bottom right) won the next five consecutive races from 1963 thru 1967, a feat likened to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and quite possibly unbreakable.
Bob Wyckoff is a retired Nevada County newspaper editor/publisher and author of local history books available at your favorite local bookstore.
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