A good friend who recently was transported to DeLand from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach commented that on the ride she felt every clackity-clack of International Speedway Boulevard in her spine and was glad to see the end approaching at Woodland Boulevard.
Yet another view was offered on Facebook by a poster who said she loves the sound of that clackity-clack because when she hears it, she knows she “is coming home.”
I’ve seen so many versions of that road over the years that I love it simply for the memories it evokes.
For starters, it didn’t exist when my family moved here in 1901. In fact, in 1901, there were only about 125-150 miles of paved roads in the entire United States. I’m not making that up! Who had a car, anyway? Very few. That was the year the first “horseless carriage” arrived in Daytona Beach.
There were trails, of course. Sandy trails. And that was what was between DeLand and Daytona. And, the sandy trail went through a couple of swamps, so a boat was just about as good as a wagon. It took about 12 hours round-trip.
Since DeLand was the county seat, you would think the people in Daytona Beach would have been interested in having a real road, wouldn’t you? After all, they had to travel over here to do their court business.
That’s what Granddad Landis and his buddies Sam Jordan, C.C. Codrington, R.C. Bushnell and V.W. Gould Sr. thought.
Fired up by a government-highway expert from Washington, D.C., named Spoon, they hired a rig and a couple of horses from Cannon Livery on Florida Avenue, right where the Athens Theatre is today.
Off they went at the crack of dawn, slogging their way through Deep Creek and Tiger Bay, and arriving in Daytona around noon.
They were greeted by a Mr. Burgoyne, a Daytona pioneer who gave them an automobile ride at a mind-blowing 5 mph around the city that now had a population of about 1,700.
But that’s as good as it got, because the Daytona Beach city fathers saw utterly no merit whatsoever in helping to build a road between the two towns.
Downhearted, back came the DeLandites, starting around 3 p.m. By the time they reached the swamps, dark had fallen, and so did one of the horses. Dropped dead! They unhitched the other horse and sent one member of the party on to DeLand to get a second horse, while the others lit a fire and settled into a night in the swamp, battling the mosquitoes.
They all got home about daybreak, a full 24 hours from when they had left. I cannot even imagine what Grandmama had to say.
By the time I came along in the early 1930s, there was a good road to Daytona, but it didn’t follow the current route of U.S. Highway 92. From the DeLand side, it was laid with a scant lane of red brick that began at the current intersection of Old Daytona Highway and U.S. Highway 17.
It was named the Pershing Highway to honor the World War I hero. The speed limit was 45 mph, and there was an orange-juice stand and filling station where we began our eastward trek. In fact, the whole area was covered by orange groves; the Nordman groves, with a row of beehives, filled the land west of U.S. 17.
If you think the current clackity-clack of the cement highway is unnerving, you haven’t ridden a brick road for any distance. The Florida sand had a way of sucking away at those bricks, buckling some and boosting others. But there are still remnants of that road intact, nearly a century later.
During World War II, there was a kiosk by the road where sailors at the DeLand Naval Air Station could hitch a ride. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic because gasoline was rationed, but if you were going to the beach for any reason, you picked up one of these fellows. It was your patriotic duty!
At some point after the war, the road was moved to its new location. Later still, it was widened into two and then into four lanes. And, when I returned to DeLand in 1999, it was a totally different scene.
Now I can get from DeLand to Daytona Beach International Airport in a little better than 20 minutes. For that wonderful privilege, I can handle a lot of clackety-clacks!
— Bohon’s grandfather, Cary D. Landis, who came from Indiana to DeLand to start a law school for Stetson University, was among the founders of the Landis Graham French law firm that still serves Volusia County today. Her father, Erskine Landis, also was a lawyer with the firm.