Father of the Trans-Canada Highway, Dr. Doolittle remembered with achievement award
To honour his drive across the country, the Canadian Council of Laboratories held a celebration and presented a plaque to Dr. Perry Doolittle's great-grandchildren in Halifax this week.
He’s known as the father of the Trans-Canada Highway’s cross-country excursion. Doolittle was the first person to drive a Ford Model T across the nation in September, 1925. He made his way across the country campaigning for construction of the highway.
"Today people get in the car, and they drive from city to city, and it's pretty routine. Back in those days, it was not routine,” says Derwyn Reuber of the Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories. “It was quite innovative to be able to do that, to have a car that you own, and go visit someone in another city, so I think it was pretty significant.”
Doolittle’s great-granddaughter Ruth Young says she believes her great-grandfather achieved his lifetime goal.
“I'm so impressed by what he accomplished, his lifelong dream was to see that the Trans-Canada would be built,” she says.
Derwyn says a cross country road trip would’ve been much more challenging in Doolittle’s days than it is now.
"The road systems back then were pretty inconsistent and to make a trip like that under conditions that he had to make, took a lot of dedication, it was not an easy trip,” Derwyn says.
In the 1920s’ it was necessary to put flanged wheels on cars so they could travel on railway tracks.
“The Ford Motor Company commissioned him to do this, he loved cars, he loved adventure, he had a goal of bringing Canadians closer together,” says Young.
Derwyn says it’s thanks to Doolittle’s commitment to his journey that Canadians are more easily connected now.
“He was committed to having a national highway system and he felt that it was good for all society and the only way to get people's attention for the need was to make that trip,” Derwyn says.
Young says any trip down the highway continues to keep her great-grandfather’s memory alive.
“As children, we travelled from Buffalo, New York to Cape Breton Island every summer to our summer home and whenever we saw the green and white maple leaf logo signifying we were on the Trans-Canada it was always a big deal, then the stories would start about his life,” she says.
Doolittle died in 1933, and didn’t live to see the Trans-Canada Highway built. It wasn’t until 1971 that the billion dollar highway was officially completed.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.