By Grant McGee: Local columnist
I drove through Clovis’ new roundabout for the first time last Saturday when The Lady of the House and I were on our way to Colonial Park in search of yard sales.
Nothing weird happened. No bands played. Nobody stood smiling by the side of the road to hand out gold stars. I noticed we could proceed through the intersection of Norris and Llano Estacado without worrying about dipping and scraping the car bottom.
To some, the new traffic feature is a totally alien thing. To others, the roundabout is something that adds a cosmopolitan touch to our burg on the High Plains.
Let me tell you about some traffic circles and roundabouts I have known:
There’s DuPont Circle in Washington, D. C. As a boy, my folks and I stayed at a hotel in a room that overlooked this traffic circle. Back then, I thought it was named for the guy who gave us Teflon skillets. This of course was wrong. It was named for a Union Naval officer in the War Between the States who was a relative of the man who founded the company that employed the guy who invented Teflon skillets.
DuPont Circle held park benches, trees, bushes, statues and hippies — lots of hippies. There were hippie guys with long hair, jeans and bare feet playing bongos, flutes and guitars. There were hippie girls with long hair, jeans and bare feet dancing and swirling to the music. It was during the Vietnam War so there was an occasional protester or two walking around with a protest sign.
I was looking out of the hotel window at all this new stuff. I hadn’t seen anything like this before. Well, maybe on the evening news with Walter Cronkite, but not in real life.
And the music didn’t stop at sundown. Bongos and flutes played outside in the night, the hippie girls danced, traffic zipped around the circle and my father, a World War II vet, peppered the air with salty words to describe his feelings about the hippies.
Another traffic circle I remember was in tiny Bisbee, Ariz., (population around 5,000). They’ve had one since 1947. There’s a law enforcement officer there who blames that traffic feature for his being assigned to a desk job. It’s actually his temperament, but he likes to blame the traffic circle.
One night this officer pulled some folks over inside the traffic circle. He suspected they were from Mexico and in the U. S. illegally. The driver kept trying to tell the officer that he and his buddies were from a nearby town and yes, they were U. S. citizens.
For some reason the officer yanked the keys from the vehicle’s ignition and chucked them into the middle of the traffic circle amidst the bushes and tall grass. It turned out the folks were U. S. citizens and were from the nearby town. The officer and his friends spent a nice chunk of time looking for the citizens’ keys while traffic zipped around the circle.
Now our town has joined the ranks of others across the nation that have roundabouts and traffic circles. Ours has a big hump in the middle. I’m told it’s to be landscaped. But with a big hump and landscaping in the way, where are Clovis’ hippies going to play their bongos?
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: