By Mel McConaghy
Having lived in Prince George for a good part of my seventy five plus years, like dandelions, I have become used to potholes, because they are both a part of Prince George, and we shall never completely be rid of them.
In the early days, long before the streets were paved, when the snow melted in the spring, it left puddles of water on the roads. Then, as the cars ran through the puddles, they’d wash the sand, gravel and silt off to the side, creating a depression. The faster and heavier the traffic, the deeper the hole would continue to get, creating serious potholes.
I remember in the early 1950’s, when the pavement on Third Avenue ended about where the Friendship Center is today. A big water hole would form there just about every spring, and what great fun it was for us young guys to speed through it. The more we sped through it, the deeper it got. It was common to see a couple of cars stalled in the middle of it, with some young guy with his shoes off, his pant legs rolled up, and the hood of his car open as he tried to dry out his distributor with an old rag to get his engine running. It was also common to see a couple of cars stopped on the other side of the puddle, changing a blown tire, or fixing a broken spring or wheel.
With the advent of pavement, the streets improved considerably, but the technique of paving was still in its infancy. Asphalt is made up of three elements; asphalt tar (bitumen), gravel and a small amount of sand. The asphalt tar gives the road surface flexibility, and, along with the sand, holds the surface together. The gravel gives it strength, and keeps the surface from wearing under the load of the traffic. If the pavement cracks or breaks, the water can seep through. If it freezes, it will break up the pavement, and then the traffic running over it will create what we know today, as potholes. No matter how much technology improves, the laws of physics remain the same. If water gets into a crack, or a patch in pavement, and it freezes, the result will always be the same, you will end up with potholes.
When they paved the streets of Prince George, contracts usually went to the lowest bidders, so it was common for them to just pave over the existing streets, not spending too much time, or money, on preparation.
Now, to prevent the City spending millions of dollars to rebuild streets properly, we live with the result of shoddy repairs. Just remember to slow down when you see puddles or potholes around town, or you might spend a lot of money to repair your vehicle. Potholes, like the rain and wind on the coast, are just a way of life in the North Country.
My Life Through a Broken Windshield by Mel McConaghy
Mel McConaghy is a retired trucker and author from Prince George, British Columbia. Mel’s tales are his views of life “through a broken windshield”. They are entertaining and humorous in a folksy style.
Visit Mel’s website at www.melmcconaghy.com