In pre-Interstate America, heading down the coast to Florida was not a simple matter of driving hell-for-leather all through the night on congested I-95. In the mid 1950s the interstates were coming - Ike had seen the light on the Autobahn - but the cities and states of America were linked by old turnpikes and country roads on which automobiles were lucky to reach high speeds for any length of time.
Still, the population was increasingly mobile and a combination of post-war prosperity that put more middle class families behind the wheel and the expansion of residential air conditioning made the steamy south suddenly look like an achievable paradise to real estate developers, and chambers of commerce all along the eastern seaboard rallied to promote their routes to the palm trees and warm sand as superior choices.
This 1956 promotional map of the "Ocean Hiway" was purchased by my grandfather, presumably for a trip to the sunny south. The Hiway was not an interstate and except for the modern New Jersey Turnpike, the rest of the route was not a super highway but patched together from Rtes 13 and 17. Its major selling points were touted in glowing terms:
" The Ocean Hiway is a smooth, level, all-weather route, with a minimum of traffic delaying factors. It avoids large cities and their congestion. It follows the historic and picturesque coast; consequently seldom knows ice or snow in the winter and is kept cool by ocean breezes in the summer."
This must have been a relief to motorists in pre-air conditioned cars, but one wonders whether driving the length of the Delmarva Peninsula to take a ferry across to Norfolk, VA was really the best way to reach the Upper South. No ocean breezes on that leg of the route until you reached the mouth of the Chesapeake, but maybe they didn't have the industrial chicken farms then so the air might have been easier to breathe than it is today. I can't see how the route was really cooler in summer, except as compared to winter.
The map has numerous points of interest to recommend along the 1006 mile route from New York City to Jacksonville, mostly related to grand old plantation houses and their gardens and salt water fishing. Salisbury Maryland is praised for its "interesting and picturesque harbor", although "Due to many disastrous fires in Old Salisbury years ago, few of the early houses remain." No matter; the fishing was supposed to be good. Norfolk is lauded for having "the world's greatest ice free natural harbor" and being the home port of the Atlantic Fleet. Southbound motorists are advised to follow Main Route US 17 and turn sharply left at the junction of Rtes 17 & 701 at Georgetown, SC.
Whether rocking down the Hiway or taking the long way home, this reassuring bit of propaganda must have made motorists like my grandfather feel that heaven was within their grasp: that is, as long as they used their ashtray, not the hiway.