Granby traffic: A historic complaint

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William Shattuck, photo courtesy of the Salmon Brook Historical Society.

For the past couple years, many people have groused about the construction in the center of town, taking detours down streets such as Copper Hill, Griffin Road and Hungary Road, and increasing traffic through neighborhoods. At certain times of day, I have difficulty getting out of my own driveway, because there are so many cars driving down the street, at a fast speed.

But this grievance is not a new one. William Shattuck, the eldest son of the famed Granby painter Aaron Draper Shattuck, kept a diary and commented on daily activities around his home on West Granby Road. William Shattuck was born in 1865 and was used to horse and buggy rides as well as train transportation. His diary, written primarily during the Great Depression, is in the Salmon Brook Historical Society’s collection.

William Shattuck owned a car himself, although his wife usually drove it around town for shopping or other errands. Shattuck commented on the increase of traffic on his street, saying:

“About the only noise comes from the cars of joy riders in automobiles, who pass at a rate of 250 cars an hour. The cars are good bad and indifferent, I presume the riders are also.”

As stated before, Shattuck did own a car and at the time of this diary entry, there were plenty of gas stations and car dealerships in town such as Powers Garage on Salmon Brook, Shaw’s Garage on North Granby Road, and Devnew’s garage on East Granby Road. Shattuck’s wife took their car to Power’s Garage to get it serviced. The popularity of automobiles was more of a source of annoyance for him in 1937. “Nothing doing here at our house, but road in front is crowded with cars, going constantly. They are not here workdays.”

Most of his entries regarding the amount of traffic flow was on Sundays. Some people were traveling to see relatives; however, he often would notice only one person driving the car as he described in this entry on Sunday, October 17, 1937.

“Cars passing my house this afternoon broke the record that I have kept for some years of ‘joy riders’ on weekends and holidays. By actual count they were passing at a rate of 484 an hour. Around 300 an hour is about the previous high. About 8 out of 10 had Conn license plates, the others Mass. I saw a few from other states; not more than 1 in each 100 that passed.”

Sundays were supposed to be a day of rest, as church services were in the morning. Of course, if you were a farmer, there was no day of rest as there were always chores to attend to. Roads in Granby were not paved, and all the cars travelled on dirt roads which brought up a lot of dust, especially during the summer. In August 1937, Shattuck shows his frustration with traffic:

“Road in front of our house jammed with cars all day ‘til 11 p.m. Usually there were anywhere from 3 to 7 in sight at one time. Comparing this with weekday traffic, 9/10 of it is riding for fun. Considering the millions of miles of road in this country and the 26,000,000 cars in use (in addition to trucks of all kinds) it is not hard to see what an enormous waste is going on. Enough, I think to pay everyone out of work full wages. Nothing will stop this, except failure of the fuel supply, which does not seem likely.”

Can you imagine William Shattuck’s reaction if he could see the current state of our town center? Shattuck died in 1946 and is buried in the Granby Cemetery where, ironically, hundreds of cars drive by every day. To learn more about cars in Granby or William Shattuck, join the Salmon Brook Historical Society by calling 860-653-9713 or go online at