Beatosu and Goblu, Ohio
We cropped the above image from a 1978 Michigan Department of Transportation highway map. The red arrow points to the town of Goblu, Ohio, seemingly located just south of Bono. Don't look for "Goblu" on any Ohio road sign, however. It doesn't actually exist!
"Goblu" references a popular University of Michigan football cheer - "Go blue!" It's not the only U of M cheer on this map. Look at the next county to the West, and you'll find "Beatosu." "Beatosu" divides into "Beat OSU!," a reference to University of Michigan archrival Ohio State University. On the image to the right, you will find "Beatosu" between the real Ohio towns of Elmira and Burlington. Scroll down this page to see a "zoomed out" view of the map, allowing one to place the locations of "Goblu" and "Beatosu" in a wider context. Click 1978 Highway Map - Large Image to view a larger version of this image.
How could fictitious towns have been placed on a state highway map? Peter Fletcher, then Chairman of the Michigan State Highway Commission, admitted responsibility. To learn more, this author went directly to the source. I spoke to Peter Fletcher himself on October 24, 2008.
Mr. Fletcher told me the story behind this infamous map. He explained that a fellow University of Michigan alumnus had been teasing him about the Mackinac Bridge colors. According to Fletcher, this man wondered how Fletcher, as State Highway Commission Chairman, could allow the Bridge to be painted green and white. Those were the colors of Michigan State University! Mr. Fletcher noted that the bridge colors were in compliance with federal highway regulations, so he had no choice in that matter. He did, however, have more control over the state highway map. Mr. Fletcher said that he thus ordered a cartographer to insert the two fictitious towns. These towns displayed his loyalty to his alma mater.
Mr. Fletcher noted that the map accurately depicted the area within Michigan state lines. His imaginary towns were placed in Ohio, outside the map's focus. "We have no legal liability for anything taking place in that intellectual swamp south of Monroe," Mr. Fletcher jokingly told me. He added that he had never forgiven Ohio for the Toledo War of 1835!
At left: Peter Fletcher, circa 1978
I asked Mr. Fletcher about the public response. He noted that some University of Michigan alumni enjoyed the incident and that some people complained about wasting tax money. Mr. Fletcher said that then-Governor William Milliken had told him about complaints and that he had suggested a response: He said that Governor Milliken could tell objecting parties that Fletcher, as State Highway Commission Chairman, had been entitled to a $60,000 annual salary that he never collected. In contrast, Mr. Fletcher said, the ink for the errant maps cost about $6.00! Mr. Fletcher told me that Governor Milliken did not mention the incident to him again. Nonetheless, a revised 1978 map - one omitting "Goblu" and "Beatosu" - was soon issued. Le Roy Barnett, in his Michigan History magazine article "Paper Trails: The Michigan Highway Map" (November/December 1999 issue) states that only a limited number of maps containing the imaginary towns were printed. (Click Michigan History Magazine to order back issues.) Mr. Fletcher notes that the surviving copies have become coveted collector's items.
Peter Fletcher currently serves as President of the Ypsilanti Credit Bureau. He states that his father started this business in 1924 and that he has been working there since he was eleven years old (He said that he began by emptying waste baskets.).
Regarding his Wolverine loyalty, Mr. Fletcher stated that he is "now a man of divided allegiance." He explained that after leaving the State Highway Commission, he was elected a Michigan State University Trustee. Our interview occurred one day before the 2008 Michigan vs. Michigan State game, so I asked him about his game plans. "Some of my friends will be cheering for the Spartans," he said, "and others for the Maize and Blue. I'll be cheering along with my friends."
The Archives of Michigan houses a number of official Michigan state highway maps, dating from 1912-2007. A copy of the original 1978 map - with the towns of "Goblu" and "Beatosu" included - is among these. Researchers can find these in the Department of Transportation records, Record Group #89-11. For more information, e-mail the Archives at email@example.com or call 517-373-1408. For visitor information (including hours and operation and parking), click Archives of Michigan Visitor Information.
The Martha W. Griffiths Rare Book Room, located on the Library of Michigan's fourth floor, also houses a collection of Michigan state highway maps, dating from 1927 to the present. For more information on the Martha W. Griffiths Rare Book Room, click www.michigan.gov/rarebooks.
-Bob Garrett, Archivist
Click 1978 Highway Map - Large Image to view the above map at a larger size.
Click Archives of Michigan to visit the Archives of Michigan home page.
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