What do you know about geocaching? I know very little, but have you ever thought about why we have odd and even house numbers? I have to admit I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this concept, but the other evening I happened to be watching the History Channel about Napoleon and the commentator mentioned that it was Napoleon that came up with the idea of odd numbers on one side of a street and even numbers on the opposite side of the street. No big deal, you might say. But think about how this simple idea impacts your daily life: mail delivery, GPS, visitors, emergency support…the list goes on. OMG, could Napoleon be the father of Geocaching?
I am not going to bore you with a whole history of street numbering, but it occurred to me that I have lived long enough to remember life before Zip Codes (pre 1963) and I have lived in enough different communities to know how challenging life can be when you don’t have a numbering system. In today’s world this is akin to not having order in the World Wide Web. Order is what makes the Internet work and allows all of us to stay in touch.
The first time I learned about life with mail delivery placed in a road side box was in Anchorage, AK. It was 1983 and we were transferred to Alaska. Our house address was 15040 Platinum Circle; however, our mailing address was SRA (Star Route Assignment)Box 460, Anchorage, AK 99507. Just when I had all of our friends trained to send mail to the SRA address, the USPS decided that we had to start using our actual street address for mail. Hmmmm…wouldn’t you know that was the year that I was president of the home owners association and we had to build a whole new series of postal boxes which needed to be identical in every way, clearly marked with our street addresses (as opposed to the SRA addresses), and all 20 boxes had to be attached to a sturdy metal pole system. (Thank god a number of the neighbors were engineers that worked on the North Slope – read not Dennis).
In late 1985 we moved to Conway, New Hampshire. Now one would think that since New Hampshire was one of the 13 original colonies, street numbers would be old hat. WRONG! 90% of the homes and businesses did not have street numbers, for that matter, most roads were not clearly marked or had many different names for the same road. For example, Main Street in Conway Village was also known as RT16/RT113. I worked for Indian Head Bank North which was located on Main Street. Vendors would ask me for my business address and I would simply say “Indian Head Bank North, Main St, Conway, NH 03818”. The vendor would repeatedly say what is the street number and I would simply say “we don’t have street numbers!”
By late 1986 we purchased our country inn on Kearsarge Rd, Village of Kearsarge, Town of Conway, Carroll County, New Hampshire. We did not have a street number. Our mail went to P O Box 1194, North Conway, NH 03860 (only because for marketing purposes more people recognized North Conway, as opposed to Kearsarge Village, which had its own zip code, 03847). Are you confused yet? In late 1996 Conway Town Officials decided we all needed to put street numbers on our homes and businesses, because if we were to dial 911 the fire, rescue and police needed to know how to find us. You don’t want to know how many properties burned to the ground in the old days when buildings had no addresses and we depended on volunteer fire departments. So in 1996, Cranmore Mountain Lodge received its street number: 859 Kearsarge Rd, Kearsarge, NH 03847. 175 years after Napoleon’s death(1821)!
So today when you are searching for an address using the Internet, your GPS navigation system, your iPhone, or GeoCaching…thank Napoleon for being so practical. For fun here is a YouTube video called Geocaching Napoleon. I have no idea what it is about, because I don’t speak French, but maybe it is fitting.