The road was featured in a TV show in the 60’s with a nostalgia that was, and is real. The road was established in 1926, and ran from Chicago, IL, down through St. Louis, Mo, through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and ending at Santa Monica, California.
The TV show generated a great following and a hit song, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” Edd “Kookie Byrns gained fame as an actor as two young male travelers with the wanderlust traveled up and down the road.
During the Dust Bowl during the depression in the 1930’s, Route 66 was the main artery of transportation of everyone from farmers to those seeking a better life, as they traveled from anywhere to California. In the process, the many people and proprietors along the route prospered, even if some of the travelers did not.
The introduction of the “motel” came into being as travelers needed a place to spend the night as various establishments sprung up along the highway for people to stay. The “ribbon of highway” grew towns and many gas stations and restaurants who fought to keep the route intact in spite of the introduction of the Interstate Highway system in the 1950’s and 60’s.
The original plan for the highway was to run it directly through the various towns and communities in order to promote businesses and commerce in those areas. Many smaller towns had no connection to other cities or roads, and the though was to provide that connection.
After the highway was completely paved in 1938, its use continued to grow, mainly because of the geography through which it was built. The road was essentially flat, and it was an excellent route for trucks, as the nation’s commerce really got moving along the route.
There was an even heavier use of Route 66 during World War II due to the concentration of war industries on the West coast. It was also a good route for the transport of military equipment and supplies from the Midwest to the West Coast.
After the war was over, and tourism became a fact of life for Americans, the route was a major path to the west where Easterners got their first glimpse of the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and the Beaches of California. Souvenir shops sprung up and you would frequently see advertisements on barns along the way.
Today, all that is left of the original route 66 is a memory, as the Interstate system has rerouted travel around major cities for the sake of time saved, although many states have preserved parts of the original pavement for the sake of old times.
The memories are there, and the new Interstate system paralleled much of the old system, but with the higher volumes of traffic and increased speeds of cars, the old two lane highway became obsolete.
The National Museum of American History has an old section of the the highway on display in Washington D.C. as a token of the role the highway played in the development of travel in America.