Almanac: Route 66

November 11, 1926, 92 years ago today, was the day highway officials green-lighted plans for the future Route 66. Completed in 1928, U.S. Route 66 started in Chicago, and stretched west more than 2,400 miles across the great southwest to Los Angeles.

Route 66 connected eight Midwest and Western states as its stretched 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.

In the 1930s, refugees from the Oklahoma “Dust Bowl” followed it to begin new lives in California, prompting John Steinbeck to christen it “The Mother Road” in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Over the years, the Mother Road gave birth to distinctive restaurants and motels, and roadside attractions of every sort – all to the accompaniment of that classic song, best sung perhaps by Nat King Cole:

In the 1960s, “Route 66” became a popular CBS TV-series featuring a pair of rootless young men (played by Martin Milner and George Maharis) roaming America in their flashy Corvette.

But over time, the growing Interstate Highway System bypassed and replaced more and more stretches of the old Mother Road, which was finally decommissioned in 1985.

Fortunately, sections of the old road – mostly empty and in some places overgrown – remain, the Mother Road turned Memory Lane.

See also: 

  • Highways that changed America (“CBS Evening News,” 06/29/06)
  • History, nostalgia on Route 66 (“The Early Show,” 07/11/03)

For more info:

  • National Historical Route 66 Federation
  • Historic Route 66
  • Route 66 (National Trust for Historic Preservation)
  • List of Route 66 Associations and Organizations (National Park Service)
  • Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum
  • Driving Historic Route 66 (Road Trip USA)
  • Route 66 (Legends of America)
  • “Route 66” (Complete series) on DVD, available via Amazon

Story produced by Justin Hayter.

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