Contrasted with the other highways of its day, the creation of this 2,448-mile “super highway” in 1926 did not follow a traditionally linear course. Instead its diagonal path linked hundreds of rural communities across eight states and became the principal east-west artery making it the Main Street of America. Like the country that the road traversed, history was made and imprints were left by the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the war years, and the road trips of the fifties and sixties.
In 1939, John Steinbeck proclaimed Route 66 as the “Mother Road” in his classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which depicted life during the Great Depression. When the movie was made just a year later, it immortalized Route 66 in the American consciousness. Then, on the heels of the Great Depression, came the Dust Bowl of the Midwest where 200,000 people traveled Route 66, the road to opportunity, migrating to California in search of a new life.
As World War II broke out, troops, equipment and products were transported across Route 66 to California, and when the war ended in 1945, the Mother Road brought home thousands of servicemen. For these returning servicemen and their families Route sparked a new generation of postwar motorists packing up the family for summer vacations.
The lure of the Route has been immortalized in the hit song, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” written by Bobby Troupe and performed by the Nat King Cole Trio, the Rolling Stones, and many others, and during the 60s the television series, “Route 66,” brought the Route to life for families across America.
Even with all that Route 66 had been to American over the years, the building of Interstate 40 not only changed the course of transportation, but it lead to the death of many communities that were bypassed one by one from the mid-70s to the final bypassing of Williams, Arizona in 1984 Interstate 40.
Route 66 and all it had been over the years might only have been a paragraph in history books if it wasn’t for a barber, Angel Delgadillo, in Seligman, Arizona, who grew up on Route 66 and knew that people still wanted to journey to the heart of America. Angel, and his brother Juan, led the formation of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona which led to the rebirth of Route 66.
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