Get Your Kicks On Route 66

CULTURE | March 19, 2019

1957 Chevy Welcomes travelers to Barstow California and old Route 66. (Photo by: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images) 1957 Chevy Welcomes travelers to Barstow California and old Route 66. (Photo by: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

The Birth Of The Highway System

In the 1920s cars became the preferred mode of travel. This led to the need for a better highway system. Initially, the Federal Road Act was meant to improve rural roads to help with mail delivery. The Act required the states to develop highway departments in order to design, build, and upkeep the roads. The Federal Highway Act of 1921 was passed to create a nationwide highway system. It also created the federal and state partnership that still exists today.

Map of Route 66 Source: (mainstreet.org)

The Mother Road

Route 66 was first called Route 60. It was not a transcontinental road. It begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles. From Tulsa to the west coast, it follows the route scouted by Edward Fitzgerald Beale in 1857. The route was not an accident. It was planned out by a committee consisting of Cyrus Avery of Oklahoma, Sheets from Illinois, and Peipmeier from Missouri. They wanted to link up the small farm towns with the large cities at the ends of the highway, Chicago and Los Angeles, creating a commercial highway. The Route 60 was renamed Route 66 to keep with the national numbering system.

Cars traveling on Route 66 in the early 1930s Source: (national66.org)

Early Travel On Route 66

At first, Route 66 simply replaced existing roads. Only 800 miles of the route were paved. The whole road would not finish being paved until 1938. The creation of Route 66 had the intended impact on the small farming communities. The traffic along the route brought business to the locals and made it easier to get commodities from the farms to the factories in the cities. It was also favored because it took a more southerly route and avoided the Rocky Mountains.

Sign at the Oklahoma State Line on Route 66. Source: (pinterest.com)

Westward Ho!

Route 66 became the best way to get to California. People were heading west in droves chasing after the promise of perpetual sunshine and unlimited opportunities. Many people escaped the Dust Bowl on Route 66, heading west never to return. In fact, the term ‘Mother Road’ was coined by author John Steinbeck in his novel “The Grapes Of Wrath” about a migrant family losing everything during the Great Depression. WWII saw the creation of military training bases out west. Locations of the bases were specifically chosen for their proximity to Route 66. Route 66 was the main link between the east and west for transporting military supplies and troops.

The beginning of Route 66 in Chicago. Source: (itsalldowntown.com)

Time For Fun On Route 66!

After the war, people were ready for fun and many had disposable income. The war had created many jobs so the economy was doing very well. Because so many military men had trained out west, they longed to revisit their stomping grounds. One of those soldiers, Bobby Troup wrote the famous “Route 66” song while traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles. Motels and attractions were built to make the trip more exciting. From the Petrified Forest to the Dinosaur Park to Cadillac Ranch there was no lack of things to see on Route 66.

The end of Route 66 on Santa Monica Pier in California Source: (route66guide.com)

We Can Still Get Our Kicks On Route 66!

In the late Fifties, the Interstate Highway Act was passed, thus creating the current interstate system we have now. The interstates bypassed the small towns to make traveling from east to west more efficient. Route 66 was officially decommissioned as a highway in 1979. Because of the many landmarks and plain old nostalgia, the public would not give up the ‘Mother Road.’ The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona was founded and many more groups followed. Their goal was to preserve the landmarks along the Route. Today, Route 66 is designated as a National Scenic Byway. Thousands of travelers plan their Route 66 trip each year to revisit times gone by.

Tags: 1930s | Route 66

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.