Route 66 in the News

Speaker Puts Route 66 Center Stage

2013-08-11 15:53:04

Looking over different slides of Route 66, what it was and what is has become, put more than one person in the mood for an extended road trip Thursday night.

Brad Nickson, president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, wrapped up the Greater Southwest Historical Museum's summer series on the road. Nickson's informal presentation allowed for questions throughout the evening, and enthusiastic crowd participation.

The road has a prominent place in Oklahoma and it is a stretch of the state's road that represents Route 66 in the Smithsonian.

That is not the only claim to fame for the road, which spans from one end of the state to the other. Only New Mexico has more miles of Route 66 Nickson said. He credited it to a technicality as New Mexico's stretch has a look.

Nickson provided nuggets of knowledge that Route 66 enthusiasts could embrace. He said both Route 60 and Route 62 were suggested as names for the road before 66 was settled on.

"The song just wouldn't have been the same," he said. "Get your kicks on Route 60."

Nickson talked about Route 66's role in history, going back to the depression and the book the Grapes of Wrath, which focused on the plight of Oklahoman's during the depression.

The road began as a dirt road and was paved, which in the process, gave birth to mom and pop businesses to service traveler's needs. Services included lodging, food as well as unique offerings. Nickson said in New Mexico and Arizona, there were stretches of road that were too steep for cars with gravity fed fuel lines.

"Drivers were available to drive through there backwards," he said.

In the end, it was progress that would forever change the face of Route 66. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Highway Interstate Act, which changed cross-country travel with straighter roads. The new interstates also bypassed many of the towns on Route 66, forcing many businesses to close their doors. The final stretch of Route 66 was decommissioned in 1984 within Arizona.

Since that time, there has been a preservation effort, of which Nickson is a part with the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. Nickson's presentation included a number of neon signs that have been restored. There have also been highway markers put up on Route 66. And it was clear by the presentation that more than one person was ready to seek out each one and take a drive back into history.

~Michael Pineda,


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