Anyone alive in 1946 to 1980 likely has heard the Nat King Cole song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”. This song was composed by Bobby Troop and has been recorded by many popular musicians throughout the years. This song was done in rhythm and blues style and the lyrics are based directly on the old route that went through the USA, from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, and included eight different states. Today, portions of Route 66 remain merely as a remembrance.
According to the song the correct way to pronounce the road is “Route Six Six”, and not “Sixty-Six”. This road has also had many other nicknames, including Will Rogers Highway, the Mother Road, and the Main Street of America.
The road was created in 1926, and road signs were added in 1927. This is perhaps the most famous highway in America, taking people from the popular city of Chicago to the favored land of opportunity in California.
In between the two main cities the route originally ran through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before stopping in Santa Monica, California, which is right beside LA.
The road covered a greater portion of the USA with 2448 miles/3940 kilometres. The road became popularized in pop culture with Nat King Cole’s song, as well as a Route 66 TV show in the 60s.
Route 66 was a popular way for people to escape the Dust Bowl states in the 30s. Terrible dust storms ravaged many farms, causing dead crops and unbearable living conditions. This forced people to seek enterprise elsewhere. As a result, all towns along the route experienced a boosted economy, even during the depression years.
The highway was mostly flat but did have a few dangerous section. It was also a popular trucking route. Route 66 was likely the instigator for the mom-and-pop style of businesses that exist today along every freeway and road, including service stations and restaurants.
The early highway was not paved, it was merely gravel or graded dirt. It was finally paved in 1938. Despite the flatness of the roads, there were several steep and sharp curves that resulted in the nickname “Bloody 66”. Work was done over the years to make the highway safer.
The section outside Oatman, Arizona was particularly bad with its steepness and sharp curves. Motorists would actually hire drivers to take them safely past this section.
Route 66 was eventually removed from the highway system in 1985, being replaced by the Interstate Highway System. However, certain portions of the road have been preserved, particularly in Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona. This has been named the “Historic Route 66”. Some cartography companies have even been adding the Historic Route 66 to their new maps.
Other states have followed, and have named their historic sections of the route as “State Route 66”.
Route 66 has a long, interesting history. If you ever have the opportunity, you should look up where the old Route 66 roads are and see if any are still open to traffic.