In addition to guidebooks devoted to all 2,400 miles of Route 66, a bunch of volumes have been published that are more narrowly focused by geography. Individual books have been devoted to the Mother Road in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and California, in addition to the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago.
However, a publishers had long ignored the Mother Road’s third-largest city, St. Louis. The big reason, I suspect, is the Gateway City contains a baffling maze of bypasses and realignments. By my count, there are at least eight different ways in which to travel Route 66 in St. Louis.
That publishing drought has been ended with “Route 66 in St. Louis” (128 pages, $19.99), part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series. Sorting out St. Louis is Joe Sonderman, a longtime Route 66 enthusiast who’s lived in the region all his life and has written several other regionally flavored books (“St. Louis 365,” “St. Louis People 365” and “St. Louis World’s Far 365”).
The other thing Sonderman has is his 5,000-strong postcard collection, some of which he put to use in “Route 66 in St. Louis.” Many of those images — along with photos from the Missouri Department of Transportation archives — have never before been published.
Among the rare, vintage images:
- An interior view from 1946 of one of the rooms at the 66 Auto Court, including an embroidered “66” on the bedspread.
- Nelson’s Cafe, part of the Park Plaza Court complex, complete with a Sealtest Ice Cream neon sign on its roof.
- The long-gone Haliner’s Cafe and Cabins, which is now the site of the sprawling Maritz complex west of the city.
- Several 1950s images of Lindbergh Boulevard and Manchester Road, with the latter showing a Tydol gas station in the background.
- And my favorite: a curve of Route 66 west of town that shows billboards touting the Red Cedar Inn, Park Plaza Courts, Manhattan Coffee, the Diamonds Restaurant, and the Mayfair and Lennox hotels.
Sonderman not only covers St. Louis proper, but devotes chapters to the metro-east in Illinois and nearby Franklin County in Missouri. The latter provides readers a lot of interesting vintage photos from Meramec Caverns in the bargain.
The many photographic gems Sonderman has unearthed, along with his compact writing, make this book well worth the money.
Sonderman reportedly is working on another book about Route 66 in St. Louis. Until a much-needed, turn-by-turn guidebook of Route 66 in St. Louis is published, Sonderman’s volume will suffice quite nicely.
(NOTE: Busted link to book was fixed.)