Route 66 News

A pivot point

Chuck Twardy of the Las Vegas Weekly wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking article about a recent trip down the Mother Road.

Using Park Central Square in Springfield, Mo., where Route 66 was essentially born and where a small plaque tells of the lynching of three black men there in 1906, Twardy writes this:

Springfield, Missouri, is a pivot point for Route 66 and the nation. It casts the route westward, after its southwesterly drift from Chicago. Before long, rolling farmland and forests yield to rock and scrub. And its history echoes the tensions between North and South, black and white. The Route 66 story is, in some ways, as deficient as the history book on Springfield’s square. For one thing, it is largely white, about a time when few minorities enjoyed the middle-class perk of a long road trip. And its laudable linkage of Main Streets eventually led to their desertion. Two builders of those chrome-lined cars have filed for bankruptcy.

It is a stretch to tie the “financial meltdown” to the building of interstates, but the mind-set that pushed us into bigger cars on wider roads to more distant neighborhoods also littered the suburbs of Las Vegas with vacant McMansions. Our postwar enthusiasms collided with unintended consequences, both internal and external. Still forging compromises about our past — sorry we treated many of you so miserably… how about a plaque? — we face furloughs and cutbacks and bankruptcies. We take staycations and layoff-cations. Americans may be forgiven, a little at least, if they feel let down by leaders who sold them a story as untenable as any historical lie.

No doubt some stretches of Route 66 today reprise the Mother Road role of carrying job seekers to new prospects — eastward this time. But the route also beckons the newly disenchanted, not with illusions of bygone America, but with its rejection of homogenous interstate culture.

I have nothing to add, except that this article, in a way, crystallizes why I started Route 66 News — I’m interested in what’s going on with the Mother Road now.

And although I seek to preserve the road’s unique history, I have no desire to relive those eras from where those landmarks originated.

(Hat tip: Ron Roberson)


6 thoughts on “A pivot point

  1. redforkhippie

    I like this piece. I tend to agree with Carly Simon’s assertion that “these are the good ol’ days” — this notion that life was better in the (insert decade here) too often ignores the injustices of the past and leaves us pining for an era that never existed. Route 66 isn’t a nostalgia trip for me. It is simply, as this writer suggests, a rejection of homogeneity and a way to connect with and offer support to those who aren’t afraid to express thoughts that don’t necessarily resonate with Madison Avenue.

  2. TM

    You posted a piece awhile back about how Route 66 culture celebrates roadside diners but that there was a time when only whites could enter through the front door & sit down to eat. History & nostalgia are all about point-of-view.
    Emily’s right, Route 66 is a living, breathing community today. And rolling through town after town is waaaay more interesting than counting mile markers on the interstate.
    Twardy says it’s is a stretch to connect the financial meltdown to the interstate system. That’s true. But he does make a great point — something to think about.

  3. Kermit Lucas

    “…Still forging compromises about our past — sorry we treated many of you so miserably… how about a plaque?…”.

    I haven’t treated anyone miserably in my 66 years on this planet. I was born and raised in Appalachia, we were poor as church mice, and my Cherokee wife hasn’t had it all that great either.
    You just let it go, work hard toward your goals and give thanks that things are better now on that front.

    Articles like this are self-serving crap.

  4. Sal Paradise

    Great article, I hope he keeps on painting signs as long as he can swing the brush.

    I noticed the signs, going back to my first trip on 66 west to an Army assignment in California in 1976. I’ve been a fan of unique fonts and sign art for a long time, and really found the signs in the southwest head and shoulders above other areas.

    Joe Campos of Joseph’s in Santa Rosa, NM told me about the fatman sign and who painted it back in 2004. I’d heard of a famous sign painter in Arizona, from Quinta Scott’s book, but didn’t know until then about the famous painters of eastern New Mexico.

    I’d hope some 66 related group would retain this artist to paint some signs remembering the road, to show us all his artwork.

  5. Trevor Hilton

    The treatment of blacks, Indians, Asians, and other minorities from that time was terrible.
    But, I wonder, how many of our social customs now will be considered bad 50 or so years from now?

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