Route 66 News

A look at Route 66 in 1985

This 1-hour, 42-minute documentary film from 1985, “Route 66,” has been making the rounds on the Internet since it was uploaded it on YouTube a few days ago and Route 66 yahoogroup creator Greg Laxton posted it on Facebook.

Roadies praise it because it provides the Mother Road’s most comprehensive look just before U.S. 66 was federally decomissioned. You’ll see things that have long since disappeared, including the Will Rogers Court in Tulsa (pictured above). You also will find footage of the abandoned John’s Modern Cabins near Arlington, Missouri, before its deterioration became severe.

Route 66 was in a sorry state. Many of the small towns had long since been bypassed, and the renaissance that came with Michael Wallis’ bestselling “Route 66: The Mother Road” was years away.

I also like the film because it offers an unflinching and unsentimental look of the time. You’ll see a few things that some may find disturbing, including cattle being killed at a meat-processing factory in Amarillo and scenes of inebriated American Indians in Gallup, New Mexico, back when public drunkenness in that town was epidemic. You’ll encounter great folks, and you’ll encounter people you’d never want to see again.

A bit of Internet sleuthing reveals “Route 66″ — subtitled “A Nostalgic Ride Down America’s Mother Road from Chicago to L.A.” — was produced for the United Kingdom’s United Central Television, now known as ITV Central. The film was skillfully directed by Belfast native John T. Davis, whose credits include other documentaries and television work.

The film also proves notable for using snippets of A.M. radio of that time and a lot of original music, including Johnnie Lee Wills, Lone Justice and a very young George Strait.

Don’t look to easily buy this film on the Internet. It’s apparently long out of print, and an eBay search proved fruitless. At the risk of a product plug, I found the best way to view it is on my television using a Google Chromecast device. It beats watching it on the PC, for sure.

2 thoughts on “A look at Route 66 in 1985

  1. Denny Gibson

    That’s an absolutely wonderful movie. It’s about a whole lot more than Route 66, though. I don’t suppose there was ever a soundtrack album but there should have been.

    P.S., I watched via Roku which is kinda like Chromecast — I think.

  2. Dennis Toeppen

    That was fantastic. I was a bit skeptical a few minutes in, but it was well worth the 1.75 hour investment. I paused it many times to decipher shots. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Copper Cart in operation for no good reason. I’m glad the Holbrook Wigwam Motel survived that period. Wow, did it look bad.

    It’s a shame that was all captured with video instead of on film. It will forever be trapped in 640 x 480 resolution.

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