Paleontologist collects trash from old Route 66 at Petrified Forest National Park

Old bottles of 76 and Kist soda and a Crescent Creamery bottle found along old Route 66 in the Petrified Forest National Park. (NPS)

KJZZ-FM radio, a public station based in Phoenix, recently conducted a fascinating interview with a paleontologist at the Petrified Forest National Park in eastern Arizona.

William Parker, the paleontologist, collects trash from the ditches of old Route 66 that slices through the north side of the park.

The interview is here:

Parker says he’s recovered these items from along old Route 66 in the park:

  • Coca-Cola glass bottles. Back then, the bottoms were imprinted where they were made. Along Route 66 at the park, they inevitably came from Gallup, New Mexico, or Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • Photos with the radio station’s article show recovered glass bottles of Kist, Big Chief and 76 soda, plus a milk bottle from the long-closed Crescent Creamery in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
  • Auto parts. Parker mentioned window cranks, tires, emblems and license-plate parts.
  • Children’s toys, including marbles and cap guns. He said they probably came from trading posts in the area, which would include the now-closed and iconic Painted Desert Trading Post.

Parker said it may appear to be trash, but the trash is more than 50 years old and associated with a prominent highway, which gives it historical cachet.

I know of a few Route 66 enthusiasts who over the years have occasionally picked up these trash-to-treasure items, including Guy Randall. So what the National Park Service is doing isn’t a new thing.

(Image of old bottles by the National Park Service via KJZZ-FM)

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