By Al Morrissette
(Victor Valley)–The concept of developing a network of interstate highways had two avenues that intersected in Springfield, Missouri on April 30, 1926. Though the first US highway is Route 66, keep in mind US 66 did not become official until 1927 and the last legs of the roadway was not complete in California until 1938.
Simply explained, the birthplace of Route 66 came from a political heritage starting with the first federal legislation for public roads in 1916 and the second avenue was through the entrepreneurial efforts of Cyrus Avery, Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Woodruff in Springfield, Missouri.
The first leg of the route was referred to as the “Great Diagonal Way” because it ran from Chicago (northeast) to Oklahoma City (southwest). But because the concept of Route 66 was to link small towns and cities through an interstate highway giving their communities and commercial interest significant opportunity to notoriety and financial strength, the highway was renowned as “The Main Street of America”.
Other names for the roadway that caught on were “The Will Rogers Highway” so named because the U.S. Highway 66 Assoc in 1952 wanted to honor the comedian/spokesperson for his boosting of the highways image everywhere he went.
The most popular nickname arose from the pages of John Steinbeck’s novel Grapes of Wrath utilizing Route 66 as the bloodline and hope for so many families seeking to find new hope from the dustbowl of the Midwest moving to the golden shores of California.
Genius and nature were fundamental in developing the course of the highway as most of the surface is rather level making it popular for the trucking industry and the genius comes from the unique American marketing methods utilized.
Commercial interest developed iconic structures such as the Blue Whale in Oklahoma, the art-deco U-Drop Inn in Texas and space aged “Jetson” style designed Roy’s Motel in Amboy, California.
Now the highway has been decommissioned in 1985 and the federal government built a leaner-sleeker-wider Interstate 40 bypassing much of the reason US 66 was developed. But the pulse of the Mother Road is strong and the bloodline has gained royalty as the need of rapid transit was transferred to I-40 and the heritage and uniqueness of the Mother Road has become international.
This heritage is strong in our high desert as US 66 breaks the California border in Needles, turns south in Barstow, and crests the Cajon Pass on its way to Santa Monica.
If you have ever wondered what a rocky ruin in Ludlow was all about, why there is an abandoned border check point in Dagget or where did Roy Rogers carve his name in a bar in Oro Grand.
In upcoming articles I will answer those questions and discuss a wide array of locations that you can visit in our sector of the Mother Road, plus give you insight that will bring it all together.