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History Route 66: what was it really like?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Barn Find, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 6,116

    from Ks

    Was Oatman Arizona where Clarke gable stayed in the motel? Or was it another little town close to there. I have been there years ago when we went to Chloride. Lippy
  2. :oops::oops::oops:
  3. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 5,316

    from Ioway

    Lots of two lanes are great to travel now, because all of the traffic has naturally migrated to the Interstate. The two lane sucked, hard, back in the day because it was crowded and lots of trucks and dangerous to pass. Don't know about 66 but lots of highways were engineering disasters, curves that banked the wrong way, blind curves into intersections and the rest of it.
    I love the "blue highways" now, but only because they are practically deserted. As someone mentioned it took forever to get anywhere.
    Tim and Hnstray like this.
  4. steel rebel
    Joined: Jun 14, 2006
    Posts: 3,604

    steel rebel
    Member Emeritus

    I haven't read all the posts but to answer your question simply most of it was narrow (maybe 20 feet wide) two lane blacktop with one broken white line down the center, no shoulder and it curved around many old farm roads.
  5. stimpy
    Joined: Apr 16, 2006
    Posts: 3,547


    I used to drive the rements of it for years for a company that had terminals on it ( Romeoville , Springfield , Litchfield Il ) and other parts thru the city of Chicago making deliveries as it was faster than the expressway during rushhour ( and parallels I-55 for most of the way ( Ogden ave ) used to deliver to the quarry in Mccook that it used to divide ( the section thats now closed as the road is splitting and falling into the quarry ) , I live between the 3 versions of it up here near Chicago were it goes thru and around Joliet ( rts A B C ) I live near C ( I-55) , and my one brother lives in Wilmington Il near the mufflerman ( Gemini Giant ) at the launching pad , we used to eat there when it was open back in the early 00's , worked at the Nuke plant in Braidwood on it when it was being built , I used to drive the frontage road along I-55 ( which is actually part of Us66 original pavement ) to do my pick ups and deliveries at the RR Donnelly plants In Dwight and Pontiac IL . and would ocasionally stay on it if I went between the 2 . do not think of it much other than a tourist trap.
    I used to live on US 30 ( lincoln Highway) in Frankfort Il where they had a 3 mile strip of the original highway alongside the newer wider road for many years . and also lived near it in Indiana as a Kid in a small town were the new road bypassed it .
  6. stimpy
    Joined: Apr 16, 2006
    Posts: 3,547


    and I do not know how many times I get asked by a tourist ( from Europe or Canada ) were the original Dairy Queen is in Joliet , ( yes we were the first ) I know of it because my step kid lived next door to it , and its not marked .. ( have to love Joliets historical society ) if your ever in Joliet its 501 N. Chicago st ( sb Il. rt53, rt 66 a) on the north side of the downtown area west side of the street ) it has no markings .. as its a church ,
    i.rant and Hnstray like this.
  7. As a kid my dad often would decide that we needed to move to Phoenix ,California ,from New York or vise versa ,he was a heavy duty truck and diesel mechanic and could fix just about anything ,he had a 51 Chevy pickup he has updated with the biggest stovebolt six he could find ,he had installed a hydravac on it after several close calls while traveling cross country five times ,it had a set of springs under it that had a stack height you wouldn't believe and it started life as a 3/4 ton ,he had a homemade wood camper type box on the back that he built ,and as a packer it was stuffed to the gills with everything we owned including his tools ,I remember we traveled route 66 many times in the fifties and sixties,some of my memories include stopping at a weigh station with the operator letting out a whistle when he weighed that old chevy ,he looked at our NY plates asked my dad where he was going ,he said Phoenix ,he told him to get out of there he wasn't going to stop him now ,I ofton chuckle at car shows when I hear somebody bragging how they drove their old pickup 100 miles like its a big deal lol,my dad was fearless and nothing seemed to bother him ,maybe being a survivor of Omaha beach had something to do with that ,I remember all the long lonely stretch's of road as well as going though the many small towns ,which really were America ,something we seem to have lost somewhere today ,people cared and even if they never seen you before in there life there was a sense of family with everyone ,I remember my dad ,coming upon a carload of Mexicans in the desert their car had stopped ,my dad got out after a discussion with them ,he pulled that loaded old chevy pickup up to their bumper, matched it up to theirs ,gave them a shove down the road tell their car fired up and off they went ,my dad always laughed about that one ,once he burned a valve there again in the middle of a small town ,he made a couple inquiries about where the nearest garage was ,the owner told him he couldn't get to it until a week or so ,my dad made a deal to use his machine and do the job himself ,in a day he had it done and running like a top ,the owner of the garage did his best to get him to give up going to Phoenix ,offering him a job and a place to live ,but off to Phoenix we went ,as a eight year old kid I was pretty proud of playing guitar ,went into a dinner there along route 66 ,my parents got into a conversation with the owners about my guitar playing ended up turning into an a mini concert my first audience lol ,yep lots of good memories ,one time my sisters cat jumped out we tried to catch it guess it had enough of riding too, we went up to the house near where it jumped ship ,they said they would look for it and gave us their address ,which my mom wrote too later and they did end up with the cat lol,lots of good memories traveling that road and being a nomad ,always felt secure with my dad ,and wouldn't trade the memories and adventures we had for all the money in the world ,and don't worry about that old Chevy it will always get you home lol
  8. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 12,306

    from Quincy, IL

    I am familiar with 66 in the '50s from central Illinois through St Louis (where I grew up) and through Missouri toward Springfield. It was, as others have said, mostly two lane, very crowded and often deadly.

    The roadside was heavily populated with signs and billboards of all types. The best were the Burma Shave signs. All manner of businesses were along the way....gas stations, usually with a repair garage and a tow truck. Often small junk yards adjacent to them, too. Lots of hamburger joints (locally owned, not much franchising in those days) and frozen custard stands, etc. Unlike many kids, I looked and noted and reveled in the sights as we passed through.......

    One place, just southwest of St Louis, was a landmark establishment. Called "The Diamonds", it was a major roadside facility for the day. Truck stop, bus depot, gas station, big restaurant, souvenir shop...The Diamonds had it all. Even back then, I loved trucks and busses......the Greyhounds in particular.

    Once my mother took us kids, by bus, to see some relatives in southern Missouri.......I don't recall if I fully realized it then, but the bus was a then new raised deck GM/Greyhound VistaCruiser. Many years later I learned a lot more about those beasts and the early version's twin engines.

    Impossible to describe to my son and grandsons the changes we've seen since those days....what's worse, I'm not sure they care.....but I enjoyed the memories evoked by this thread.

    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
  9. threewindow
    Joined: Nov 26, 2012
    Posts: 80


    John Steinbeck first proclaimed rte 66 the mother road in his 1939 book The Grapes Of wrath
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  10. LOL I think it was "The Grapes of Wrath" But I have been wrong before.

    I think the idea was that it was the road to riches from a dustbowl if despair. It was most likely no different than any other road of the era. There were some sites to see but I doubt that many were actually out site seeing. A lot like any interstate these days everyone is going someplace and just wants to bet there.
    Texas57, LOU WELLS and Hnstray like this.
  11. Tim
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 13,512

    from KCMO

    I don't think people drove it because there were sites to see I think the drove it because it's the road that went they direction they wanted to go. They created the sights in attempts to get the traffic to pull over at there place.

    Driving the fast traffic in Austin I noticed all the wild signs and figured it was much the same, if it isn't eye grabbing they aren't ever going to notice you sitting there a few feet away
    Hnstray likes this.
  12. Things never really change much. You can still see the world's largest Prairie Dog or the 6 legged cow if you pay attention I suppose.
  13. woodiewagon46
    Joined: Mar 14, 2013
    Posts: 2,003

    from New York

    The year I retired my wife and I drove our "46 Ford Woodie cross country to a Woodie show in Encinitas CA. We took 66 as much as we could. I purchased a great set of maps from Ghost Town Press and would recommend them for anyone who want's Rt 66 info. There are 8 maps, one for each state that 66 goes thru. It gives detailed info where the road is accessible and where it is closed. The graphics are worth the price. When we drove thru Oatman AZ we had to stop to let the wild burros move off the road. Also stopped in Williams and took the train to the Grand Canyon. Can't wait to do it again. Sad to see how many business' closed because of the interstate.
    shawnsauto1 and Tim like this.
  14. Tim
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 13,512

    from KCMO

  15. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 3,998

    from illinois

    Post WWII , my dad was an engineer for IDOT , his job was road signs , his area ran from south of braidwood to bloomington on 66 [plus the rest of the district] in the summer , either me or my older brother would ride-along , still remember alot of the sites & signs , it was just another road , but Dad thought it was special ..
  16. joe clotfelter
    Joined: Apr 8, 2016
    Posts: 58

    joe clotfelter

    My mom came from south Dakoda to Calif in 1936 with her mom and dad and 5 brothers and sisters. talk about the grapes of rath they had no idea how poor they where got on Rt 66 all the way to Redondo beach
  17. chevyfordman
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 1,151


    I traveled it several times in the mid 60's, it was a slow trip through all those small towns. My first trip was in a 62 MG Midget, from Pa. to Calif., gas and oil for the trip was $32. I also was born at home which was along the Lincoln Highway, my birth house is still standing today. I think that I'm getting old.
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  18. phat rat
    Joined: Mar 18, 2001
    Posts: 4,658

    phat rat

    That's really a coincidence that you were in a 49 Stude from GR to Ca. My grand-parents lived in Kazoo and ran to Pomona several times in a 49 Stude, on 66. That car was also my first car so whenever I'm on or alongside 66 I think "my Studie ran this/that road!
  19. phat rat
    Joined: Mar 18, 2001
    Posts: 4,658

    phat rat

    Most of the U.S highways had a lot of traffic. I grew up on U.S.31 it runs/ran from upper Mi to the tip of Fla. Back before the expressway there were all kinds of mom and pop businesses along the rt. Within 7 mi either way of where I grew up in the late 40's into the 50's there were 6 grocery stores, 9 motels, 10 gas stations and this was between towns and considered country.
  20. steel rebel
    Joined: Jun 14, 2006
    Posts: 3,604

    steel rebel
    Member Emeritus

    An original part of 66 Mid West. Imagine big trucks whizzing by. I said before maybe 20 feet wide. This doesn't look that wide.

    Tim likes this.
  21. MWWADE
    Joined: Jan 7, 2010
    Posts: 21


    I grew up on 66, traveling many miles on that dangerous road! I now live 1/2 mile from the road, and their are still accidents on that thing! The road was built with many hills and curves that proved most dangerous. One town I lived in when I was young had a sharp curve just before the city limits. It seemed like once a week their would be a large truck loaded with either lumber, or produce fall on its side because it couldn't make the sharp curve. Added to that was the slanted curbing that was attached to each side of the road. I really don't know why they did this other than to keep all the water on the road when it rained. I remember meeting a on coming truck that was taking more than his share of the road. When this happened you would start pulling as far to the right as possible, then your right tire would raise on the top of the slanted curbing. Get ready for the ride of your life, because you would jurk the steering wheel to the left, almost strike the on coming truck. Then you would jurk it back on top of the curb, up and down, up and down. Oh, and all this without power brakes, or steering! I Remember all the towns that 66 went through were very congested, and there were filling stations on every corner. It was almost like a parade watching all the different vehicles, and people go through town. Everyone from movie stars, Elvis Presley, and biker gangs. Hum, come to think of it, I kinda miss all that!
    Hnstray likes this.
  22. jjhoneck
    Joined: Mar 18, 2016
    Posts: 10


    In 1961 and 1963, my dad loaded my mom and us kids in the Pontiac and headed to California from Wisconsin. It was mostly still Route 66, although there were sections of freeway coming on line across the country.

    I was young, but I distinctly remember those Easter trips. Windows open, once we got into Missouri, because we had no air conditioning. Until we got to Missouri, all the windows were closed, and both parents chain-smoked! We thought we would suffocate..

    The signs, the smells, the traffic -- my dad grousing about the "damned campers" that were unable to make the grade... I can see it all in my mind's eye...

    In 1973, we did the trip to California one more time. By then, we had air conditioning, I was the last kid at home, and the freeway across the country was complete. My dad was incredibly happy about it, but i remember almost nothing of the trip. Every part of the road looked exactly the same, until we got to the mountains.

    To this day, on vacations I avoid the freeways. The endless miles of "Applebees, Chilis, Walmart, McDonalds, Subway" are horrid -- I can see the same crappy chains on any 10-mile stretch of interstate, any where in the country, so why bother?

    The freeways have destroyed the diversity of the country. If you want to see America, you gotta get on the 2-lanes...
    gas pumper, Hnstray and das858 like this.
  23. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 5,316

    from Ioway

    At some point, California deployed the highway patrol at the borders to prevent the indigent or Okies and such from entering the state. At least not without proof of having several hundred (several thousand today) dollars anyway. Woody Guthrie wrote a song "Do Re Mi" on this.

    Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin' home every day
    Beatin' the hot old dusty way to the California line
    'Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin' out of that old dust bowl
    They think they're goin' to a sugar bowl, but here's what they find
    Now, the police at the port of entry say
    "You're number fourteen thousand for today"
    Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi, folks, you ain't got the do re mi
    Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
    California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see
    But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
    If you ain't got the do re mi
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
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  24. Chevy Gasser
    Joined: Jan 23, 2007
    Posts: 710

    Chevy Gasser

    In the '50's & '60's it was narrow and it was not uncommon to have stoplights at every major road intersection. I occasionally traveled on it from Springfield, Illinois to Springfield, Missouri with my family. Lots of neon and all night businesses.
    My mom, dad, and brother were all taken to the hospital one late night at Litchfield, Il. Our '65 Caprice was totaled when it was rear ended at one of the stoplights. They all survived but the rear bumper of the car wound up under the back seat and dad had neck problems for years.
    The Diamonds restaurant mentioned earlier was the largest restaurant in the world at the time. It is now about 1/2 mile off the interstate and falling down. I have eaten there a couple times.
    Hnstray likes this.
  25. rd4pin
    Joined: Feb 2, 2010
    Posts: 176

    from louisiana

    In October 1964 when I was discharged from the Air Force I drove on Route 66
    from Barstow CA. to Amarillo TX. It was hot and hard traveling in my just finished, shoe string budget
    home built '54 Chevy with it's 331 cu Chrysler Hemi. Most of the trip was something to look back on and laugh. I took route 66 because I was going from CA to Lawton, OK and it was the most direct way to get there. However, my wife looks back on that trip as a nightmare with no laughter. Go figure!
  26. metalman
    Joined: Dec 30, 2006
    Posts: 3,288


    I grew up 2 blocks off of 66 where it passed thru Albuquerque (Central Ave) and 2 blocks the other way was Lomas Blvd, which was the truck bypass. In the summer with the windows open you would hear the traffic all night long,
    The whole world pass thru there it seemed like, lots of traffic. I remember being in a store where the windows were right up at the sidewalk sometime in the later 60's and the Hell's Angels had stopped for a light just outside the windows. Everyone in the store was talking about it like something bad was going to happen just cause they were here.
    Our part of Central near the house is where all the big "modern" motels were. Every night in the summer they would be packed, every restaurant would be busy. Once I40 was completed they all started going downhill. Sadly, the last one still in operation burned down a couple weeks ago, torched by an unhappy tenant. . I had mixed emotions as it had became a shall we say "lower class" type of place with lots of crime, drug dealings, ect to go with it. In that regard it's probably good it's gone (I still live nearby) but still makes me sad. RIP Route 66.
    Hnstray likes this.
  27. hudson48
    Joined: Oct 16, 2007
    Posts: 2,971


    We did part of Route 66 in 1995(Amarillo to Springfield heading East) and then in 2009 we did Chicago to CA,
    using as much of 66 as possible.You do have to get off it sometimes. Stayed at the Wagon Wheel in 2009 before it was redone which was a couple of years later. Looks great now. When we stayed it was run down. One of the few times we didn't ask to look at the rooms. Asked the tariff for 2 rooms for two couples and the manager(who had missed the payments on his dental plan and only had about two teeth) said $20 each. We thought that was $40 a couple but it was $20 per room and that was all it was worth. Went to the Missouri Hicks BBQ that was a short walk up the hill and had great food and drinks. I believe the BBQ had a fire but has been rebuilt since. We had so many great experiences on the 3 weeks trip and would love to do it again but there is a lot more other stuff to see.
    If you are going to do it get the books and maps. Mike Wallace wrote a great book and the EZ 66 Guide was a great help. You get mile by mile instructions.
    Apparently there were lots of stories especially about unscrupulous service station operators who would sabotage the cars so that repairs were needed down the road. They were all in it apparently. You had to keep your eye on the attendants and one trick was to hide a razor blade that they used to cut through the fan belt when looking under the hood so that the car would overheat and require towing and repairs a short distance down the road.
    When the Interstate opened it was like someone shut the gate on very successful businesses as people used the new highway.
    Hnstray likes this.
  28. model.A.keith
    Joined: Mar 19, 2007
    Posts: 6,279


  29. I grew up in S. California and Dad's parents lived in Half Way Mo.First trip I remember was in a '37 Desoto, there were four of us and I had to ride in the hat shelf. Next trips were in a '48 Chrysler New Yorker, then the last few trips in a "55 Imperial. Most important part of the trip for dad was to get across Barstow and Needles before the sun came up. Some reason, dad always had to check the tires along side the road, to this day I still think he was taking a piss. Vapor lock was always an issue the first day or so until we got through AZ and New Mexico. Passing slower traffic was a heart in the throat experience. Now I live in Oklahoma and often think of those trips when I drive to Branson and pass under the old Howard Johnson Restaurant and even though it nostalgic, I 40 is hard to beat.
    Hnstray likes this.
  30. 57Custom300
    Joined: Aug 21, 2009
    Posts: 1,388

    from Arizona

    Moved from Mi. to Kingman Az. so I get my "kicks on Route 66" a few times a week. Kingman, like most cities would rather have tax income than preserve bits of the past. A few years ago they leveled one corner of some buildings (most were functioning business') from that era and let Walgreen put up a store.
    That said, the Route66 museum mentioned earlier is a good one. Worth seeing if you stop by. Along with Oatman. And yes it is where Gable/Lombard stayed on they're honeymoon. The ride from Kingman to Oatman is a great one for motorcycles. Done it many times, never boring. I go to the Fun Run every year and there are many people from Europe and Japan there every year. Always interesting to have conversation (or try to) with them.
    I have to travel to Prescott every few months to the VA hospital and usually travel 66 on the way back from Ash Fork to Kingman. Nice long open 2 lane road but other than Seligman and a couple other roadside places there's nothing to see.
    I go back to Mi. around Christmas every year and want to do 66 in Il. Mo. Ks. & Ok. on the way back one year. Seems like there's more left back there that made the road famous. Tried to do it last year but a friend that was going to go with me backed out when it snowed. That wasn't the only thing that "went south" on that trip so it didn't surprise me. Maybe this year.

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