HISTORY CORNER: Get your kicks on… ROUTE 66

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Start of Route 66 in Chicago heading west to Santa Monica.

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    Above: Start of Route 66 in Chicago heading west to Santa Monica. Left: Bobby and Cynthia Troup worked together on the Route 66 song while traveling the historic highway from Chicago to California. GOOGLE IMAGES

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Bobbie Troup and second wife Julie London, co-stars of the TV series “Emergency,” shown here at Ciro’s nightclub on the Sunset Strip, met after Bobbie and first wife Cynthia traveled Route 66 to Hollywood.

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    PHOTO COURTESY ROZ-ON-THE-ROAD/ABC Thirty-foot tall “Gemini Giant” on Route 66 in Wilmington, Ill.

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Cozy Dog Drive-In on Route 66 in Springfield, Ill. — home of the “one and only Cozy Dog.”

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Route 66.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Ted Drewes family-owned frozen custard company on Route 66 in St. Louis boasts being the “Best ice cream shop in the world.”

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Giant “Golden Driller” on Route 66 in Tulsa, Okla.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Another giant figure of Route 66 lore is this bull in front of the Big Texan that used to be on the old route, but is now on I-40 in Amarillo, Texas. The restaurant offers a 4-and-a-half-pound steak.

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Central Avenue part of Route 66 in Albuquerque in the 1950s.

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    FLICKR Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman, Ariz.

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    JOSH’S CALIFORNIATHROUGHMYLENS BLOG Abandoned Mohawk gas station on Route 66 between Barstow and Victorville, Calif.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS End of Route 66 at Santa Monica Pier.

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    FLICKR Statue of St. Monica, two blocks north of the end of Route 66, was completed with the help of Idaho sculptor Gutzon Borglum who also created the Mt. Rushmore sculpture of four U.S. presidents.

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Historic Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Bobby and Cynthia Troup must have been thrilled when they saw this sign near the end of their 2,448-mile drive from Chicago to Los Angeles on historic Route 66.

  • 1

    GOOGLE IMAGES Start of Route 66 in Chicago heading west to Santa Monica.

  • 2

    Above: Start of Route 66 in Chicago heading west to Santa Monica. Left: Bobby and Cynthia Troup worked together on the Route 66 song while traveling the historic highway from Chicago to California. GOOGLE IMAGES

  • 3

    GOOGLE IMAGES Bobbie Troup and second wife Julie London, co-stars of the TV series “Emergency,” shown here at Ciro’s nightclub on the Sunset Strip, met after Bobbie and first wife Cynthia traveled Route 66 to Hollywood.

  • 4

    PHOTO COURTESY ROZ-ON-THE-ROAD/ABC Thirty-foot tall “Gemini Giant” on Route 66 in Wilmington, Ill.

  • 5

    GOOGLE IMAGES Cozy Dog Drive-In on Route 66 in Springfield, Ill. — home of the “one and only Cozy Dog.”

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Route 66.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Ted Drewes family-owned frozen custard company on Route 66 in St. Louis boasts being the “Best ice cream shop in the world.”

  • 8

    GOOGLE IMAGES Giant “Golden Driller” on Route 66 in Tulsa, Okla.

  • 9

    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Another giant figure of Route 66 lore is this bull in front of the Big Texan that used to be on the old route, but is now on I-40 in Amarillo, Texas. The restaurant offers a 4-and-a-half-pound steak.

  • 10

    GOOGLE IMAGES Central Avenue part of Route 66 in Albuquerque in the 1950s.

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    FLICKR Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman, Ariz.

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    JOSH’S CALIFORNIATHROUGHMYLENS BLOG Abandoned Mohawk gas station on Route 66 between Barstow and Victorville, Calif.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS End of Route 66 at Santa Monica Pier.

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    FLICKR Statue of St. Monica, two blocks north of the end of Route 66, was completed with the help of Idaho sculptor Gutzon Borglum who also created the Mt. Rushmore sculpture of four U.S. presidents.

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Historic Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica.

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    WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Bobby and Cynthia Troup must have been thrilled when they saw this sign near the end of their 2,448-mile drive from Chicago to Los Angeles on historic Route 66.

“Well if you ever plan to motor west, Jack, take my way, it’s the highway that’s the best — Get your kicks on Route 66!”

That’s the way Bobby and Cynthia Troup started a song they wrote as they drove the entire 2,448-mile route stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica.

Cynthia came up with the line “Get your kicks on Route 66.”

Bobby was a song writer, piano player and actor, and Cynthia an actress. The couple was headed to California from Pennsylvania, hoping to hit the big time in Hollywood.

They finished the tune by the time they got there and showed it to Nat King Cole.

He loved it and the song became a hit single — immortalizing Route 66.

Other artists soon began recording their versions, including Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones. They’re all on YouTube.

But it’s not just the song that’s memorable — it’s also the history and sights along Route 66 — both vintage and tacky.

Because it was the primary route for immigrants heading west, John Steinbeck wrote about it in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Dust Bowl novel “Grapes of Wrath.”

He called it the “Mother Road.” Others later called it the Will Rogers Highway.

Tulsa businessman Cyrus S. Avery (1871-1963) was a major promoter of the nationwide highway system, and fought to have the new interstate section between Chicago and Santa Monica designated as Route 66. In 1926, Congress approved the request — earning him the title of “Father of Route 66.”

Towns along the way immediately started to prosper as traffic increased.

In 1928, sports agent C.C. “Cash and Carry” Pyle organized the Bunion Derby — a 3,455-mile coast-to-coast marathon from Los Angeles to New York — the first part along Route 66 to Chicago.

Andy Payne, a 20-year-old part-Cherokee, won the $25,000 grand prize. The race took 84 days, with 55 of the 199 runners completing the run.

“I was hauling freight over Route 66 when I was 18 to 25,” says Jim Krueger of Post Falls. “You got to know the people along the way. They were wonderful people. They knew who you were. It was like old home week.

“When the freeway came in, all that changed. The culture just disappeared.”

Officially, Route 66 starts on Jackson Boulevard at Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, but Adams Street is where the journey westward begins.

The first major stop on the way to California is Springfield, the Illinois state capital and the place where President Lincoln is buried.

Route 66 was cobbled together from a number of roads and highways, and opened to traffic in 1926. It was decommissioned on June 24, 1985, and replaced by Interstate 10 and other highways.

Most of the old route is still drivable, but some patches are cracked and overgrown with weeds.

Interesting but tacky on Route 66 in Springfield are three giant statues — Paul Bunyan, an astronaut and a tire shop giant with the name “Lauterbach” on his trousers, while down the road is the Cozy Drive In that’s also tacky, but famous for its “one and only Cozy Dog … a delicious hot dog on a stick” that looks eerily like a corn dog.

One hour and a half drive south, Route 66 leads to the majestic Gateway to the West Arch in St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi — not far from where Lewis and Clark began their historic Corps of Discovery expedition to the Northwest.

A generation later, wagon trains of settlers followed in their footsteps starting the Oregon Trail — part of it becoming Route 66 a century and a half later.

Back to heading west on Route 66:

In 2017, the Route 66 Association of Missouri that ardently promotes the historic route must have been proud to learn that the Ted Drewes family-owned frozen custard company (since 1929) located on Route 66 in St. Louis was given the title of “Best ice cream shop in the world.”

That designation was awarded by a marketing company in Dublin, Ireland, called Sooinua that must have spent a fortune traveling around the world checking out all the other ice cream parlors.

Carthage, Mo., near Joplin on 66 has one of America’s last drive-in theaters, which old-timers will remember with a smile. The gates open at 7:30 p.m. and the movie starts at 8:30 p.m. — enough time for the car windows to fog up.

Route 66’s longest stretch in any one state is 400 miles long in Oklahoma. The state promotes the section as having “charming towns, roadside diners and quirky attractions.”

In Tulsa, one of those quirky attractions is the towering and tacky “Golden Driller” figure wearing a hard hat and leaning on an oil rig. In the background is a huge sign reading “Land of the Ultimate Road Trip.”

Unclear is how he keeps his coveralls so clean.

In Amarillo, The Big Texan steakhouse and motel that used to be on the old Route 66, but now moved to I-40 also has a giant figure — a huge bull in the parking lot.

The eatery is famous for its 4-and-a-half-pound steak that’s free if you can eat it — and the rest of the meal — in one hour or less.

As of February 2018, some 9,500 have succeeded of the 62,000 who have tried.

If you fail, the meal costs $72.

Also having its share of tacky is Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, called “The longest avenue in the world … 18 miles, or 3,200 blocks … a grim succession of abandoned motels and announcing billboards.”

In New Mexico, Route 66 runs through Gallup — called Na’nízhoozhí by the Navajos — the town trumpeted as “the mother lode of handcrafted Southwestern silver jewelry, hand-loomed Navajo rugs, and traditional Pueblo pottery.”

A good place to buy those treasures is Richardson’s Cash Pawn Shop, easily spotted by its tawdry Route 66-style sign.

Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado came to Gallup in 1540 also looking for treasure — not Indian art, but gold — which of course, he planned to share with the Spanish crown …

From Gallop, Route 66 zips through Arizona — Flagstaff, Winona and Kingman — all crowded with countless diners, motels and RV parks.

Across the street from the museum in Kingman is the legendary Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner painted a gaudy pink and turquoise, with matching booths inside. The tile floors are black-and-white and the dining area decorated with ’50s paraphernalia.

The menu offers “homemade root beer even sweeter than it is.”

In the museum are Burma-Shave signs that used to line the highways of yesteryear one sign after the other, spouting rhymes such as “He’s nifty and thrifty–looks 30 at 50.”

Between Barstow and Victorville, the Mohawk gas station stands in tatters next to 66. The office shack is boarded up; paint is peeling off the image of a Mohawk Indian on the wall, and the rusty pumps are forever frozen at a dollar per gallon.

Two hours west on 66 is Los Angeles. Bobby and Cynthia Troup must have been thrilled to finally see the giant “Hollywood” sign on the hill. (Also “tacky?”)

Their dreams of success in show biz came true, but sadly, their marriage failed.

At Santa Monica Pier, the glory days of Route 66 also ended — though some still cruise on what’s left just to be part of a colorful chapter in American history.

Footnote to Route 66:

The historic highway doesn’t come anywhere near Idaho — but there’s an Idaho connection:

Two blocks north of Santa Monica Pier where Wilshire Boulevard ends, stands an 18-foot tall statue of St. Monica standing on a pedestal.

Commissioned by the U.S. Government as a Public Works of Art project during the Great Depression, it was gifted to the city in 1934.

The sculptor was Eugene Morahan from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Morahan was given a deadline for completion of the statue but as the date drew closer, he feared he couldn’t meet it and quickly contacted his friend and fellow sculptor Gutzon Borglum, born in 1867 in St. Charles, Bear Lake County in the southeast corner of Idaho Territory.

He was busy carving the four presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, but nevertheless answered Morahan’s call for help.

The two sculptors finished the St. Monica statue on time and Borglum went back to finish Mount Rushmore.

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Contact Syd Albright at silverflix@roadrunner.com.

• • •

Song of the 1940s…

If you ever plan to motor west

Travel my way

Take the highway that’s the best

Get your kicks on Route 66

It winds from Chicago to LA

More than two thousand miles all the way

Get your kicks on Route 66

Now you go through St. Louis

Joplin, Missouri

And Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty

You see Amarillo

Gallup, New Mexico

Flagstaff, Arizona

Don’t forget Winona

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip

When you make that California trip

Get your kicks on Route 66

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip

When you make that California trip

Get your kicks on Route 66

Get your kicks on Route 66

Get your kicks on Route 66

— Nat King Cole version

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCYApJtsyd0

The TV show…

George Maharis and Martin Milner driving a baby-blue Corvette (the show was in black-and-white), starred in the CBS television series “Route 66” which debuted on Oct. 7, 1960, but was rarely filmed on the route. The show ended on March 13, 1964, after 116 episodes.

First McDonald’s…

McDonald’s Restaurant started on Route 66 in San Bernardino in 1945 — the burgers selling for 15 cents. The site is now the McDonald’s Route 66 Museum.

Trail of Tears…

Nostalgic drives on Route 66 may be fun today, but it wasn’t fun for some 16,000 Cherokee Indians in 1838 who were forced off their lands in the East by act of Congress and marched to reservations west of the Mississippi. Three to four thousand died along the way on what is now called the Trail of Tears — the part between Rolla and Springfield, Mo., becoming a section of Route 66 in 1926.

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Invitation to readers…

Everyone has a story. Press readers are invited to submit their Popcorn History stories (“Tasty little morsels of personal history”) for possible publication. Keep them 600 words or less. The stories may be edited if required. Submission of stories automatically grants permission to publish. Send to Syd Albright at silverflix@roadrunner.com.

‘Look for History Popcorn every Wednesday brought to you by Ziggy’s.’

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