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A pivot point June 30, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Road trips.
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Chuck Twardy of the Las Vegas Weekly wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking article about a recent trip down the Mother Road.

Using Park Central Square in Springfield, Mo., where Route 66 was essentially born and where a small plaque tells of the lynching of three black men there in 1906, Twardy writes this:

Springfield, Missouri, is a pivot point for Route 66 and the nation. It casts the route westward, after its southwesterly drift from Chicago. Before long, rolling farmland and forests yield to rock and scrub. And its history echoes the tensions between North and South, black and white. The Route 66 story is, in some ways, as deficient as the history book on Springfield’s square. For one thing, it is largely white, about a time when few minorities enjoyed the middle-class perk of a long road trip. And its laudable linkage of Main Streets eventually led to their desertion. Two builders of those chrome-lined cars have filed for bankruptcy.

It is a stretch to tie the “financial meltdown” to the building of interstates, but the mind-set that pushed us into bigger cars on wider roads to more distant neighborhoods also littered the suburbs of Las Vegas with vacant McMansions. Our postwar enthusiasms collided with unintended consequences, both internal and external. Still forging compromises about our past — sorry we treated many of you so miserably… how about a plaque? — we face furloughs and cutbacks and bankruptcies. We take staycations and layoff-cations. Americans may be forgiven, a little at least, if they feel let down by leaders who sold them a story as untenable as any historical lie.

No doubt some stretches of Route 66 today reprise the Mother Road role of carrying job seekers to new prospects — eastward this time. But the route also beckons the newly disenchanted, not with illusions of bygone America, but with its rejection of homogenous interstate culture.

I have nothing to add, except that this article, in a way, crystallizes why I started Route 66 News — I’m interested in what’s going on with the Mother Road now.

And although I seek to preserve the road’s unique history, I have no desire to relive those eras from where those landmarks originated.

(Hat tip: Ron Roberson)

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