170—Route 66—The Mother Road

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Manage episode 298420562 series 31091
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John Steinbeck called it the “Mother Road.” Songwriter Bobby Troup described it as the route to get your kicks on. And Mickey Mantle said, “If it hadn’t been for Highway 66 I never would have been a Yankee.” For the Dust Bowl refugees of the 1930s, for the thousands who migrated after World War II, and for the generations of tourists and vacationers, Route 66 was “the Way West.”

Route 66, the first continuously paved highway linking east and west was the most traveled and well known road in America for almost fifty years. From Chicago, it ran through the Ozarks of Missouri, across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, up the mesas of New Mexico and Arizona, and down into California to the Pacific Ocean. The first road of its kind, it came to represent America’s mobility and freedom—inspiring countless stories, songs, and even a TV show.

Songwriter Bobby Troup tells the story of his 1946 hit Get Your Kicks on Route 66; Gladys Cutberth, aka Mrs. 66 and members of the old “66 Association” talk about the early years of the road. Mickey Mantle explains “If it hadn’t been for US 66 I wouldn’t have been a Yankee.” Stirling Silliphant, creator of the TV series “Route 66” talks about the program and its place in American folklore of the 60s.

Studs Terkel reads from “The Grapes of Wrath” and comments on the great 1930s migration along Highway 66. We hear from Black and white musicians including Clarence Love, head of Clarence Love and his Orchestra, Woody Guthrie, and Eldin Shamblin, guitar player for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys—who remember life on the road for musicians during the 1930s. We travel the history of the road from its beginnings as “The Main Street of America,” through the “Road of Flight” in the 1930s, to the “Ghost Road” of the 1980s, as the interstates bypass the businesses and road side attractions of another era.

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters and narrated by actor David Selby.

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