In 1926, Springfield became the Route 66’s Birthplace
Route 66 would have turned 85 this year. In 1926, pioneers of the east-west corridor officially named it ‘Route 66’ at a meeting in Springfield, Mo.
It was decommissioned in 1985, but the mother road still brings in tourists from across the globe.
“I wonder myself, what keeps bringing people back and what people find so exciting and intoxicating about this road,” said photography Michael Campanelli.
Campanelli travels the route as often as he can, snapping photos. Along the way, he promotes his work and photo exhibits.
He drove the road for the first time in 2002, and says he still isn’t sure what he loves about the road.
“To me, it’s the freedom just to get out in America and be able to drive around,” said Campanelli.
Whatever the reason, Route 66 lives on.
“You’ll find yourself coming back, and back, and back again,” says Gary Turner, owner of the Gay Parita Sinclair Station.
When the major 4-lane highways went in, Route 66 disappeared in pieces. In southwest Missouri, many of the buildings are disappearing, too. Run-down, deteriorating buildings dot the sides of the decommissioned highway.
As America changes, so does its landscape.
“The historic buildings that we have, that’s the fabric of our community. If they’re gone, the fabric of our community is gone,” said David Eslick, with the Route 66 Association of Missouri.
Not all of the buildings are forgotten. There’s been a recent resurgence of interest in the mother road.
Like Turner’s Sinclair station.
“It’s just my dream,” said Turner.
Turner rebuilt a gas station on his property in 2006, after the original burned down in 1955.
“It’s the greatest thing i ever did in my life,” says Turner. “It’s not a duplicate of the original gas station. It’s just my idea of what a 1930 gas station would look like.”
Now, Turner spends most of his days greeting visitors who stop in at the station. A quick thumb through his guest book shows visitors from across the country and around the globe.
That interest in Route 66 is good news for its official birthplace: Springfield, Mo. In 1926, at a meeting in downtown Springfield, pioneers of the route penned a telegraph, officially dubbing the highway “Route 66.”
In its hey-day, the road linked rural America to two major u-s cities: Los Angeles and Chicago. Now, much of it is still drive-able, just off the main route. In Missouri, most of Route 66 runs along-side Highway 44, criss-crossing it along the way.
“You’ll be driving along on the interstate, and you’ll see a Route 66 sign right there by the side of the road,” says Eslick.
Signs still direct drivers where to go to “get their kicks…”
“Route 66 never died. It’s going to get better and better as we go. There’s hundreds of people on Route 66 that’s working on it now,” says Turner.
Copyright © 2011, KSPR-TV