At the risk of seeming a bit maudlin, there is something almost symbolic in the transition between summer and fall that is marked by the Labor Day holiday, the last official weekend of the summer season here in the United States. For the past few years reflection on that symbolism at this time of year has developed an odd sort of clarity.
The seasons are on the cusp of change, likewise with life in general. For me winter is still some years down the track. Still I need to look no further than the mirror where I see grey stubble on my face (I haven’t shaved for a few days)to know that summer is fast giving way to fall.
As an astute student of history, and a survivor of almost six decades of life, I am painfully aware of just how fast time passes. In reflecting on the summer of 2014, I am astounded by how it seems to have passed in less time than it takes me to figure out what hat to wear in the morning.
What, pray tell, does this have to do with Route 66? Well, take just a moment to give thought to the Route 66 of 2002, and the Route 66 of today. Now, look toward the future the exact number of years and we will be celebrating that iconic highways centennial.
Take a gander at the photo in the upper left corner. Does it look familiar? That, my friends is the Kimo Café, circa 1940, which currently masquerades as Mr. D’z in Kingman, Arizona.
As late as the mid 1970’s the old place remained unchanged from this photograph. My future brother in law pumped gas and fixed tires in that Shell station in 1977. The first dinner upon my return to Kingman took place in this restaurant just before Christmas, 1976.
Since then the old Kimo Café has evolved into a caricature of a Route 66 diner much as the road itself transitioned into a romanticized image of what once was. Is this good, or is it bad? Shouldn’t we simply be happy that it survived? Where do we draw the line between preservation and transformation?
If we myopically focus on preservation do we risk loosing the spirit, the essence of what makes the road special? However, if we simply abandon preservation to ensure a building survives, isn’t there a risk of transforming the highway and its unique culture into a cheap imitation of Disneyland?
These are key questions to consider as the countdown to the centennial commences.
As we await developments from Edwardsville, may I respectively ask for your thoughts, ideas, and vision for the future of Route 66? I have some thoughts about the forthcoming centennial and need your help in clarifying them.