Last year I was privileged by opportunities to speak
about Route 66 and that highways renaissance at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri, the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington-Normal, at a fund-raising event for the Route 66 Association of Kingman, at the first European Route 66 Festival, at a school in Bensheim, Germany, and at a Promote Kingman event where the new video series, Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 was introduced. This year I am narrowing the focus by developing a presentation that centers on the marketing of the Main Street of America in western Arizona over the course of the past century.
The story of Route 66 promotion actually commences a decade or so before that highways certification on November 11, 1926. The short version of a long story, one that I will provide more detail on in my presentation, is how the National Old Trails Highway was rerouted across northern Arizona, a rather dramatic realignment from the original route from Springerville to Yuma where it connected with the Ocean-To-Ocean Highway.
Tom Devine, proprietor of the Hotel Beale in Kingman, Arizona and the father of character actor Andy Devine, recent inductee into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, and members of the Arizona Good Roads Movement met in Needles, California and drafted a powerful presentation that detailed the merits of rerouting the highway across northern Arizona. This was presented at the 1912 National Old Trails Highway Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The rest, as the old adage goes, is history. The highway was rerouted across northern Arizona and in 1926, the newly minted US 66 replaced the National Old Trails Highway.
Devine and his associates built their presentation on the cornerstone of tourism potential. By rerouting the highway across northern Arizona, promoters would be able to tout the wonders of the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Chevelon Canyon, and Grand Canyon as a draw. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad had been building successful marketing campaigns that centered on the natural beauty of the southwest since the late 19th century.
In the years that followed thousands upon thousands of tourists followed the National Old Trails Highway across Arizona, and made detours to see the scenic wonders of Oak Creek Canyon and the Grand Canyon. A tsunami of books such as By Motor to The Golden Gate written by Emily Post, and countless feature articles about these adventures published in newspapers and magazines fueled a tourism boom. All of this publicity served as a very solid foundation for the US Highway 66 Association when they initiated the marketing of Route 66 in 1927.
Sprinkled with ample contributions from the expansive archives of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts, as well as the photographs my dearest friend and I have taken over the course of adventures in the past thirty years, the presentation should be of interest to the Route 66 enthusiast, the trivia buff, history aficionados, and any one who enjoys stories of adventure. As an example of the latter, consider this entry from Edesl Ford’s journal dated July 14, 1915.
“At 4-1/2 miles out at 11:15 Ford broke rear axle shaft. Sent for new one by hotel chauffeur who happened to come along from Flagstaff. When it arrived we found we had no wheel puller, so could not put the new shaft in. All tossed coin, odd man to walk back to hotel for wheel puller. Tom Whitehead was odd, and started. After he got back with one we had difficulty in removing gear from broken shaft. Sent it to garage to be put on new shaft by hotel chauffeur. Started assembling axle at six P.M., went together slowly in the dark. Got going at 10:15 P.M. Only food all days was can of beans and box of crackers for three of us. Had puncture at nineteen miles from Williams, arriving at 2:00 A.M. Got good meal at lunch counter. Harvey Hotel filled. Sheriff directed us to third rate rooming house. Only one room left was occupied by three of us.”
And they considered this a vacation! At least that T model Ford was faster than a horse, and to paraphrase Ransom Olds, it didn’t need to eat when you weren’t riding it.
Hopefully today’s post intrigues you enough to consider attending a presentation when I take the show on the road this year. As dates and venues are confirmed, I will share them here as well on the Facebook page. And, if you would like to schedule a presentation at an event, for a fund-raising initiative, or at a museum as an educational program, drop me a note.
In a somewhat unrelated note, today during work on this blog the idea to take a break and use Facebook live to plug the pending post came to mind. This turned into a fun-filled, informal discussion with friends and acquaintances from Pennsylvania, Australia, New Zealand, Texas, Wyoming, and the four corners of the earth. How amazing! What a contrast to the era of Edsel’s grand adventure.
That takes us to the final item of the day, a bit of shameless self promotion. On Friday mornings at 6:15 A.M. Arizona time, I now use Facebook live for a regularly scheduled program. Even though I share news from the Route 66 community and Kingman, the primary focus is on answering your questions. Resultant of today’s interaction on Facebook, it looks like we will be talking about Two Guns, the National Old Trails Highway, and Edsel Ford’s adventure. I try to keep it to 15 minutes but won’t rush things so we may run a bit longer.
The long promised Jim Hinckley’s America podcast is now up and running. Unless something drastic intervenes, a new program will be made available every Friday morning. A hearty thank you to Gary Cron of Route 66 for his editing skills. I do not have a schedule yet, but this podcast will also be a program on Gary’s Internet station.
One more. I am also writing a regular blog for Promote Kingman. The primary focus is on Kingman area history. Your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions, as always, would be appreciated.
That about wraps it up for today. Until we meet again, take care, mi amigos.