Father of Route 66:  The Story of Cy Avery

cyaverybook_150pThis is the story of how one man’s passion for better roads changed 20th century America and gave the world Route 66.

This engaging biography of a remarkable man begins with a description of the urgency for “good roads” that gripped the nation as the number of cars multiplied and mud deepened. Cy Avery was one of a small cadre of men and women whose passion carried the Good Roads movement from boosterism to political influence to concrete-on-the-ground. While most stopped there, Avery went on to assure that one road—U.S. Highway 66—became a fixture in the imagination of America and the world.

Father of Route 66 transports readers to the years when the United States was moving from steam to internal combustion engines and traces Avery’s life from his birth in Stevensville, Pennsylvania, to his death more than ninety years later. Avery came west in a covered wagon, grew up in Indian Territory, and spent his adult years in oil-rich Tulsa, where fifty millionaires sat on the Chamber of Commerce board and the builder of the Panama Canal dropped in to size up a local water project.

Cy Avery was a farmer, teacher, real estate professional, oil man, and politician, but throughout his long life he remained a champion for better roads across America. He stood up to the Oklahoma Ku Klux Klan, hatched plans for a municipal airport, and helped build a 55-mile water pipeline for Tulsa. The centerpiece of his story—and this book—however, is Avery’s role in designing the national highway system, his monumental fight with the governor of Kentucky over a road number, and his promotional efforts that turned his U.S. 66 into an American icon.

Father of Route 66 is the first in-depth exploration of Cy Avery’s life and his impact on the movement that transformed twentieth-century America. It is a must-read for anyone fascinated by Route 66 and America’s early car culture.

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route 66 bookRoute 66: The Highway and Its People 

U.S. Highway 66 was always different from other roads. During the decades it served American travelers, Route 66 became the subject of a world-famous novel, an Oscar-winning film, a hit song, and a long running television program. The 2,000 mile concrete slab also became a seven-year obsession for Susan Croce Kelly and Quinta Scott. They traveled Route 66, photographing buildings, knocking on doors, and interviewing the people who had built the buildings and run the businesses along the highway. Drawing on the oral tradition of those rural Americans who populated the edge of old Route 66, Scott and Kelly have pieced together the story of a highway that was conceived in Tulsa, Oklahoma; linked Chicago to Los Angeles; and played a role in the great social changes of the early twentieth century.

Using the words of the people themselves and documents they left behind, Kelly describes the life changes of Route 66 from the dirt-and-gravel days until the time when new technology and different life-styles decreed that it be abandoned to the small towns it had nurtured over the course of thirty years.

Scott’s photographic essay shows the faces of those 66 people and gives a feeling of what can be seen along the old highway today, from the seminal highway architecture to the grainfields of the Illinois prairie, the windbent trees of western Oklahoma, the emptiness of New Mexico, and the bustling pier where the highway ends on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Route 66 uses oral history and photography as the basis for a human study of this country’s most famous road. Historic times, dates, places, and events are described in the words of men and women who were there: driving the highway, cooking hamburgers, creating pottery, and pumping gas. As much as the concrete, gravel, and tar spread in a sweeping arc from Chicago to Santa Monica, those people are Route 66. Their stories and portraits are the biography of the highway.

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