Route 66 sign
Route 66: History, Myth and Memory

Kye Miller's Project

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Get Your Kicks: Gasoline Stations on The Mythological Road

Route 66 is an important part of American history. Connecting Chicago to Los Angeles, the road has been utilized by so many over its years. It connected one half of the country to the other half, guided travelers to the wild west, and allowed people to escape the Dust Bowl. The brown-colored Historic Route 66 signs currently occupy the side of roads, reminding people of its past. In 1977, the old Route 66 signs came down in Illinois, replaced by the current brown-colored signs (Teague). I-55 took over as the major north-south transportation corridor in Illinois, running just about the same route as 66. The road has many nicknames, including “Bloody 66,” in reference to automobile collisions and the dangerous nature of the early road (Scott). Many sites, all over the nation, are endangered and on the verge of being forgotten and demolished for future development (Juozapavicius).


Route 66 is currently recognized as a historic road, not the consolidated American highway connecting the Midwest to the West it was previously. Since the road was overtaken by the interstate system, Route 66 slowly became a magical road which we attempt to never forget. This road is deeply rooted in reality, however has transitioned into the realm of mythology. Route 66 Road
Route 66 enthusiasts and the government has taken action to help preserve the memory of the road. Corporations have also reinforced the mythology by creating key chains, music, jeans, hotels, magazines, television shows, food products, and many other consumer products.
Today, the road and its associated buildings are in various stages of disrepair and historic renewal. Some parts of the old road are currently abandoned and overgrown, some gas stations and diners are restored, while other parts of the old road have been repaved and renamed. Soulsby Pump
Soulsby Shell Station, in Mount Olive, Illinois, is an example of a filling station which has been rehabilitated to represent earlier times. Other stations have been abandoned, and other stations have been created to honor the Route 66 gas station. The various conditions Route 66 occupies demonstrate the various views locals and government officials hold of the old road and how they feel it should be portrayed today.

The gas station is an extremely important part of America, historically and currently. Automobiles dominate transportation, most families now have multiple vehicles and some kids get them at the age of sixteen. This country would not run without petroleum products and the filling stations which serve them. The first gas, or filling, station opened in 1901 in New York City, encouraging the buying of automobiles. Four years later, the first gas station in Missouri opened at 412 S. Theresa Avenue, St. Louis (Witzel). Twenty-five years later after the first station opened, the first gas station in southern Illinois opened in Mount Olive, Illinois. Ever since these gas stations opened, the use of gasoline has skyrocketed. By 2006, America was consuming over three-hundred and eighty-million gallons of gasoline per day (EIA). America is so addicted to gasoline; the Bush administration has proposed measures to reduce the amount America uses.

Initially, gasoline was sold at drug-stores, blacksmiths, and other stores. Gasoline tanks that were upright for filling and gasoline hoses did not exist in the early days. A container was filled at the store and carried out to the customer, and then the customer would fill-up in the parking lot. Eventually, gasoline came to be viewed as less dangerous and more for the average citizen as opposed to upper-class folk who can afford a vehicle and gasoline (Witzel). Filling stations were the blood line of Route 66 and America’s transportation. One could not travel along Route 66, or any other road for that matter, without stopping at a filling station every so often. People would have to fill up approximately every seventy miles in the early days due to the smaller tanks in early vehicles (Witzel).


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