It’s quite a mouthful of a title and it’s a big chunky book. You could not present just a pamphlet on such an iconic and romantic road. The Complete Route 66, Lost and Found is an in-depth look at the history of Route 66 but equally important, the impact that rerouting of the road had on communities and, more specifically, small businesses.
Route 66 started life as not a road at all but rather a collection of trails that, over time, became a surfaced highway. That was an evolution of decades, but improvement became more pressing in the 1930’s with the increase in traffic. Those years saw the misery and heartbreak of the Dust Bowl. Drought and high winds drove mid-west farmers out of their homes and on the road to, perhaps, a better life in California. It was these events that were the back-drop to John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath. It was he who immortalised the highway as “The Mother Road”.
The Complete Route 66, Lost and Found is about architecture as much as the road itself. The author, Russell A. Olsen, has captured the essence of life along this amazing road, from the early days of motor transport to these modern times when a drive along any part of the original Route 66 is conducted more for nostalgia than convenience.
Russell has painstakingly contrasted old photographs of cafes, motels and gas stations with pictures taken recently. Some buildings show only slight change, some are hardly recognisable and there are many which no longer exist at all. There are prize-winning examples of Art Deco architecture and equally charming 1940’s Americana. Time has evidently taken its toll on some buildings but others remain snapshots of another era, frozen in time.
A marvellous Art Deco building still exists in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was originally the Jones Motor Company and built in 1939, it has those unmistakable lines of many “between-the-wars” structures, with clean design which is said to mimic that of the celebrated Atlantic-crossing ocean liners. This gas station and auto shop has become a restaurant and brew pub so the history of pumping still continues!
The Complete Route 66, Lost and Found will be praised for its attention to detail. Russell Olsen has an easy-flowing style of writing that transports you back in time, and the photographs are quite amazing. This will find its way onto bookshelves of all those with a passion for Route 66 memorabilia, or American architecture in general.
The Complete Route 66, Lost and Found
Author: Russell A. Olsen
Published by: Voyageur Press
Price: £14.99, $25.00US
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018