This first volume in the New Forums Press Oklahoma Centennial Series celebrates the so-called “Mother Road,” Route 66, part of Oklahoma.
The old Route 66 started in Chicago, passing through St. Louis and Tulsa then on to Oklahoma City. From there it headed west to Amarillo and the Texas panhandle into New Mexico and Arizona, ending up in California. Today, Interstate 44 from Chicago to Oklahoma City then Interstate 40 from Oklahoma City to California run near the old Route 66 highways, albeit much wider and straighter.
The state of Oklahoma has preserved its section of Route 66 as a historical route. Many Oklahomans, known as Okies, left during the Dust Bowl days and headed to California, where they hoped to find a better life. Later, Route 66 served as a major highway for Oklahomans to travel across the state or next door. It is still used for a more leisurely or scenic alternative drive to the Interstate.
John Calvin Womack provides an introduction to the history of Route 66with a map and some of the towns and cities on the Route in Oklahoma. He has drawn pictures of buildings and other scenes from various places along the Route using fountain pen ink. He also provides black and white photographs of scenes, too. These photographs are intended as side decoration and information, which they succeed in doing. The introduction features colored drawings, but those that follow are rendered in black and white, all complete with descriptions and commentaries on the scenes. The drawings start at Quapaw, Oklahoma near where Route 66 enters Oklahoma from Missouri. From Quapaw, Womack includes drawings from scenes in Commerce, Miami, Narcissa, Afton, Vinita, White Oak, Chelsea, Bushyhead, Foyil, Claremore, Catoosa, Tulsa, Sapulpa, Kellyville, Bristow, Depew, Stroud, Davenport, Chandler, Warwick, Luther, Arcadia, Edmond, Oklahoma City, Yukon, El Reno, Calumet, Geary, Hinton Junction, Bridgeport, Hydro, Weatherford, Clinton, Foss, Canute, Elk City, Sayre, Erick, and finally Texola. Most of these towns are very small places, while others are large cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Womack provides a short bibliography on other books and materials on Route 66.
This book can serve as a very readable, informative guide to a Route 66 vacation trip, or it can also serve as a coffee-table book. Once Upon a Highway is highly recommended to those interested in Route 66 or as a way to celebrate Oklahoma’s centennial.
John Calvin Womack is an award-winning architect and artist who is also a professor of architecture at Oklahoma State University.