Facts and Fiction of Route 66 at the Autry

June 6, 2014

Los Angeles, Museums, SC Guide

by Valerie Summers

U.S. Highway Route 66 is both a physical road and a romantic notionpollack66 much of which is both confirmed and dispelled in the current do not miss exhibition at the Autry National Center of the American West. This is not a “fluff” presentation as portrayed in TV shows of days gone by although there is lots of positive information and loads of inspiration which came from the famous highway that stretched 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, California.

The first surprise in the exhibition was Jackson Pollock’s painting Westward Bound, one in which the viewer could actually make out the subject matter.  Author Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript (scroll) for On The Road, a handwritten page from Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, an original sketch for the Pixar film Cars and Woody Guthrie’s Martin  guitar comprise just a few of the highlights.  A pristine  1960 Corvette posed in front of a neon motel sign, original Phillips 66 gasoline pumps and historic photographs including the unforgettable Migrant Mother are just a few of the more than 250 unique exhibits. Route 66 was not all fun and glamor as portrayed in the song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” nor the TV show, of which I was a fan, Route 66, the adventures of two young men and a Corvette traveling the Mother Road.

The iconic highway’s history also had a dark side and was used to promote Native American stereotypes and travel guides which identified “sundown towns,”   places where African Americans did not want to be after dark.  These extended into California.  Bigotry was not relegated only to the South.

On a positive note, the younger generation was introduced to Route 66 in 2006 when Pixar Animation Studios presented the hit film, Cars, which my grandson, along with thousands of other children,  must have watched a hundred times.

The exhibit portrays the road’s heyday and also the reasons for the its decline. It also presents examples of the works of the National Park Service and preservationists to restore and revive the road’s rich history and heritage, an ongoing process initiated in 1999 with the enactment of the Tour 66 Corridor Preservation Program.

Several Special Events are being held in conjunction with this exhibition.

The Autry National Center of the American West

4700 Western Heritage Way

Los Angeles






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