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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
February 2015 issue
by Richard Perry
Route 66 Oklahoma
Replaced by a series of interstates initiated by Eisenhower in the 1950’s, Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 after 57years of hard use and service to the people of this country. At the time its construction was finished, it was the first road that completed a cross-country interstate and indelibly changed how this country viewed itself. It was used as a route to transport troops to the west coast during WW II and increased trade and commerce between our country and many others with whom we had not previously been able to trade and joined together people from all parts of the country. Perhaps most importantly and certainly most dramatically, this road was the route of western migration during the dust bowl. John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, the story of the Joad family’s migration across Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s, captures the true history and power of that road. Steinbeck uses the road as metaphor for the suffering of the farmers whose land was turned into a bleak dustbowl by overuse and poor land management encouraged by an unknowing government and exploited by avaricious bankers and greedy agricultural corporations. At the time of this migration Route 66 was only nine feet wide and not yet fully paved. Small stores, coffee shops, and gas stations were built along the road and small towns grew where none had been before. Old trucks and cars piled high with belongings and the family members bounced and crept along the road looking for refuge. Roadside campsites were set up where there was enough space for several cars to pull off the road and where there was hopefully a source of scarce water crucial for drinking, cooking, and vehicle radiators. It was through these camps that Steinbeck portrayed the common struggles of these farmers during their migration to what they believed would be a land of plenty in California. It was there that the workers came together to face their hardships, share with others what little food they had, and help each other bury the many who died of starvation and disease. It was also there that they began to embrace the necessity of political organizing for farm workers. The road became a metaphor for the struggle between the laborers and the owners, the government and the people it was supposed to protect, and avarice and greed against human compassion. The determination to survive and to make a better life came face to face with uncompromising barriers. Route 66 inspired music, movies, literature, and even a television show that created an abrupt upswing in the sales of Corvettes, but more importantly, it became a part of what defined America. Now, however, tourist attractions, fast food restaurants, faux circa 1930s gas stations have crept in where much of the original small communities were, and in general the road has become a representation of the gaudy commercialism of the present day. Fortunately, while the original Route 66 exists only in short patches much of which has not been maintained, there are still some original buildings in the small towns and villages in Oklahoma that were the essence of US Route 66. Time has taken its toll on most of the buildings, but some have been kept up as usable space even serving the same function as the original intent. It is those buildings and the life and lives they represent that I set out to capture with my photographs. I went to Oklahoma to photograph what remains of the highway and the communities that grew up along it. I went to photograph what life was, and in many ways still is, on the Mother Road. I went to photograph the spirit of the people who struggled against overwhelming odds to live meaningful lives and to honor that struggle and the courage it demanded. I went to photograph the Joads.
Avon Motel.
Beat it with a Stick.
Bridge and tree, Route 66.
AAA rated.
Seats for sitting.
Cold beer.
Corrugated barn.
Drink Coca Cola.
House in tree.
Mother road.
No newspapers, no telephone.
U brake bottles.
Wooden door.
Shoe tree.
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