Saturday, February 25, 2012

Route 66 - The State of Oklahoma

Route 66 – The State of Oklahoma

When you are thinking “Cowboys and Indians”, the state of Oklahoma should come to your mind. Beginning in 1830 many Indian tribes were forced to leave their land in the southeastern United States and march westward to a newly created Indian Territory, later to become Oklahoma. The route was named The Trail of Tears, stemming from the government induced relocation which was responsible for the death of approximately one fourth of the natives as they fought hunger, weather elements, and weariness on their route. Today there are over 32 tribes across the state, one of the largest Indian populations in the United States. The Chisholm Trail, running through Oklahoma, is the route the cowboys drove their herds of cattle from Texas to Kansas to be shipped east on railroad cars. Cowboys and Indians crisscrossed this state and left their mark. This truly is the Great American West.

Nicknamed The Sooner State, Oklahoma boasts of 400 miles of Route 66, from the small town of Quapaw on the northeast corner of the state to the ghost town of Texola, on the southwest corner. This is where the southwesterly direction of Route 66 ends, and as it enters Texas the route goes west until it reaches the coast of California. From Chicago to Los Angeles, the route also became known as The Mother Road, and Main Street of America, passing through the heart of our great nation. This state can boast of having more authentic Route 66 stretches than any of the other seven states who host this historical stretch of road.

Cyrus Avery, a former highway commissioner for the state of Oklahoma, was the one chosen by the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads to develop and connect roads from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean in one continuous route. November 11, 1926 this roadway was given an official national designation of “Route 66”. Cyrus was an Oklahoma boy who made sure this historic road came down and across his state, hoping the many travelers would benefit his home territory. The route was officially completed and named in 1926, but it wasn’t until 1937 that the portion which crossed through Oklahoma was all paved in Portland Concrete. It was the main thoroughfare until 1953 when the Turner turnpike, the express route between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, was completed and became the first major highway to bypass the Mother Road, Route 66.

The 1930’s were dust bowl years of depression and dry, barren land when many from Oklahoma left the area to head to California’s fertile valleys to look for a better life. It was this hardship that inspired John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. There is a web site that carries news about Route 66 (, and it mentions a video worth watching…a commentary on Steinbeck and his novel:

The two largest cities in Oklahoma are Oklahoma City (OKC) and Tulsa. OKC is where the first automatic parking meter was put to use, 1935, and in 1937 the shopping cart was invented. In 1906 on the southwestern corner of OKC the village of Bethany was established by members of the Church of the Nazarene. Today Bethany’s Nazarene college is called Southern Nazarene University. Tulsa, the second largest city, was once known as the Oil Capital of the world.

Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907, and Oklahoma City became the capital in 1910. The capital building was different from other capitals because it did not have a dome. One was finally constructed in 2002. In 1928 oil was struck, and the grounds of the state capitol had 24 pumping oil wells. It was in this capital city that tragedy struck in 1995. The Federal Building was taken down by a bombing, and 168 people lost their lives that day. Today a beautiful National Memorial is in it’s place, with 168 chairs designed to reflect in a nearby pool, representing each of those lives lost. It’s an awesome memorial. When they were trying to decide what to build, a little boy suggested chairs be placed on the grounds so that when he missed his mommy, who died in the bombing, he could climb up into the chair, and pretend he was climbing into her lap. His suggestion is the one that was chosen.

Famous people who were born in Oklahoma include Cyrus Avery (“founder” of Route 66), Mickey Mantle (baseball giant), Garth Brooks and Roger Miller (country music stars), and Will Rogers (humorist), to name a few. There are many interesting places to visit as one crosses the state, and your emotions will be touched by the nostalgia, the history, the adventure, and the tragedies this state represents.

Note: On the news web site it tells about a new musical group, called “Pipes and Sticks”, which is just starting up. This group of Scottish-style musicians is planning performances in major cities along Route 66, with a documentary being made. For more information, visit this web site:

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