Thursday, July 18, 2013

Awesome Arizona - How to Kill a Town

For sixty years, anyone driving from the middle of the United States to the Southwest or West Coast took this Main Street of America.  Oklahomans fleeing the Dustbowl, Jack Kerouc and the Beat Generation, vacationers intent on seeing the Grand Canyon all traveled on this most famous road in America, one of the original highways the government established in 1927.

When travelers got hungry they stopped for a bite in one of the town diners sprinkled along the route; when they couldn't drive another mile, they stopped for the night at Earl's Motor Court or the Hill Top Motel.  Route 66, the highway John Steinbeck called the Mother Road in The Grapes of Wrath, passed right through the middle of towns across America and helped them prosper.

Winslow, Arizona, was one of them.

The famous corner in Winslow.
The Mother Road, so famous it spawned a TV series called, appropriately enough, Route 66, went right through the heart of Winslow.  Then Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote a song called "Take It Easy," popularized by the Eagles in 1972, and Winslow became not just a place to pass through but a destination.

Well, I'm a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin' down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though
we will never be here again
so open up, I'm climbin' in
so take it easy
For years, the proprietors and restaurateurs along the street watched hundreds of cars and trucks roll by every day.  Until suddenly, one day in 1984, no one at all drove by.
Winslow's main street at rush hour June, 2013.
The town's shops closed, motels shuttered their windows, and restaurants struggled to survive with only a handful of customers a day.  Winslow had been dealt a death blow.  

Was it a plague?  A recession?  An earthquake?  No, what destroyed this little town was simply a decision by the US government.  They decided that what America needed was a superhighway so people could speed through the United States without having to see any of the towns that make it special.

Interstate-40, a utilitarian road no one has nicknamed or written shows about, now traverses the country right through its middle, from Wilmington, NC, to Barstow, California.  It bypasses Winslow, Arizona, completely.
This guy lolls on a shop roof.

Although Winslow still has spunk, most of the area is littered with has-beens.

Luckily, there is one special place that is reviving this town.  I'll tell you all about it in the next post.

Practicalities - 

Route 66/Second Street in Winslow is easy walking.  Anyone in town can tell you how to find the Standin' on the Corner Park.

David and I loved eating at Triple R's Home Cooking, 1308 E Third St., tel: 928-289-6715, where everything--from the apple butter to the biscuits--is homemade and cheap.  You won't regret eating breakfast here. 


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