By: SALLY HARRIS
Photography by: MIKE & SALLY HARRIS
Mention Route 66 and people instantly picture a red corvette speeding along a curvy road, Art Deco diners, neon lit motels and old fashioned gas stations. To us it meant a perfect summer adventure so in September we flew to St. Louis, rented a car and drove what’s left of historic Route 66 to Santa Monica, California. Our aim was to photograph middle American culture, perhaps as it existed in the 1930s and immerse ourselves in the Route 66 culture of diners, motels and kitsch.
Following are some of our favorite iconic sights:
Twenty-one Cents Per Gallon. This old gas station was at the end of a dead-end that was long ago cut off by Interstate 40. The starkness, loneliness and interesting light reminded Mike of an Edward Hopper painting. As in every Hopper painting, there is a story here – left up to the viewer to imagine.
Radio in Every Room. Although we didn’t stay at the Boots Court motel in Carthage, MO, we fell in love the minute we saw it. Built in 1939 by Arthur Boots, it is open for business but is still in the process of being lovingly restored and furnished with vintage furniture. This was our first introduction to a “Court” as opposed to a “Motel.” A Court has carports next to each room. By the way, Clark Gable once stayed here!
Neon Lights the Night. In the 1920s and 1930s, neon signs were prevalent. Neon signs, it turns out, are difficult to maintain, and most businesses have moved away from neon in favor in the brightly lit signs that are everywhere today. We stayed at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico with its classic neon glowing.
Chief Pontiac. Standing in front of the Blue Swallow is a vintage Pontiac Chieftan with a stunning hood ornament.
U Drop In Café The Art Deco Conoco Station in Shamrock, TX was built in 1936. It is as stunning in the day as it is at night lit up in neon green.
Deco Diner Waitress. Diners came in all shapes and sizes; however the Route 66 Diner in Albuquerque was a classic in all ways, including this waitress who kindly struck a pose for Mike.
Cadillac Ranch and Bug Ranch. One of the must-see stops on Route 66 is the World Famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX where ten spray-painted Cadillacs stand on end in a cornfield. 30 miles away, in Conway TX is this humorous homage to Cadillac Ranch called Bug Ranch where five VW Bugs stand on end. In the background is the omnipresent generic “Motel” sign.
American Treat. Hamburgers are the primary staple of most Route 66 lunch spots. We were having our lunch when a mother and her son came and sat nearby. When the watermelon arrived, Mike approached the mother who gave him permission to photograph, and Bryce and he soon became buddies.
Three weeks and two-thousand-seven-hundred-twenty-five miles later, we hit the Pacific Ocean:
Greenwich residents Mike and Sally Harris have developed a passion for cultural photography. Over the past several years, they have traveled around the U.S. and abroad with the goal of capturing the essence of a place and the people who live there.