Sunday, November 29, 2009

Route 66 Ends at Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is now the official end of historic U.S. Route 66, originally established November 11, 1926. Finally, this highway made famous in song by Nat “King” Cole ends directly at the Pacific Ocean where unofficially many have presumed the highway terminated anyway.

Here’s a short ABC News video account noting the recent Route 66 events of November 11, 2009 at Santa Monica Pier.

The road from Chicago to L.A. has been variously known as the humorist Will Rogers Highway, colloquially as the "Main Street of America" or the "Mother Road" in John Steinbeck’s novel "Grapes of Wrath." This was the road taken by migrants traveling West “including those escaping the devastation of the drought’s “Dust Bowl” in the 1930’s.

I wrote earlier about "Route 66, Music, Memories" including a video of Nat Cole’s vocal solo backed by his musicians. An additional video features a years later recording of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer’s popular arrangement made about the highway. This link is a Rolling Stones version for those who might enjoy a rock arrangement. Maybe it’s just a matter of my personal music tastes, but after listening to several Stones YouTube versions I concluded their arrangements, instrumentation and sound quality hardly did justice to Bobby Troup’s tune. Maybe the first arrangement we ever hear of a song somehow influences our preferences whoever is the performer. You may be the judge.

A 1960’s television series named Route 66 caught the viewing public’s fancy for a few years. Here’s Nelson Riddle’s memorable recording of the shows musical theme.

The "Route 66" TV series made television history by being shot on location entirely. Ironically few scenes were ever shot on the actual U.S. Highway 66 which is so typical of reality in TV series and movies. The show’s seriousness in the beginning focused on pertinent issues of the time that often had political implications. CBS network executives reportedly were concerned about the potential adverse effects on viewership such thought stimulating episodes could have and wanted the show to add more “broads, bosoms, and fun.” Finally acquiescing to network demands the producers “introduced young female guest stars such as Tuesday Weld and Suzanne Pleshette” Another such young actress, Inger Stevens can be seen in this nine minute video of the first of her two appearances on the show.

The person posting this YouTube video noted he was doing so as a tribute including to older TV series “…in the best interest of Fair Use…” He added his intent was to bring new appreciation for the talents of Inger Stevens whose death was untimely.

Series stars Martin Milner portrayed Tod and George Maharis was Buzz. Milner is retired, still lives in Southern California. There’s quite an extensive Route 66 blog with comments as recent as September 2009 specifically about Maharis for anyone interested in reading more. Several writers reported their positive experiences having personal contact with him, including a woman who worked for him for about a year and another individual identified herself as having written about him on Wikipedia.

I enjoyed that television series. We didn't drive a Corvette, but my husband and I did share enthusiasm for short to long cross country driving trips. He traveled all of Route 66 years before we met. Years later we drove the historic route's highway segments that were still open.


  1. Well, I think this was a great idea. I concur wholeheartedly with the opinions expressed by those in the videos in declaring an “official” ending point to Route 66. As I expressed in your earlier post, I have always been a huge fan of this highway and traveling it again still remains on my “Bucket List”.

    With regard to Inger Stevens, I can only express great disappointment that she never contacted me and ask me to marry her!

  2. I knew George Maharis.."back in the day"...waaaaay before "Route 66", in New York He was a kind of rebel back then. Rode a motorcycle and was always a very talented actor and singer...I saw him some out here in the early 1960's and occassionally in the late 1980's. His career was unfortuneatelt cut short by bad publicity regarding his persnal life. Truly unfortunate because we will never know what kind of career he might have had.

    I've driven quite a bit on Route 66, too, and this was back when it was NOT a highway...around 1952-53.
    Nat Cole....The BEST!

  3. I love it!!!!! What a truly grand idea!!! And yeah, I like the Nat King Cole version best. I like The Stones but that song just doesn't work. THANKS!!!!

  4. Alan G.: There had been an ending point to Route 66 but it was further inland in L.A., guess they just concluded it should be officially extended to the Santa Monica Pier since many people had seemed to think that's where it ended.

    Inger Stevens early death was tragic. There were questions surrounding that event with some accounts reporting family and friends did not think she took such a deliberate act. She apparently was married but even the marriage was in question for a while after her death. She and husband had kept it secret, possibly career counseled to do so given the times and attitudes prevailing in those years.

    OldOldLady of the Hills: I agree with you, Nat Cole singing "Route 66" is the best musical version, also my introduction to the tune.

    George Maharis' biography noted he had some medical problems, too, complicating some of the other personal issues in his life. Thanks for adding your personal recollections about him. Too bad he had to leave the TV series. Would have been interesting to see how his talents and career developed.

  5. even my 4 year old is enamored with route 66... because of the disney movie cars.

  6. Dak-Ind: Thanks for mentioning this angle on Route 66. Can appreciate your 4 yr olds attraction. Just found a great post with Disney car pictures and relating the movie to the actual Route 66. Search for "A Route 66 Guide to the 'Cars' Movie"

    (Sorry, computer not allowing HTML copy and paste here, then when I manually added it rec'd notice tag not allowed, so can't make this a simple click on link.)

  7. Kay: After all these years interesting they decided to make this official change. I think autos are supposed to stop before they reach the end of the pier! (Actually the public isn't allowed to drive on the pier.)

  8. Loved the show...and Nat's version of the song; but never traveled Route 66 much personally. This post was definitely a blast from the past...thanks JoAnn...

  9. Your have captured not just the fact, but the essence, of old "66." I traveled large parts of it going back and forth from Army duty in Oklahoma and the Midwest. I've listened to all the music you so skillfully integrated into your story. Lots of good memories. Thanks

  10. Joy: Yeah, Nat Cole is a favorite version of the song for me, too.

    gabbygeezer: Expect you became quite familiar with that historic highway.

  11. I don’t wish to be self serving. Oh, don’t be silly, of course I do. I did a column about music from along Route 66 over at TimeGoesBy back in September. You can find it at

    Peter Tibbles