Route 66, What this television show meant to me.
Route 66 premiered October 7th, 1960. I would have been six years old. It ran until March 20th 1964 with a total of 116 episodes. It was created by Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant who also had developed the ABC television drama series "The Naked City." No wonder the stories were so compelling.
When ever I hear that evocative Nelson Riddle theme I am transported to a special time in my life. This was the early 1960's. I was an elementary school kid that longed for the time when I could take to the open road. I longed to share the freedom and adventure experienced by Todd and Buzz; Martin Millner and George Meharis.
|This is one of the books that started it all.|
Not too many hidden meanings in this account.
It seemed that every young person in America was sharing the same longing which was reflected in the literature and music of the times. Think about it: Jack Keroac's On the Road, John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in search of America, Woody Gutherie's This land is your land. Bobby Troupe's Get your kicks on route 66. This was the entire social mileau.
There were things going on in Keroac's book that were more than a road trip itinerary, I must admit that when I read it in my Twenties some of it was kind of hard to understand, and seemed kind of dull. But that evocative name!
Steinbeck's book was more a detailed travelogue with the requisite social commentary.
Woody's song was clear and to the point; this entire Country belongs to you, and you have every right as an American to see it, and experience it.
This era preceded the birth of the hippie generation of youth that took up hitch hiking and converted school bus campers.
|Still worth reading.|
The premise of the show is simple; two guys, one car, one country. All this adds up to a young American's idea of Freedom.
The show's opening scenes usually featured impressive open views of the surrounding countryside or the gritty urban sprawl that they were entering.
With the packed luggage rack on the trunk, the Corvette was a replacement for the bedroll and pack of the traditional wandering Cowboy.
|And these guys were travelling light.|
Chevrolet supplied the cars and a new model was featured every year, although this was never mentioned by the characters.
|By the final season the Corvette Stingray was one of the stars.|
As a "sixty something" just saying that name is magic.
|It wasn't just young guys out there.|
Stopping and becoming embroiled in a local situation. They get involved and they help resolve the issue, and then they move on. The idea presented in the series is that Buzz and Todd are dissatisfied with their old life and are travelling looking for someplace where they can put down roots and build a new life. To travel hopefully can be better than to actually arrive.
The idea of the show was often much better than the actual content. The drama among the characters was the obvious emphasis, and the story lines became a bit preachy as the series progressed. Buzz and Todd just inserted themselves into other people's business. Often times it appeared that the other characters would have just as happy to have been left alone. It can be annoying when outsiders appear on the scene and think they have all the right answers.
It seems that I spent my entire childhood waiting for something to happen. I wasn't satisfied sitting at home when things were going on out there, somewhere. I wanted to get out, and at least be out there to see it, experience it, and possibly even influence it. The problem was that I was only ten years old at the time and I had some growing up to do!
Which was what I was waiting for all along. Like most kids in my generation I was waiting to turn sixteen so that I could get my driver's license. That was going to be my passport to independence, freedom and the possibility of adventure. Everything that was promised to me on television. The American romance of the open road seems to have lost it's luster for the current younger generation. They can't wait to have an autonomous self driving car, so can passively sit there playing with their phone, just like when their Mama was driving them everywhere in her Camry.
|The last American heroes?|
Buzz and Todd would have vigorously rejected that proposition. In the movie "The Right Stuff" test pilot Chuck Yeager told the scientists and developers of the space craft that there had to be flight controls for the Astronauts to use. The Astronauts were pilots, not cargo. They wanted the ability to exercise direct control over their spacecraft, and their destiny. They would not settle for anything less.
Nor would I.
This show was one of the influences that made me want to travel through the country and experience the different areas that I had read about but never seen. I would have loved the idea of doing that traveling in a new Corvette, but I managed to enjoy my journeys using a series of motorcycles. The reality may not have made for the compelling drama of Route 66, but the best thing is that I actually managed to do it.
I think I'll cue up that theme music one more time.