The highway has come a long way

By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist

Those of us who grew up along Highway 66 during its heyday had no idea that it would become Historic Route 66. Nor did we realize when we were swimming at Metropolitan Park, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, that it would fall into such disrepair. We even thought Main Street would remain just that, and we’d always have soda fountains, department stores and a place to park on Saturday afternoons to watch the people as sidewalks filled with shoppers.

We just took our surroundings for granted and felt they would remain the same.

Often when we do a little visiting about the past, we mention how much time we spent during our youth “dragging the highway” and “dragging Main.”

We might pool our funds and buy 5 cents worth of gas or even gather a whole dollar and spend the evening driving on both of those streets. We’d meet at Tommy’s Newsstand to drink Cokes and see who all was out and about and would then begin the driving routine. We enjoyed the bright neon but didn’t really think it was unique until so much of it disappeared.

We’d honk and wave at friends as we drove along and might get wild enough to play a game or two of “ditch ’em” if we felt we wouldn’t get caught by the two or three officers on patrol. Even if we were caught, we knew we’d be OK unless we had been wilder than usual and then knew we might not be driving around for a few nights if those officers decided to have a little talk with our parents.

Later in the evening, we might stop at Frank’s Busy Bee Café to visit with more friends and to have another Coke. If we had a little extra money, we might even order a hamburger and fries so we could have a good snack before going home. We’d then take one more tour of our town and wait until the next night to resume our ritual.

Not all of us were allowed to be out every evening because our studying came first. If we happened to mention that we were having a test or that we had assignments, we were encouraged to spend our time on our work. Sometimes, we might not get out more than once or twice a week if we were lucky and had all chores and assignments under control, but we really didn’t feel too put upon because we usually respected our parents’ wishes.

To break the monotony of those tours, we would also go to the Princess Theater to see the latest movies as those were our major entertainment. We’d see most of our friends there as well and would meet afterward to go for refreshment and a few turns around town. We knew we were having a lot of fun and gave little thought to the future with all the changes to come.

As we look back now, we realize how very fortunate we were to grow up when and where we did. Some of us continue the ritual of checking out Main and the Highway several times a week and usually meet other friends doing the same thing. We still remember the past and continue to look forward to the future with more positive changes, perhaps.