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Ghost Towns of Route 66.

Voyager Press (MBI Publishing).

Jim Hinckley and Kerrick James.
ISBN 978-0-7603-3843-8
First Published 2011 (Hardback, 160 pages).
Route 66 book cover

UK RRP 16.99

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My fascination with faded and decrepid items doesn't just revolve around the motor-car, for I find old shop buildings, garages, street furniture and abandoned factories equally fascinating, and older the better. The problem in the UK is that few old roadside buildings remain out of use for long, the value of the land they're sited on usually leads to the land being re-sold and the plot re-developed for other purposes. However, across much of the United States, there is less pressure to continually re-develop these once-bustling sites once their day has passed, and those that remain are a fascinating glimpse to an earlier time.
Countless roads across the quieter areas of the USA bear witness to trades and businesses that have long since been closed down, but in this great book, author Jim Hinckley, accompanied by snapper Kerrick James, has chosen to focus on near-forgotten buildings, and structures, that can still be found along the iconic Route 66, a route that (in 1936) measured some 2,291 miles, stretching from Santa Monica in California, eastwards across to Chicago. Many of the towns on this route would have provided a welcome respite to long-distance drivers looking to park up for the night, grab a bite to eat, and lay down their head for the night before continuing on their way the next morning. Towns grew around the increasing volumes of traffic that passed through them as the 20th Century un-folded, businesses springing up to service this new passing trade, taking over from the earlier trails that often passed through, in the days of mining and everyone travelling on horseback.
State-by-state, the reader is transported from Chicago to the west coast, via towns large and small, busy and deserted, each bearing some reminder or other of an earlier time, a time when the cars of America were largely of domestic production, where chrome ruled in Detroit, and the drive-in movies were packed to bursting point with Chryslers, Fords, Pontiacs and Buicks.
Gas stations feature regularly throughout this book, many fading into obscurity, while a lucky few have been restored to their former glory, decorated with enamel signs and brightly-coloured petrol pumps. Carcasses of once-immaculate cars can still be found, abandoned within sight of Route 66, their owners having long-since moved on, either to other towns or, in the case of most, that great parking lot in the sky, the rusting hulks perhaps the only reminder of their former owners' lives in these once-thriving towns and backwaters. In addition to service stations and motels with their neon signs, cafes, grocery stores, road signs and sturdy iron bridges can all be found in this book, looking at the towns of Route 66.
This is one of the more interesting books I've read in recent times, beautifully illustrated with notes accompanying each image. The majority of the photographs were taken in recent times as I'd expected, however the inclusion of a few more original period shots would have made for interesting comparisons between scenes in the 1950s say, and the same locations today, but this is only a minor grumble, as I'd recommend this to anyone who has an eye for 20th century history, old motor-cars in general, and the story of Route 66 and the products of Motor City that once rumbling along its hallowed tarmac.
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