On the road with Terry Glass’s Route 66

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: ‘The Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma,’ on Route 66 by Hugh Davis was an anniversary gift for his wife, Zelta, in the early ’70s; photos: Terry Glass

Terry Glass of Tipp City got his kicks on Route 66—and you can see part of his route in Route 66: An Artistic Journey at the Rosewood Art Gallery through Nov. 18.

The journey started with a side-glance in a library 20 years ago. The book that caught his eye was “The Mother Road” by Michael Wallis (that title comes from a reference John Steinbeck makes in “The Grapes of Wrath”). Nowadays, there are several books about Route 66 and the Americana treasures it holds. But at that point, Wallis was the only one writing about Route 66 as a destination in itself.

According to the National Historic Route 66 Federation, in the early 1900s, Congress was starting to legislate and develop a public highway system. Two entrepreneurs from Missouri and Oklahoma lobbied for a road reaching from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Their desire awoke in 1926, when Route 66 was commissioned as one of the nation’s principal east-to-west routes and a way to connect rural communities to a major highway. The road stood out because it was not direct—it diagonally zigzagged through small towns in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas to Chicago and became a main thoroughfare for truckers and the shipping industry.

As Route 66 grew into a main highway for personal travel as well, tourist attractions and ways to house and feed them also cropped up. The advent of the freeway brought along the route’s governmental demise, losing the Federal Highway status in 1985.

But it’s never lost its place in American history. “The Mother Road” stirred a dream in Glass’s soul. In 2011, after his retirement from a career in engineering and sales, he drove that dream into reality.

Glass went back to the library, where by now, there were almost 30 different guidebooks and nonfiction about Route 66, and planned his trip. He drove all 2,451 miles in four segments: from St. Louis to Albuquerque, Orange County to Santa Monica, California to Las Vegas, and the final leg, from Chicago to St. Louis.

Glass took his time, driving about 100 miles a day and stopping routinely along the way.

“It was more about the journey, not the destination,” Glass says.

He saw peculiar sights like a blue whale statue made for an anniversary present, a road sign topped with rabbits advertising a trading post, and a hotel with teepees instead of rooms.

He stood at the “Cadillac Ranch,” in Amarillo, Texas, where Cadillacs are buried in the sand. It started as an art project in the ’70s and has become a landmark. The tradition is for people to come and spray paint messages and decorations on the cars—Glass says some of the cars looked completely different from one day to the next.

Glass also stopped at diners and roadside cafes. He had ice cream at a walk-up that’s been known for its “custard concretes” since 1941. He stood in a gangster hideout in Chicago. He visited the Blue Swallow Motel, which looks like it was stuck in the 1940s.

“This route is a snapshot of what it was like back in the ’40s and ’50s,” Glass says.

Being born in 1941, for him, it was a trip back through his childhood and growing up years. And, it wasn’t just the places; it’s the people, too. All along Route 66 are museums or stands and people with lots of stories. Stories of visitors and foreigners and a road that draws them all together.

Outside of Springfield, Mississippi, Glass stopped at the Sinclair restored gas station, where a gentleman sits to welcome those travelers—Glass explains he’s known as the unofficial “ambassador” of Route 66. Glass pulled up to the station and the man came over, offered him a cup of coffee, and just started talking.

The first three segments Glass traveled alone (his wife Jana joined him for the final leg): just him, the open road, and his camera. He ended up taking 2,500 pictures total. Then, he played with Photoshop to heighten colors and give many of those photographs a “crunchy” look.

Forty-five photos were chosen for his previous exhibits at Studio 14 and the Mayflower Arts Center in Tipp City and Troy. Twenty-four of the best sites and shots are display at the current exhibit
in Rosewood.

“Getting into Rosewood is kind of special because it required a selection process,” Glass says.

Glass isn’t done with his traveling, yet. His next journey is Highway 1 down the California coast.  Who knows what he’ll see then. And hopefully, what we’ll get to see.

Route 66: An Artistic Journey remains on display through Nov. 18 at Rosewood Gallery in the Rosewood Arts Centre, 2655 Olson Dr. in Kettering. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. For more information, please call 937.296.0294 or visit PlayKettering.org/Gallery and Sites.Google.com/Site/TerryGlassPhotography/.

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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