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Route 66 iconic sites, businesses celebrated in 'Crossroads' exhibit

From 1892 to 1895, a young man named Will Rogers traveled a 40-mile cattle trail from his family ranch near Oologah to Willie Halsell College, a Methodist boarding school near Vinita.

That trail became part of U.S. Highway 66 in 1926. Rogers played a major role in publicizing the "Mother Road" with his syndicated newspaper columns on the 1928 Bunion Derby and on Model-T Ford drivers racing from Claremore to Beverly Hills, Calif., wrote Joseph H. Carter in Route 66 Magazine.

A congressional resolution to name Route 66 in honor of Will Rogers was considered in 1935 but was not finalized. The highway was unofficially dubbed the Will Rogers Highway by the U.S. Highway 66 Association in 1952. Oklahoma's first Will Rogers monument was established in 1999 by the Will Rogers Monument Committee of Vinita, said Amber Egnor of the Vinita Area Chamber of Commerce. Historical markers were placed along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. The life of Will Rogers and his place in Route 66 history are now showcased in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum on a Claremore hillside.

Route 66 also has become famous for iconic sites and businesses, which are celebrated by the "Crossroads of Commerce: A History of Free Enterprise in Oklahoma" exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

"A contrasting reaction to the accelerating pace of life in the 1960s and 1970s was the growing allure of two-lane roads and lost Americana," said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the. Oklahoma Historical Society. "Reinforced by the fruits of historic preservation at both the national and local levels, a new business sector emerged that banked on the public's attraction to neon signs, forgotten motor courts and roadside attractions.

"There was no better place to find those treasures than on Route 66, known as the Mother Road or Will Rogers Highway."

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