New permanent exhibit gallery unveiled at AACA Museum on October 5, 2016
Hershey, PA (9/30/16). Driving is an integral part of our culture and Route 66 is an iconic stretch of roadway that plays both an emotional and historical reference in American transportation history. The new Route 66 exhibit at the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum adds modular facades to the existing Colorado backdrop in our main exhibit gallery and allows us to tell the story of a car trip via Route 66.
Incorporated into this new exhibit will be Native American artifacts from the Cammack Collection and authentic porcelain driving symbols beckoning drivers to rest or view artifacts from by-gone ears. This exhibit embodies how a road, needed by automobiles, assimilated a culture for tourist commercialism.
There are so many things that one could say about the famous Route 66,which is also known as the Will Rodgers Highway and the Main Street of America. John Steinbeck named it the “Mother Road” in his novel The Grapes of Wrath. It represented freedom as thousands of farmers left the dust bowl of Oklahoma and Kansas during the Great Depression. After WW II, GI’s moved west to find jobs in California, and optimistic travelers took two week vacations to see the new west and California. Mother Road was lined with neon signs and flashy roadside tourist attractions. It was an experience of a lifetime for travelers seeking adventure to fulfill their dreams, and an exhilarating diversion from ordinary life. These were the days of soda from fountains mixed with crushed ice, faded billboards, and rusty metal tepees. It was tourism marketing using Indian stereotypes as a major lure. Wigwam Motels, also known as Wigwam Village was a chain scattered along Route 66.
Due to the many mechanical problems the new automobile might have, the Main Street highway passed through many small towns. The average speed was 25 miles per hour on the 18’-20’ wide road and the first automobiles shared the highway with horse-drawn vehicles and tractors. Main Street of America was full of Mom and Pop general stores, diners, motels and gas stations. It was part of Nat King Cole’s song ”Route 66” and the 1960s television show “Route 66” which starred a Chevrolet Corvette. Bobby Troup’s tribute song told everyone to “get their kicks on route 66,” and the Disney/Pixar movie refuses to allow Route 66 to die in the movie CARS – in fact, this movie was almost named Route 66.
Route 66 starts in Chicago, Illinois, and ends on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California. This famous highway crosses Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. One could travel the urban streets of Chicago and St. Louis, take in the majestic Grand Canyon, experience the Southwest’s native America and finally relax on the beach of Santa Monica without leaving the road.
This iconic highway was completed in November of 1926 for a total of 2,451 miles and was the main thoroughfare from east to west until 1985. It follows 17 National Parks and winds it’s way through 27 American Indian tribe homelands. More than half of the highway, 1,372 miles is in former Indian Territory. From 1933 to 1938 there were thousands of male youths working on road gangs to pave the final sections, and in 1938 the Chicago -to -Los Angeles highway was declared entirely paved. Route 66 was decommissioned in 1984 and designated as Historic Route 66. It remains a treasure chest of 1950’s nostalgia of general stores, diners and motels.
This promises to be one of our most popular exhibits, allowing the memories to flood back for those who lived Route 66 in its prime, and allows us to educate a new generation that Route 66 is more than a cartoon movie influence, but an inspiration for families to motor west in their automobile. The Museum is fortunate to have had the assistance of the Cammack Supporting Organization, Hersha Hospitality Management and Toni Rothman, in memory of her husband David S.G. Rothman – a longtime friend of the Museum. We thank all who have donated to make this project a reality. A great part of Route 66 still remains to be driven and enjoyed, and you can experience it while in Hershey at the AACA Museum.
Tickets for the opening night event – Night at the Museum presented by RM Sotheby’s, are available online or by calling 717-566-7100 ext. 100. Tickets are $125 per person. This will be an evening celebrating the motoring hobby with a plentiful variety of food and cocktails with a Route 66 flair along with a silent auction, live entertainment, automotive artist gallery and A Collector Car Conversation with Wayne Carini host of “Chasing Classic Cars” along with noted car collector Ralph Marano and moderated by Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
About the AACA Museum
The AACA Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, displays beautifully restored automobiles, buses and motorcycles in unique life-like scenes representing the 1890s – 1980s in a cross-country journey from New York to San Francisco. This Museum, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, is known to be one of the largest automotive museums. Special exhibits change several times a year and focus on a variety of eras and types of vehicles. The Museum is in South Hanover Township, located just off Route 39, one mile west of Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Regular admission $12, seniors age 61 and older $11, juniors age 4-12 $9, children age 3 and under and AACA Members are FREE. The Museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Extended hours are available at the AACA Museum during Hershey Fall Meet Week. For further information, please call 717-566-7100 or visit www.AACAMuseum.org.
Route 66 press release historical content: Barb Zabady – AACA Museum volunteer
Exhibit Concept & Mockup by: Rochelle Robinson – Exhibit Programs Director
Constructed by: Exhibit Graphics Interior, Hummelstown, PA
Exhibit Content Written by:
Native American Indian Content: DeAnna Genthner – Anthropology Intern
Route 66 Content: Vince Farace – AACA Museum Education Ambassador