Narrative by Lorrie Fleming – Founder Canadian Route 66 Association
The question is “Why Route 66 in Belgium, France, Germany and yes, Japan”? It is the ultimate international symbol of popular culture & nostalgia, recreating the happier and simpler times of the “1950 & 60’s” especially for the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, like myself – Coming of Age… Route 66 personifies the dream of our post wartime parents, recovering from economical limitations and ready to roll to embark in the spirit of adventure in the coveted family car.
My first sighting of Route 66 started in April 1994 while traveling through Arizona, after visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico, Bob & I headed west on I-40 and noticed a sign posted along the Freeway that read: “Historic Route 66 – Next Exit“.
Remembering the popular 1960’s TV show featuring (2) freedom seekers Buz & Todd driving a Corvette Roadster, our curiosity drove us to get off the freeway! Shortly after exiting the Interstate, we were drawn to meet Angel Delgadillo, the famous town barber in Seligman, AZ, who founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona to “Save the Iconic Highway”. Angel lifted our spirits and convinced us to come back in 1995 for the Annual Route 66 Fun Run weekend (since we had just missed this year’s event by one week). Angel was so enthusiastic, that we couldn’t resist returning to Arizona to join the Event in April,1995 and to drive our ’82 Vette’. Amazingly, the Fun Run exceeded our expectations, but we could not believe that we seemed to be the Only Canadians registered in this momentous event, considering all the ‘Snowbirds’ that travel to the sunshine state each year!
Albeit various international participants were spotted along the journey, including tour bus loads of people from other countries (England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Japan). Bob & I were so impressed with the Route 66 Fun Run, that we planned our vacation the following year for April 1996 and returned with our Vette, this time with personalized license plates “ROOT66”, from British Columbia.
As ‘Lone Wolves, we became ‘hip to the trip’ and remained the Only Canadians to be included in the Event! In that regard, Jerry Richards, one of the “Founding Fathers” of the Arizona Historic Route 66 Association, along with the Secretary-Treasurer, Anita Leeming, encouraged Lorrie to start an Association in Canada so the people of the Great North would become aware of the annual Fun Run and other events planned along this historic highway.
We returned home in May 1996 and Lorrie began the task of starting the wheels in motion by contacting & meeting with various Car Clubs in the Greater Vancouver area. The BC Corvette Club certified as our first chartering member to endorse the “Canadian Route 66 Association” for registration into the B.C. Societies Government Agency in Victoria. Gaining momentum among the Classic Automotive groups, the Totem Classic Thunderbird Club, and the Vancouver Camaro Club subsequently became interested factions in the Mother Road Movement. This generated interest by our friend, Gerry Sheppard, owner of a 1964 Corvette Roadster, and Lloyd Gregorowich, owner of Good Time Oldies Memorabilia Store in Langley to join the board as ‘chartering members’.
Finally, over the course of several months in ‘team building’, acquisition of the (5) chartering members as required to form a Registered Society in the Province of British Columbia came to fruition! Later, after submitting the founding documents for the Association, I received a letter from popular Radio personality, Red Robinson, of CISL 650 Golden Oldies Station in Vancouver who expressed interest (in his words) to be a founding member.
Subsequently, I sent all the signed forms to Victoria, and was thereby accepted on October 23, 1996, as Registered Society No. S36022, incorporated in British Columbia, Canada. In our founding year we gained a total of 150 members, ranging from Ontario to the USA and overseas in Germany & Switzerland. Appearing in the travel section of the Vancouver Province Newspaper, the travel editor posted a headline, Route 66 Starts Here, yes indeed, we really do have a Route 66 in CANADA!!!
- A lot has happened since 1996. In August 1999 President Clinton signed the original Congressional Route 66 Preservation Bill to allocate $10 million in a matching grant fund program over ten years to preserve historic buildings & sites along the original Route, administered by the US National Parks System. Over the course of two decades, extensions of the Congressional Bill has been granted. Canada, through the Canadian Route 66 Association, continues to increase public awareness, playing a significant role in achieving the goal to preserve & promote the famed ‘Mother Road’ for future generations to rediscover. Route 66 is an international symbol representing freedom, adventure seeking, and honoring our shared heritage in the arts & cultural experience. There are numerous activities planned along the Route each year in every State that the Highway passes through (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri & Illinois). The National Route 66 Federation was established to act as a liaison with the USA Federal Government on legislative issues. Links on our Canadian Route 66 Association Website directs enthusiasts to other Preservation Societies dedicated for the same purpose: To preserve the history and promote events on Route 66 for people to experience an inclusive & multicultural journey for all to enjoy…
- In 2002, Lorrie was introduced to Canadian Master Mural Artist (Michelle Loughery) who sparked the Route 66 Mural City designation in Cuba Missouri. Michelle was commissioned through the National Route 66 Federation in an outreach funding & sponsorship project, to paint the first mural in Cuba at the People’s National Bank Building. A series of (12) murals were completed in time for Viva Cuba to celebrate a centennial project; and the array of murals continue to evolve. Since the Cuba project began, Michelle and I have maintained a special working relationship in a shared effort to extend the Arts network, starting at the Mother Road and threading the ribbon of arts & culture to cross over to the BC Heritage Highway Corridor. In that regard Michelle’s creative & visionary initiative of “Art Route Blue” has evolved and is gaining ground with the Province of BC for a borderless route to connect the Art Cities.