August 2020

Highway Signage – Route 66 and Route 36

Highway signage. It’s an interesting topic.

America’s production of eye-catching commercial highway signage is nearly unique in the world. There’s even an organization dedicated to the subject—The Society for Commercial Archeology (www.sca-roadside.org).

Why Route 66?

Entire books have captured unique signage along iconic Route 66. Here’s just one example among hundreds of others.

One reason for the cornucopia of eye-catching signs along Route 66 is the historic lack of sign regulation on US highways. From the 1920s until fairly recently, businesses could do about anything they wanted with neon technology . . . and they did.

 

More important, Route 66 was the brainchild of Cyrus Avery, a master marketer from Oklahoma. He knew how to create a brand! Route 66 was not intrinsically more interesting than a lot of other highways (including Route 36), but Avery was really good at getting local business people, cities, and states to jump on his Route 66 bandwagon.

For a good biography of Avery, see Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery by Susan Croce Kelly. See it at www.amazon.com.

 

Compared to Route 36

Why is there so little “branding” along historic Route 36—America’s Heartland Highway? Kansas and Missouri have active promotional groups for their own states, but an overarching marketing vision for the highway has never emerged. Route 36 needs a lot more of the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that Cy Avery brought to Route 66. Opportunity awaits a modern Cy Avery armed with a vision and a computer.

Some folks out in northwest Kansas recently erected a sign at Norton based on an old Route 36 slogan, “Shortest Route Between Indianapolis and Denver.” Before the coming of the interstate highways, that was an attempt at branding for the highway, but it left out a rather important state—Ohio.

Actually, this sign is misleading. Route 36 is  the shortest route to Indianapolis and it is certainly the most interesting and historic. But it’s not as fast as I-70 unless you seriously ignore all of the many posted speed limits.

Whether it’s a small sign on the edge of town or a more ambitious message like this one in Kingman, Arizona, on Route 66, any town along Route 36 can adopt a simple slogan—Welcome to (name of town) on Historic Route 36.” Any takers out there? Maybe one or another Convention and Visitors Bureau could get the ball rolling.

 

 

Promoting the Entire Highway

I’m doing my own bit to promote the entire highway with these magnetic car signs. Unfortunately, until the virus allows more travel the signs will be seen only by folks in the Denver area.

I’ve been doing a lot of virtual speaking since March . . . so, if your service club or civic institution is “Zooming” these days, I’m available to talk about Route 36 with a slide show presentation. See the Contact page.

 

Briefly Noted

The Indianapolis 500 will be run on August 23—but with no fans present.  The Kansas US36 Association met by Zoom on June 25. Missourians met late July. Marysville, Ohio, made the news recently when the large Honda plant there started requiring white-collar executives to pinch-hit on the virus-ravaged assembly line. My guidebook for Route 36 was favorably reviewed  in the spring edition of The Forum, a publication of the Lincoln Highway Association.

 

Route 36 Cover

The Guidebook as a Gift

My guidebook to Route 36 makes a great gift for a family member, a friend, or colleague interested in transportation history and our oldest US highways—that is, anyone in search of the open road in an RV, on a motorcycle, in a car, or from the comfort of an armchair. To purchase from amazon.com or for a signed copy, continue to the bottom of this page.

 

 

 

Next time I’ll review Top Stops in Indiana and Illinois.

‘til then . . . stay safe, stay well . . . AND

Get your kicks (you know where),

af

ALLAN FERGUSON

303-722-3441