The Grapes of Wrath revisited: Dust to dust for the ghosts of Route 66
Seventy years on, Chris McGreal continues his series following John Steinbeck's fictional Great Depression journey, and finds life has bypassed the famous road's nearly deserted towns ...
"Tommy Loveless can't put his finger on the exact date that the modern world came crashing past and froze his town in time. Around the early Seventies, he says.
But he can still picture the day the waiters and smartly uniformed attendants working at his dad's cafes and filling stations stood on the pavement, stunned by the sight of an empty road that had been packed with cars as far back as Loveless could remember.
"We knew it was coming of course. But even then, nothing prepared us," he said, standing under the awning of the wreckage of his father's old Texaco station. "It killed the town. It killed a lot of towns around here. The only ones who stay are the elderly folk and a few school teachers and bus drivers. The young don't want to drive 50 miles to go shopping."
Loveless, 60, works as a waiter in the cafe that his father owned half a century ago before the vast Interstate 40 highway opened just a few miles away, sucking up the traffic and the life out of his hometown of Adrian that thrived by providing for the cars pressing bumper to bumper along one of the most famous and well travelled roads in the world, Route 66."
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