By Melissa Dunson
For 23 years, Carthage resident Mark Goodman has been getting his kicks on Route 66.
Goodman owns and operates the 66 Drive-In Theatre on historic Route 66, west of Carthage. It’s the last of six original drive-in movie theaters located on and named after the Mother Road that is still in weekly operation.
Goodman said he sometimes forgets how special his business is — but he quickly remembers when European tourists come through to visit the historic theater on arguably the most famous highway in America.
“It’s amazing,” he said of the theater built in 1949.
What makes the theater so special is the road. Route 66 was commissioned in 1926 as a way to connect the main streets of small communities from Chicago, Ill., to Los Angeles, Calif. It became important to farmers who suddenly could transport their goods to larger markets, as well as to the trucking industry.
As travel increased on Route 66, businesses offering food, fuel and lodging sprang up. Most of those businesses reflect an art deco feel of the 1940s and ’50s.
What many consider to be the first American highway began as a utilitarian venture, but it has ended up as folklore and fantasy for people from all over the world.
“It (Route 66) reminds us of an era that’s passed us by,” said Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum Complex. “It went through Main Street. You couldn’t help but digest the landscape and get a real feel for the region you were in. You got that personal touch on Route 66 that I think is missing from the interstate today.”
The road also has been synonymous with freedom ever since the weekly CBS television show “Route 66” ran from 1960 to 1964. The show chronicled the fictional travels of two men, Tod and Buzz, as they found adventure, trouble and love driving Route 66 in a Corvette convertible.
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Take a trip down Route 66<font color="#ff0000"> w/ Route 66 slide show</font>
By Melissa Dunson
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