Wallis

Oklahoma author and Route 66 expert Michael Wallis kick-offs the library’s upcoming reading series with a presentation and discussion over his award winning book “Route 66: The Mother Road.”

This spring, the Stillwater Public Library and its readers will be traveling through literature down America’s most famous road. “Get Your Reading Kicks on Route 66” takes place March 7-May 2 and is part of the statewide "Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma" project of the Oklahoma Humanities.

The series includes four books with each program focusing on one of the books with a presentation by an Oklahoma humanities scholar, followed by small group discussions. Programs take place on Thursdays from 6-8:30 p.m. The books and scholars include: 

· March 7 – “Route 66: The Mother Road” by Michael Wallis; scholar Michael Wallis

· March 28 – “Mother Road” by Dorothy Garlock; scholar Harbour Winn

· April 11 – “Rt. 66 Remembered” by Michael Witzel; scholar Karen Neurohr

· May 2 – “West on 66 – a mystery” by James Cobb; scholar Trisha Yarbrough

The idea for Route 66 got its start right here in Oklahoma when Cyrus Avery of Tulsa and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri, dreamt of a road that would connect their states to other major cities. Spanning over 2400 miles and 8 states from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 became a reality in 1925 when the U.S. government’s national highway plan caught up with Avery’s dream. The road received its official designation as Route 66 in 1926 and was a popular mode of travel for truckers, families and the thousands of Okies traveling to California during the Depression. 

“Route 66 is arguably the most famous highway in the world,” said Oklahoma author Michael Wallis. “It has been visited across the arts in song, literature, film and poetry. Route 66 has even become a major attraction for overseas tourists who come to the road to experience the classic American road trip.” 

Wallis, the series’ first scholar, is considered a Route 66 expert and fell in love the road early in life. 

“I was born at the end of World War II near an original Route 66 alignment west of St. Louis,” Wallis said. “I grew up on the road. I learned to drive on it. I took it during family vacations and hitch-hiked the road as a marine. I’ve lived in seven of the eight states it bisects, and as a reporter, I covered the stories of the road—the good, the bad, the ugly and the bittersweet. The road has always been part of my consciousness.” 

Wallis wrote “Route 66: The Mother Road” in 1990, five years after the deteriorating road was completely bypassed by newer highways and formally decommissioned. Publication of the book sparked a resurgence of interest in the highway. 

“After Route 66 was de-certified, I grew tired of talking about in the past tense,” Wallis said. “I wanted to talk about its present importance. People thought the highway was dead, but the communities it crossed still lived. The people dispensing hospitality along the road still lived. The book is my love letter to the road and to the people of the road.”

Besides being a Route 66 expert, Wallis has published eighteen other books, including “Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride,” “Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation,” “The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West” and “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People.”

Wallis’ latest book, “Los Luceros: New Mexico's Morning Star,” the community in the larger context of Northern New Mexico history, from the earliest human inhabitants to the present day, introducing its past occupiers, owners, and visitors, including Spanish and American soldiers and cavalrymen. The book will be available for purchase by cash or credit card at the first program. Wallis will also be signing copies of his books for attendees.

Wallis’ other work has appeared in hundreds of national and international magazines and newspapers, including Time, Life, People, Smithsonian, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

He has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize and was a nominee for the National Book Award. In 2016, he received an Emmy Award for his work in the documentary film, Boomtown and has won other awards including the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Hall & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Best Western Non-fiction Award from the Western Writers of America and the first John Steinbeck Award.

All community members are invited to attend Wallis’ presentation and may sign up to attend on the library’s website at http://library.stillwater.org.

For those who wish to register for the full Route 66 reading series, please stop by the library’s Help Desk to register and pick-up the first book. Registration and book pick-up is open now.

Programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Stillwater Public Library web site, call 405-372-3633, or email askalibrarian@stillwater.org

Books, services, and other materials for this series are provided by Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma, a project of Oklahoma Humanities. Funding for this series was provided by grants from the Inasmuch Foundation and Kirkpatrick Family Fund. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of Oklahoma Humanities.”

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. Library hours are Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.