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Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery

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If it weren’t for Cy Avery’s dreams of better roads through his beloved Tulsa, the United States would never have gotten Route 66. This book is the story of Avery, his times, and the legendary highway he helped build.

In this engaging biography of a remarkable man, Susan Croce Kelly begins by describing the urgency for “good roads” that gripped the nation in the early twentieth century as cars multiplied and mud deepened. Avery was one of a small cadre of men and women whose passion carried the Good Roads movement from boosterism to political influence to concrete-on-the-ground. While most stopped there, Avery went on to assure that one road—U.S. Highway 66—became a fixture in the imagination of America and the world.

Father of Route 66 transports readers to the years when the United States was moving from steam to internal combustion engines and traces Avery’s life from his birth in Stevensville, Pennsylvania, to his death more than ninety years later. Avery came west in a covered wagon, grew up in Indian Territory, and spent his adult years in oil-rich Tulsa, where fifty millionaires sat on the Chamber of Commerce board and the builder of the Panama Canal dropped in to size up a local water project.

Cy Avery was a farmer, teacher, real estate professional, oil man, and politician, but throughout his long life he remained a champion for better roads across America. He stood up to the Oklahoma Ku Klux Klan, hatched plans for a municipal airport, and helped build a 55-mile water pipeline for Tulsa. The centerpiece of his story—and this book—however, is Avery’s role in designing the national highway system, his monumental fight with the governor of Kentucky over a road number, and his promotional efforts that turned his U.S. 66 into an American icon.

Father of Route 66 is the first in-depth exploration of Cy Avery’s life and his impact on the movement that transformed twentieth-century America. It is a must-read for anyone fascinated by Route 66 and America’s early car culture.

292 pages, Hardcover

First published September 2, 2014

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Susan Croce Kelly

3 books8 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
282 reviews
October 19, 2022
Cy Avery was a self-made businessman dealing in oil, farming, and real estate, and is not a household name. Nevertheless he was instrumental in fighting the attitudes and the politics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to develop the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to provide it with a permanent water supply, and most importantly not only to develop the famed Route 66, but to turn the nation's muddy and primitive roads into modern concrete and well-marked and well-drained thoroughfares for the nation's developing automobile traffic. He also played a role in the development of American aviation as well, knowing it was the future.

The book contains some but fortunately not excessive conjecture, and mentions all the political offices he held and places he traveled and people he met and worked with. It also mentions the setbacks he faced and the mistakes he made. All in all an interesting book on an important part of American history.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Williams.
297 reviews7 followers
December 11, 2020
Susan Croce Kelly does a fabulous job in her well-researched biography of Cyrus Avery, the man who is the "Father of Route 66."

She lays out a strong case how his early roots set the stage for Avery to take advantage of opportunities that came his way while still looking with one eye on the future while maintaining an earnest doggedness in seeing his projects through to completion.

Kelly also does a superb job in showing how muddled the politics were a century ago and how politics both helped and hindered Avery's abilities to get things done.

Furthermore, she shows how the "new" state of Oklahoma was being developed from 1907 and the importance of the National Highway System on the growth of the state.

This isn't just a book about Avery, nor is it just a book about Route 66. It's all that and more. You will learn a lot if you pay attention to some of the subtleties.

That being said, I rated this a four instead of five because of the title, "Father of Route 66." There were more stories and characters related to the design, approval and construction of the Mother Road that gets left out, while others get scant mention.

Also, for as controversial of a figure that Avery was in real life, she never really ventured into asking the question, "Are these allegations true?" in a serious and contemplative manner. Instead, she gently skirts the issue and almost acts like an apologist for Avery instead of merely a biographer. That was the most disappointing part of the whole book.

Nonetheless, Susan Croce Kelly wrote a phenomenal work that is a must read if you are a Route 66 aficionado or enjoy reading about the History of Oklahoma. If so, this book will serve you well.
Profile Image for Gary Sosniecki.
Author 1 book12 followers
October 31, 2022
It has been suggested that Susan Croce Kelly's 1988 book, "Route 66: The Highway and its People," (photos by Quinta Scott) was a major factor in the decommissioned Route 66 becoming the international tourist attraction it is today. It was the first Route 66 book in my collection and continues to be a resource in my own Route 66 research. Kelly's second Route 66 book, "Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery," is a richly detailed biography of the man generally credited with founding Route 66. I already knew much about Avery's Route 66 work, including his fight with the Kentucky governor over the highway's number. But I didn't know all the details, and I didn't know about his other public service, notably his successful efforts to bring fresh drinking water to Tulsa and, later, his involvement in Tulsa's first municipal airport. I was amazed that Avery continued to work until he was 87, most of the time in public-service jobs that paid little or nothing. I should point out that Susan and I have become acquainted in recent years. Even so, I can say without bias that her Avery research was outstanding.
Profile Image for Kristal Stidham.
694 reviews8 followers
January 1, 2016
A perhaps overly-detailed biography of Cyrus Avery, a Tulsa businessman who was one of the most important visionaries and boosters for a national system of paved highways. While it was amazing to consider all of the progress that has happened in the past 100 years -- and fun to learn how Route 66 came to be -- the recounting of the endless conferences and conventions caused my mind to regularly wander.

I give my ratings based on how much I enjoy a book, therefore this gets a lower rating because roads don't necessarily float my boat. Luckily, I know someone who might be a bit more interested so I'm mailing this copy to him.
Profile Image for Suzanne Libra.
103 reviews
October 20, 2015
An interesting time & an interesting man

We all know the song and have images of Okies on the road, but most of us , I think, have never thought about how the road got there. The author does a good job of filling in the background and giving the reader a sense of tine and place. It must be time for an all American road trip.
Profile Image for Adam Cruz.
20 reviews
November 6, 2021
I drove route 66 about six years ago and had the best time. It was a magical ride and we tried to follow as much of the original route as possible. After reading this, I appreciate all the effort Cy took in bringing this wonderful road to life. I have more respect for him because of his intention and hardship than I would most men. Thank you!
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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