Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Iowa's White Pole Road: The Importance of Highway (Route) 6 To Our Country's Mid-Section

Though in the 1930's, 40's, 50's and part of the 1960's, Route 6 ran from the Atlantic Ocean (Provincetown, MA) to the Pacific Ocean (Long Beach, CA), this Federal Highway was most important to the towns and cities that lay far from these bodies of water.

While reading through a massive pile of brochures, calling cards, guidebooks and other information from my six weeks on Route 6, I discovered a copy of a flier (date unknown) extolling the virtues of the new and improved "Great White Way."

Celebrating the Great White Way
Iowa, USA
In its old-fashioned furtive way, the advertisement asked, "Eventually, Why Not Now?  The Great White Way By Day or By Night, The White Pole Route Between Des Moines, Stuart, Adair, Atlantic, Oakland, Council Bluffs, Omaha and Denver - Shortest and Best Route for Tourists."

I'd determine this ad to be from the mid-1920's, before the White Pole Road became US Route 6, when interest in auto-touring increased with the numbers of automobiles sold.

The flier goes on to gush, "The Great White Way is the best built, the best drained and the best kept road across Iowa.  It passes through twice as many good towns and cities, is always near railway accommodations and telegraph stations, has more garages, has by far the fewest hills. Fifty thousand dollars has been expended to improve grades, build cement and steel bridges, the approaches to which have been and are the special pride of men who have established the Great White Way. All along the route are well improved farms and stock ranches - sites worth traveling a long way to see."

These farms and ranches are still worth traveling a long way to see.  I never got over the thrill of seeing yet another looming, imposing, sky-high grain elevator up close, when I understood the phrase "our nation's breadbasket" in a more visceral, tangible way.  Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Colorado are regions roundly ignored in most "Best of" or "Top Attractions" tour guides, and that's a shame.  You'll learn a lot about our country, meet some great folks and be surprised  by the inventive and creative thinking (not to mention some great food) in our country's mid-section.

Lately, localities along the former White Pole Road have been trying to revive interest in the route, which now parallels the fast-flowing  I80.  I found the following on the White Pole Road website:

 In December of 1931, sections of our White Pole Road officially became a part of U.S. Highway 6, which at one point was the longest continuous east-west route in the United States stretching from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Long Beach, California.   In 1947, Iowa joined other states in officially designating US 6 to be named the Grand Army of the Republic Highway at the urging of an association of Union veterans of the Civil War.  In 1965, Interstate 80 was completed and the popularity of this once important highway diminished.

US Route 6 is an important part of our country's history and present.  I'm happy to have made the complete drive.  And it will be a pleasure to round up my findings in my own Best of And Top Attractions lists.  Stay tuned.....

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