Secrets on Route 66

By Kathy Holmes

America's highways are filled with secrets and maybe that's what makes Route 66 so intriguing. Think Hollywood road trip movies. And maybe because I grew up under the influence of Hollywood in the Los Angeles area,  whisper the word "secret" and I'm there - I love stories that promise to reveal a secret.

Or maybe it's because I grew up with secrets, was somewhat of a secret baby when my teen mother sent my sailor boy father a Dear John letter while he was overseas - and then married another. My father - the mystery man - was the "secret daddy" - the one nobody talked about. But, then, I'm told, that was the culture of the 1950s/1960s when people were pressured to portray themselves as the all-American family as depicted in Father Knows Best and other family TV shows of that era. And when couples remarried, the children from the previous marriage went to live with their new family - never to be seen or heard from again.

I'm not sure my step dad liked living with secrets, because he tried to spill them every chance he got - until my mother flashed him one of those "hush your mouth" looks - lol! No wonder we kids loved it when we got him alone and he started entertaining us with stories from his youth.

My mother's sister was much more fond of telling secrets - especially other people's secrets. And her son, who never knew his father, was the first to inform me (gleefully, I might add) that my dad was not my dad - he was my step dad and his daughter was the little girl I sometimes got to play with but never really knew who she was. I was shocked by these revelations.

Later, I learned that my missing dad found my mother working in a restaurant on Route 66 and set up a meeting to discuss our future - I choose to believe my dad's version of that story - that I was in the car with my grandmother and uncle - they, offering my mother support - me, getting my first peek at this man, wondering who he was. My mother successfully sent him away for good, and I didn't get another peek at him until I went searching for him much later in life. Ironically, during this meeting, my step dad was the one who was then stationed overseas. I wonder if he worried about getting his own Dear John letter.

But before I met my father, my step dad and I were sitting in an outdoor lounge in the MGM in Las Vegas, enjoying a cocktail while my mother was taking an afternoon nap. Aha, now my step dad had the freedom to tell me his own Route 66 stories, and something about that setting prompted him to do just that. He shared many stories, but the one that grabbed my attention was how my mother, her sister, my step dad, and whoever my aunt was dating would hang out on Route 66 somewhere near L.A. and my step dad would, inevitably get into a bar fight. Now, I've never known my soft-speaking, laid-back step dad to get into any kind of fight, so I found these stories quite entertaining, indeed.

I decided to write about this topic for this post for two reasons: we just watched the movie Cars and I was struck by the Route 66 back story and how director John Lasseter, not only took the crew on a road trip so that they could get to know Route 66 as a character in the movie, but he also took his family on an RV road trip, resulting in the family drawing much closer together. Working on Cars became personal for him, he said. A full-length animated feature, it's an inspiring example of great storytelling and life lessons rolled into one.

The other inspiration for this post is that I was recently interviewed about my personal story of dads and step dads and the myths around both in my book Myths of the Fatherless for an upcoming story in the Orange County Register (for those who do not know, Orange County is the southern neighbor of Los Angeles). And how this theme runs through my fiction, as well.

Route 66, called America's Highway, is filled with family stories and families and roads often have secrets. As the Cars director said, "It symbolizes many highways" - no wonder there was a TV series, my step dad's favorite of that time, called Route 66.

According to wikipedia, "the famous highway originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, encompassing a total of 2,448 miles. It was recognized in popular culture by both a hit song (written by Bobby Troup and performed by Depeche Mode, the Nat King Cole Trio and The Rolling Stones, among others) and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s."

I don't know about you, but I can't hear the theme song without immediately being swept back to that place and time.

Theme Song for Route 66

Route 66 by Nat King Cole

And after Chiron's Rolling Stones post last week, I must include the version by the Rolling Stones

More information about Myths of the Fatherless and other books by Kathy Holmes can be found on her web site.

Also featured on Fiction, Flip Flops and FABs.


  1. 'My mother's sister was much more fond of telling secrets - especially other people's secrets.' - LOL! For some reason, the image of your aunt being gleefully prone to spilling secrets in that hush-hush environment really appeals to me.

    What a wonderful post, Kathy. Love the title of your book, Myths of the Fatherless.

  2. Loved your post Kathy - thank you for sharing your life with us - and your fascination with the mythos of Route 66. Secrets always have a way of coming out - and causing pain.

  3. Great post, Kathy! Loved the clips, the theme to the show gave me the chills. And Nat King Cole AND the Stones doing one of my favorites!! WooT!

    Fascinating about John Lasseter and Cars.

    Intriguing background, my dear. Although I knew who my father was, he died before I turned four so he is still unknown to me. I never actually experienced a father figure (we briefly had a stepfather but he wasn't a very nice fellow) and as a result the concept is quite the mystery.

    From time to time, I'd count the years and try to imagine what he'd have been like. But it almost makes me feel like an 'Stranger in a Strange Land' when I'm around folks with normal backgrounds. *laughs* Will they sense I'm from Planet WTF? Am I blending in naturally? ;-P

    So your post was entertaining but also thought-provoking for me. As always, thanks for a great read!


  4. Thank you, ladies! I so appreciate your comments.

    Chiron, and while my book "Myths of the Fatherless" sounds like it may be just about people without any father, the point I try to make is that without a healthy relationship with our father for whatever reason - they're missing or unavailable or abusive - we're fatherless. There's something special about that relationship and when it's missing, it affects us in some way. Thanks for sharing your story - sisters in yet another way.

  5. Kathy, what a fabulous post. Each time I read about your experiences, I learn a little more about you - such an interesting person you are! My family has done a few road trips in the USA, and perhaps one day we'll have a chance to create our own memories of Route 66.

  6. Thanks, Alli. High praise coming from such a fascinating person like yourself. And thanks to all - I really enjoyed writing this post and glad you all got something from it, too.

  7. Wonderful post, Kathy! Because of the times, I think, my father was somewhat of a mystery to me too, because he never seemed to be around, and left it to my mom to take care of the house - and the kids (all 7 of us!) It wasn't until later in life, after he was bedridden, that we really became close. Funny how the oddest moments can provide those opportunities to reveal one's self.
    Isn't Route 66 supposed to be something of an artist's trail too?
    Withing you all the best with your release.

  8. Very interesting, Cate. This topic continues to fascinate me and I love hearing other people's stories. Thanks for sharing yours.


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