Sunday, January 01, 2017

"That Ribbon Of Highway I: Highway 99 From The Oregon Border To Sacramento"

Old US99 was, according to Siskiyou County writer and publisher Jill Livingston, "the expedient way to move people and truckloads of locally grown produce up and down the state through the heartland. The Main Street of California."

The state highway system began construction in 1912; in 1925, thanks to a new Federal numbering system for US Highways, US99, "emblazoned on a white porcelain sign," came into existence. Today, with road and bridge realignments, parts of US99 are now just memories.

Livingston and her photographer sister Kathryn Golden Maloof formed a small press in 1996 to chart the history of the roadway. Now the first volume in the series has been updated and enlarged, and it's a joy to read.

"That Ribbon Of Highway I: Highway 99 From The Oregon Border To Sacramento" ($17.99 in paperback from Living Gold Press,, sized for the glovebox, features a hundred photographs, from the past and present, and maps detailing the route. (Volume II takes the reader from Sacramento to the Mexican border; Volume III tracks Highway 99 through the Pacific Northwest.)

The first part traces the development of the California highway system, and Livingston's conversational style and endless curiosity draw the reader into an extraordinary tale of transformation. The story includes not just how public funding happened (and how much money was saved by painting dashes rather than continuous lines to separate the lanes), as well as the role of private auto clubs, but the development of roadside attractions.

Old motel signs and remnants of service stations recall a time when recreational driving was new. ("The town of Corning on Highway 99 is credited with having the first auto camp in California, opening in 1900 in an olive grove.")

Part 2 is a Northstate tour. Livingston notes that "in 1915 the Esplanade became part of the state highway, later US99. The center was paved with a fifteen foot wide strip of concrete." Part 3, the appendix, is a detailed guide to following the 99 trail.

It's a must-have book; besides, who would want to miss the art deco Shell station in Chico, on First Street in 1935?

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