Route 66 is immortalised in song and story. Famous hits echo the tales of weary travellers in the Great Depression or intrepid soul-searchers finding themselves on the Mother Road. However, not too many pieces of folklore zero in on some of the most powerful souls of Route 66: the women.
There are so many ladies who have made their name in Route 66's history – today, let's look at two iconic women from Route 66 in Illinois.
Hazel Funk, Funks Grove
Hazel Funk was a shrewd businesswoman who, after inheriting her family's maple syrup farm, insisted that her product be referred to as "sirup". This is because, at the time she wrote her will, sirup was the preferred spelling for a product made by the reduction of sap with no added sugar, and Funks Grove sirup is pure, unadulterated maple.
Perhaps it was Hazel's vast education that helped her make this clever branding decision. Having attended Spence School in New York City, she later graduated from the National Park Seminary in Washington, DC. From there, she went on to teach French in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and travelled abroad extensively.
Hazel lived away from the farm and, rather than moving when she gained ownership, rented the property to workers who farmed the land and made the sirup. She also had an old family cooking house relocated to the property as a guesthouse and summer home for herself.
As well as her insistence of the "sirup" spelling, her will rolled Funks Grove into a protected trust, ensuring that travellers along Route 66 would forever be able to enjoy the sweeter things in life.
Loretta Marten, Our Lady of the Highways
How many of us can say we were instrumental to the creation of a highway icon at age 12? Not many, if any.
In 1959, a local Catholic school was looking for a site to install a statue of the Virgin Mary. Loretta Marten, aged only 12 years old at the time, pleaded with her father to have the statue erected on his farm.
The statue, ordered from Italy, is made of Carrara marble and gathered over 300 people for its dedicated ceremony. Since then, it has stood watch over Route 66 in Montgomery Country, Illinois, reminding motorists of the potential dangers of the road and encouraging a safe journey.
Though Loretta passed in 2013, the Marten family still lives next to and maintains the shrine in her honour.
People from all walks of life have made and continue to make meaningful changes to the folklore of Route 66. There are so many more stories waiting to be uncovered on the road. Talk to us today about organising your tour of the Mother Road.