This presentation is part of Are We There Yet? Preservation of Roadside Architecture & Attractions Symposium, Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 10-12, 2018.
By Michael Wallis
“Once I thanked God for my treasure, now like rust it corrodes
And I can’t help but blamin’ your goin’
On the coming, the coming of the roads.”
— Judy Collins
Americans are a restless people. We are gypsy-footed and itching to be on the move. From dirt trails to so-called superhighways, we have always found pathways to take us to both new and familiar places.
Although I am a true son of Route 66 and have written about the Mother Road, the Lincoln Highway, and many historic trails, I never romanticize the journeys. I treasure the old roads and their importance to our past, but even more, I appreciate the value of what they teach us today and in the future.
I am a storyteller, and as you will learn at this conference, the art of storytelling is critical to the preservation of our historic roads and the built architecture, human-created attractions, and natural sites along each of them that show us the way. My stories are of the creation of the roads and the people who continue to live and work on the shoulders of those roads. I have stories of diversity and the lack of it. There are stories of the death of the front-porch culture and of the sacrifices that come with new technology. Some are stories to make you laugh and others to cause you to weep. All of them will make you think.
It has been said, “Reading a Michael Wallis book is like dancing to a romantic ballad. He offers his hand and gently guides you across the floor, swaying to the song of the American West.”
A storyteller who likes nothing better than transporting audiences across time and space, Michael has published nineteen books, including the award winning Route 66: The Mother Road, the book credited with sparking the resurgence of interest in the highway. He also wrote The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times to the Golden Gate. Michael’s latest book is the critically acclaimed best-seller The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny — was published in June 2017.
A best-selling author and award-winning reporter, Michael is a historian and biographer of the American West who also has gained international notoriety as a speaker and voice talent. In 2006 Michael’s distinctive voice was heard in CARS, an animated feature film from Pixar Studios. Michael also is featured in CARS 2, and CARS 3. Michael is a co-founder of the non-profit preservation organization the Route 66 Alliance, and remains an advocate for all historic roads and trails.
His work has appeared in hundreds of national and international magazines and newspapers, including Time, Life, People, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Michael and his wife, Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis, have lived in Tulsa since 1982.