Katrina Parks, project director for the Women on Route 66 project, listens in as Chris Ervin speaks during the panel at the end of the special presentation. Ervin is with the Mojave Desert Archives. The presentation focused on oral histories about women’s experiences on Route 66.
By JENNIFER DENEVAN
Needles Desert Star
NEEDLES — Those interested in a bit of a history lesson heard some interesting tales from various women who knew what it was like to travel and live along the Mother Road.
The presentation of “The Women on the Mother Road in Southern California: Route 66 Oral Histories and Screening and Discussion Program” focused on learning how women played major roles in life on the historic roadway. While Needles wasn’t directly discussed, Andrea Arizaga Limon, who has many local ties, is one of several women Katrina Parks interviewed and is part of the project. Her story was included in the presentation at the El Garces on Sept. 23.
Parks, project director, used a couple of quotes to explain why she focused her project on women. The quotes discussed how history tends to focus on men such as Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady motoring along Route 66; but women also did a lot to contribute to the stories.
Parks said women are frequently sidebars in historical works. When researching, there are unconscious biases and the tendency is to look up information on men instead of women and so certain assumptions are made, she continued.
While it may appear that women didn’t own property or were adventurers or contribute much, Parks said, when someone digs in, the experience by women is more complex and varied than led to believe.
Parks discussed some of the women she’s talked to or has researched about for her project. She pointed out how some of the women experienced various hardships such as discrimination for being women. Some faced racial discrimination and segregation, abuses and despite obstacles saw many successes as business women, entertainers and more.
Some of the presentation included Parks’ work with other individuals also working on similar projects and how it connected to her own. Parks’ part of the presentation included three of her finished interviews, including Arizaga Limon’s, for the audience to hear.
Chris Ervin, of Mojave Desert Archives, shared some human interest stories focused on a particular woman who lived in Ludlow. Her name was Venus Pendergast.
Many of the stories shared by Ervin and Parks brought some laughter and insight to an era gone by. While some of the stories are better known, such as Bobby Troup’s “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” the fact his first wife, Cynthia, was the one who came up with that particular line is not as well known.
Parks provided thanks to those who’ve supported her project and to Jan Jernigan, of the Needles Downtown Business Alliance, for helping making the local presentation happen.
A panel at the end allowed members of the audience to talk about their own experiences and what life in Needles, in particular, has been like through the decades.