Highway 99: The History of California’s Main Street By Stephen Provost

Mar 24, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Books & Tales, Diana Bulls, Hometown History

by Diana Bulls

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Highway 99, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Anyone who lives in Central California knows that to get from north to south, you take State Route 99 (SR99), or as most of us call it, Highway 99. If you are heading north to Sacramento or south to Bakersfield, or any of the cities in between, you are going to get there via SR99.

Most of us and Highway 99 have a history. Like me, I would imagine that many of you could tell stories of traveling up and down the state on Highway 99, visiting family or going on vacation. The kids piled in the back seat—no seat belts in those days and no air conditioning either—fighting or whining “Are we there yet?”book

Stephen Provost has written a book that will literally take you down memory lane (or highway if you will). This is a time when California’s “main street” passed through the downtowns of every city up and down its length. From the highway’s inception in 1926 through 1964 when it was mostly replaced by Interstate 5, this is a history book that has something for every reader.

Written in two parts, in the first Provost describes the challenges facing engineers who were trying to find a route that would connect northern and southern California. He writes about the restaurants, motels, and gas stations that flourished along the highway. Landmarks we all remember as kids: the Hacienda Motel, Mammoth Orange, Pollardville, Blueberry Hill Cafe, and the stop light in Livingston. (I was sorry to see that Provost did not mention the airplane on top of Bruce’s Lodge near Selma).

In the second part of the book, Provost writes something about every city and town along the highway, from Calexico to Yreka. A little history and quite a few anecdotes will satisfy the most curious of readers.

Photos by the author and various archives are liberally included amidst the text, including a large section of color photos.

Stephen Provost was born and raised in Fresno. He has spent more than twenty-five years as an editor, reporter, and columnist for daily newspapers throughout California. His previous books include Fresno Growing UP: A City Comes of Age 1945-1985 and Memortality, a contemporary fantasy novel. He lives with his wife on the Central Coast of California.

From the Dust Bowl migrations of the 1930s to the rise and fall of gas stations, motels, attractions, and roadside diners, it’s all here in the book. I highly recommend it as a concise history of the impact of Highway 99 on California.

Be sure to check out KRL’s interview with the author from an earlier issue.

To enter to win a copy of Highway 99, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “99,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 31, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Diana Bulls is an ongoing contributor to our
Hometown History section, having collected vintage kitchen utensils for over 40 years; she is also actively involved with the Reedley Historical Society.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. I know I’d really enjoy this slice of California history. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com

  2. I would like to know more about the history of Hwy 99. I believe it runs all the way up to WA state. (jaclyn966@hotmail.com)

  3. We have a winner!


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