Documentary looks at connections between women and Route 66 - Albuquerque Journal

Documentary looks at connections between women and Route 66

Route 66
Katherine Augustine of Laguna Pueblo from an interview at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. (Courtesy of Assertion Films)

Katrina Parks is no stranger to telling stories. She realizes it’s key to pay attention at all times because the next story to be told is right there.

“I was working on a documentary about the Harvey Girls,” Parks says. “While I was doing the production, I realized that the railroads began to decline and jobs along Route 66 began to pick up. The women that left the Harvey Girls went on to jobs along this route and they made change for themselves.”

It was at this moment, the idea for the three-part documentary series, “Route 66: The Untold Story of Women on the Mother Road” was born.

After years of work on the project, Parks has been taking the film along Route 66 – Chicago to Los Angeles.

She will participate in film screenings in Gallup and Albuquerque. The Gallup panel will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, at El Morro Theatre. Meanwhile, the panel and screening will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque. The documentary is also available to stream for free on

Parks says as the car emerged as the primary form of personal transportation in the last century, America’s roads became central to connecting people and places.

Route 66
Filmmaker Katrina Parks, cinematographer Lara Sievert, assistant camera Arianna Andreatta and sound Chloe Shriner interview Gallup Harvey Girls Virginia Tellez Wayne, at left. (Courtesy of Assertion Films)

Among the most famous of these is Route 66, which served as the pathway to the west for many explorers and travelers and became a memorable and influential part of automotive and American history.

The series explores how women overcame segregation and gender discrimination to build fulfilling lives for themselves and generations to come on America’s most beloved road.

Parks says there were interviews with women like Katherine Augustine that captivated her.

Augustine grew up at Laguna Pueblo and shared her recollections of how Route 66 ran through the pueblo.

“She spoke about how traumatic it was to be sent to boarding school in Albuquerque, which was common practice in those days,” Parks says. “Even though she was punished for speaking her Native language at the boarding school, Katherine maintained fluency despite the pressure not to. She also continues to practice the religious customs she was taught as a child by her grandparents on a daily basis. The positive side of her boarding school experience was that Katherine excelled in her studies.”

Parks says during her summer vacations, Augustine worked as a Harvey Girl serving the troop trains in Gallup, where she was reunited with her family. After high school graduation, she was offered a job as a full-time Harvey Girl, but decided instead to continue her education and become a nurse.

“She became the head nurse at an Albuquerque hospital and supported all three of her children because she was a single mother,” Parks says. “Katherine received many honors over her career, traveled internationally and in later years became a journalist for the Albuquerque paper.”

Producing on the series is Rochelle Vallese and Michelle Kantor.

Joining Parks on the panels are retired director of the Center for Southwest Research Tomas Jaehn, historian and author Virginia Scharff, author Sharon Niederman and other special guests.

Route 66
Linda SooHoo on Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. (Courtesy of the SooHoo family)

Funding support for these programs is provided by the New Mexico Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“It’s like I’m coming full circle with this project,” Parks says. “I got my degree in fine art from UNM and Keif (Henley) from the Guild was one of my instructors at Field and Frame when I took film classes there. Albuquerque has always been a great place for me and held this significant importance. I started to get into filmmaking there and returning there for a screening is special.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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