It was a lifeline. Getting from coast to coast took you right through the rolling hills and the piney woods.
Then I-20 came along, life speeded up, and the rest was history.
"What we want to do is breathe new life to it, just as they've done on Route 66," says Howard Rosser, for whom bringing back the past is the mission. People from towns along East Texas' stretch of Highway 80 met in Grand Saline Monday to meet one another. They hope to work together one day to promote tourism along the highway. East Texas is the only place in the state where Highway 80 wasn't absorbed by the Interstate.
"People are in such a hurry these days to get places, so they take the interstate. Just we want people to come off of the interstate, step off of the interstate," said Lynn Kitchens, who runs the "Salt Palace" in Grand Saline.
Mineola is halfway along the East Texas jaunt.
"The history is very rich. I love how it's an easy trip from Dallas, you don't have the highways," says Debbie Davis, the owner of East Texas Burger Company. In one way or another it's been a restaurant since 1907.
"Bonnie and Clyde ate here, and one of the first cooks we've ever hired was Bonnie Parker's cousin. To me there's just a lot of history and family tradition," she says.
That is the selling point... history, family, and a different era.
"They want to feel that they are traveling back in time," Davis says.