Nov 142016
 

susan-croce-kelly








I wanted to wait a little before I posted this story as I wanted to read it thoroughly and understand why we really never heard of Susan. I for one feel a little embarrassed and even ashamed as we have seem to overlook this great author and even greater trailblazer as we have seem to be lead to believe others were the ones who started the ‘resurgence’ for Route 66 – and this is now false. Credit now needs to go where credit is due.
I hope to meet Susan one day to give her my sincere ‘thanks’ and to see how we can help further her goals and dreams for the route we all come to love and share with one another.

The pavement’s presence isn’t what made Route 66 such a success. Instead, it was the people: Folks who breathed life into the memory-making, states-wide street that all of America could call its own.

One of those individuals was Cy Avery, a promoter from Tulsa who drove the road into the national spotlight after it officially began in November 1926.

Another was one of Avery’s biggest fans: An author named Susan Croce Kelly, who today lives near Lake of the Ozarks. Nearly 60 years after the route began, Kelly and photographer Quinta Scott published “Route 66: The Highway and Its People,” a photographic essay that captured stories along the road.

It was the first of its kind. The book came three years after the road was decommissioned, before it was back in vogue, and a time when it was a crumbling shadow of its former self.

And it led a national fascination down the Main Street of America.

How it began
Kelly’s awareness of Route 66 began at an early age. She grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, and heard stories of the world-famous road from her mother, who spent her childhood in southwest Missouri. “She would say, ‘This is the most famous road in the world,’” recalls Kelly. “I do remember that, because I was like, ‘Sure.’ Even at 5.”

Despite Kelly’s initial reaction to the route, she was born into historic preservation: Her great-aunt was Lucile Morris Upton, a longtime Springfield journalist famous for covering Ozarks nooks and crannies.

As an adult, Kelly followed in Upton’s footsteps, also spending time as a newspaper reporter in Springfield in the mid-1970s. During that time, the Mother Road caught her interest — especially a ghost-like portion near Halltown, Mo., around 20 miles from Springfield.

“It just evokes the 1930s,” she said in a 1989 article in the Springfield News-Leader. “You feel like you’re going back in time to a certain extent.”

It wasn’t until 1979, however, when that fascination began to grow into something more. She was introduced to Scott at a truck stop along Route 66, which led to the duo working on several articles for newspapers about the route; Scott would shoot photos, and Kelly would write the text.

“We started out, ‘Tell us about your building. Tell us about your business,’” recalls Kelly. “And then we began to do serious oral histories – what happened in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s and ’50s.”

Scott and Kelly found people ready and willing to share their stories. Looking back, Kelly believes part of that was because the people they spoke to were behind businesses along the road.

“People were used to talking to anybody who walked in the door because they might spend money, … and they were invested in the highway,” says Kelly. “I think I paid (attention), not because it was important, but because they were storytellers.”

They heard about the route’s early days, when Avery and others promoted it into the history books. “In Oklahoma, they said Cy Avery ‘invented’ Route 66, says Kelly. “It’s one of those words you remember because it was so bizarre.”

There were stories of the “Bunion Derby,” a transcontinental foot race in 1928 that drew national attention. And, of early trips down the road that were perhaps more dangerous than desirable. “It wasn’t for the faint of heart to travel by car,” she says. “But these intrepid people would get out there, and they’d write about it.”

Books such as “The Grapes of Wrath” showed a trip many families — heading west, and to a better life — began to make. And few years later, the journalists learned of World War II taking soldiers up and down its path.

“And then they came home,” says Kelly. “That’s when it was fun. … My father’s generation came back from World War II, and companies offered paid vacations for the first time. So people could go.”

Those hoards of travelers, however, also resulted in horrific stories along the aptly nicknamed “Bloody 66.” And later, there were tales of downturn when the people’s road left them behind. Such stories painted an authentic portrait of America’s Main Street; one told by the folks who saw the road’s rise and felt it fall — and who were quickly disappearing.

Becoming a book
Those conversations took place over a near six-year period. And, eventually, it seemed like the timing was right for more. Route 66 was kind of on the radar, and if we were going to write a book, ‘It’s got to be now,’” recalls Kelly.

“I had sent a draft chapter and outline and some of Quinta’s pictures to the University of Oklahoma Press,” she said in 1989. “They wrote back in a couple of weeks and said this is great, go for it. So I quit my job.”

Over the next year, Kelly dedicated her time to creating a book based on nearly 225 interviews the duo gathered. One of the biggest challenges, she says, was figuring out how to present the material. “You’ve got the states, you’ve got the timeline, you’ve got the businesses,” she notes, mentioning that the book was ultimately presented by decade.

It was published in 1988. “The marketing people at (the University of Oklahoma Press) knew what they had,” says Kelly. “They did posters, I was lined up to do radio interviews for six months or seven months every week with different people. They really promoted the book.”

And the country took note — even the Wall Street Journal, which published a review about the book on Feb. 8, 1989.

“‘Route 66’ doesn’t ignore the names and dates and political decisions of traditional history. But its appeal lies in the graceful way it explores the impact of that long black ribbon the lives of the people who lived beside it and in the book’s explanation of how U.S. 66 ‘became a highway the country could not forget.’

“Today, as this book’s text and photographs emphasize, there’s not much left besides the legend. The two-lane blacktop has crumbled and most of the people who lived beside the old road have moved away or died. But while the new interstates are faster and safer, it is impossible not to miss old Route 66. Fortunately, the words and pictures of this delightful book preserve the memories of a road that ran through everyone’s life.”

After “Route 66” was published, things began to change. Other books — including Michael Wallis’ “Route 66: The Mother Road” — began to feed the public’s growing interest. The Route 66 Association of Missouri was founded in 1990 (today tirelessly promoted by Tommy and Glenda Pike), and sections were gradually included on the National Register of Historic Places. And in 1999, President Bill Clinton signed the National Route 66 Preservation Bill which allocated $10 million for restoring and preserving historic features along the road.

Today, Route 66 has become a cultural institution, immortalized through the memories of thousands who make the trip each year. And its fame has spread far beyond the country’s borders: Each year, multitudes of foreign visitors specifically come to the United States to drive Route 66. It’s a fascination that’s evident, among other places, through Facebook, where a simple search reveals associations for countries such as Italy, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Japan, Brazil and the Netherlands (where they’re actually having a party to celebrate the route’s 90th birthday on Nov. 11!)

One of those visitors proves its international fascination. “I keep coming back because there’re always great people to meet along the road, and I do love to listen to their stories,” says Lucia Laura, a photographer who lives in Milan, Italy, via email. “There’ s always something new to discover, something that I left behind on my previous trip.”

Laura has been completely down Route 66 twice, but other sections more often — and, even though she loves the scenery, it’s not what she enjoys the most.

“What I love most of Route 66 are all the people I meet, their smiles and their stories attract me like a magnet.”

Ongoing preservation
After “Route 66” was published, Kelly didn’t have definite plans for a second book. But, when asked in 1989, she did mention that the idea was on her mind — and that a possible topic might be Avery.

“Cyrus Avery as a person just fascinates me,” said Kelly back then. “I can’t believe he didn’t know people like Henry Ford, because they were all working on the same thing — really changing this country from one kind of place into another kind of place.”

That percolating plan, however, was put on hold when Kelly stepped away from the spotlight. Life circumstances took her to Chicago and Texas, before coming back to the Ozarks. “(Route 66) really kind of faded into the background,” she says.

But the interest in Avery didn’t go away — and in 2014, it manifested into Kelly’s second book. But “Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery” tells more than Avery’s involvement with the Mother Road. It also recounts his efforts in many other public service ventures, and proves his legacy extends far beyond his lifetime.

After all, Avery died in 1963, seven years after his road was bypassed by the National Interstate Highway Act. Despite his visionary status, even Avery couldn’t have foreseen the impact his road would have nearly a century after it began:

“Today, visitors from all over the world travel to see what is left of Route 66,” writes Kelly. “Some actually ship historic cars and motorcycles from Europe and Asia to ‘motor west, on the highway that’s the best.’ Others band together on buses or caravans for the 2,400-mile trip. Still others come alone to soak up a part of the United States that most Americans no longer know.”

Like Avery, Kelly’s work helped launch a national fascination with Route 66 — and, especially with her first book, preserved a piece of Americana that today would be impossible to capture today.

“The thing that made our book such a fabulously lucky accident was the timing,” says Kelly. “We were interviewing people who’d been out there in the 1920s. We interviewed a guy who had helped pave Route 66. You know, they’re not there (anymore).”

Kelly is a popular presenter about Route 66 and Avery, and regularly visits Springfield, Mo., for its Birthplace of Route 66 Festival (where she was honored with the John T. Woodruff Award in 2015 for her support of Route 66). Visit her website for more information.

“Route 66: The Highway and its People” and “Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery” are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and directly from Kelly.

Both books are also available for loan from the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

By Ozarks Alive

Sep 202016
 

standin-on-the-corner-fest-2016








18th annual Standin’ on the Corner Fest Friday and Saturday

WINSLOW, Ariz. — Winslow’s 18th annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival takes place Sept. 23-24 in Winslow, an annual event that started in 1999, which coincided with the unveiling of a mural and statue in the park.

The festival will take place in downtown Winslow on Historic Route 66 (West Second Street) and North Campbell Avenue at the Eagle Pavilion located behind the Winslow Chamber of Commerce (Historic Hubbell Building) and Visitor’s Center. The Eagle Pavilion was built by the Standin’ on the Corner Foundation with donations from businesses, individuals, the city of Winslow and funds raised from the festival and volunteers. The foundation’s mission is the redevelopment of Winslow (the mission used to be the redevelopment of just the historic district but it has expanded that mission to include all of Winslow).

The first festival sixteen years ago was an impromptu celebration for the completion and opening of the park, which has now grown into a huge festival, which draws five to 10,000 people over the weekend.

The event celebrates the well-known single “Take it Easy,” written by the late Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, which became a hit in the 1970s for the Eagles and put the community of Winslow on the map. The verse ‘standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona’ draws visitors from far and wide to stand on that famous corner on historic Route 66.

This year, a Glenn Frey Memorial — a statue dedication — will take place Sept. 23 on the corner of Second Street and Kinsley Avenue from noon to 2:30 p.m. The rest of the entertainment begins at 3 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday. Cost is $5 per person. A horseshoe tournament is $20 per person and takes place Saturday.

Throughout the festival, vendors will sell everything from crafts, food and clothing. The event has fun for the entire family. A beer garden will have a tasting tent.

The festival’s returning bands Tommy Dukes, Stephen Padilla and Take it to the Limit, an Eagles cover band, will perform. In addition to these familiar names some other bands including Rhythm Edition, Coyote Moon Band, Triple Play, The Miller Boys and Higeria, a local favorite alternative band, Ty One on, country rock, and One of These Nights, a tribute to the Eagles, will also take the stage. In addition to the bands, NPC Ballet Folklorico, a Mexican Dance Group and the High Country Dance Team will perform.

On Sept. 245 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the annual Standin’ on the Corner Foundation Auction takes place, which is the big fundraiser for the foundation. Lots of items will be auctioned off, including some Eagles memorabilia.

She said the city of Winslow also benefits greatly from the festival, which is the foundation’s mission.

In addition, the festival is a chance for everyone to shop local, which is important for a small community. Butler said that local businesses are generous with donations to the event and to the live auction.

The money raised ensures the foundation will be able to continue with the annual festival, keeping the park and the pavilion in top form and continuing in the efforts to improve our community, a member of the foundation said last year.

History

The foundation said the history of the park is also important to remember and without the founding members’ hard work and determination, the vision of the historic downtown of Winslow would have been lost.

Seeing the success of their efforts to save La Posada, Marie Lamaar and Janice Griffith focused their attention on creating another attraction in Winslow that capitalized on the hit song, “Take it Easy.”

The Standing on the Corner Foundation was formed by these women and a group of private citizens, including Glenn and Yvonne Howeth, Larry Benham, Chris and Larry Payne, Bert Peterson, Greg and Connie Hacker.

The Standin’ on the Corner Park was built brick by brick with donations made by local businesses, individuals, many volunteer hours and investments by the city of Winslow. The Kaufman family donated the property where the park on the corner is located. John Pugh painted a two-story mural for the park and the iconic, bronze life-size 1970s Rock and Roll guitarist, made by Ron Adamson, was placed over personalized donor bricks.

By Katherine Locke – Navajo-Hopi Observer

Jun 242016
 

Ambler Becker Station - Dwight










Dwight’s restored Texaco station, on popular Old U.S. Route 66, comes to life each year in May. More than 60 volunteers take shifts here, meeting curious motorists from around the world. The following account covers approximately 15 minutes in the lube bay, the office and the old pumps out front.

Ding! A visitor wants to make sure that little black hose works, the one that used to announce a car pulling into a gas station. They don’t need those now at self-service stations.

A driver from the Czech Republic wanted to talk about Donald Trump. A film editor and a sound engineer from Rome talked of creating a movie about their experience. They plan to post it online.

“We want to discover the old America, the real America,” said Luigi Mearelli, 39. “We spent three years planning this vacation.”

Ding! Florian Niederhuber, 33, of Munich, was assisted by volunteer Alex McWilliams. The hosts always ask visitors to place a pin in one of their maps, marking the hometowns of each visitor.

The pins from 2015 were removed, but the European map already was filling up. The U.S. map was busier than expected. You could see other pins in Japan, New Zealand and parts of the African continent.

“We have had visitors come in and discover that they live only 10 miles apart in Germany,” McWilliams said. “I guess they wound up traveling together the rest of the way to California.”

Ding! It seems like like most of the motorists here are coming from Chicago and heading for an overnight stay in Springfield. This stop usually includes photos out front and questions about the next stop, usually in Pontiac.

On this day, the station was missing its celebrity attendant, Paul Roeder, of Kankakee. He wears a Texaco attendant’s uniform and surprises guests with another part of history. There really was a guy who pumped your gas and cleaned the windshield.

Attention always shifts back to the driveway here. The next couple rode up on a motorcycle dressed up to look like a 1957 Chevy. And the trailer it pulled was also tricked out like that Chevy icon.

Ding!

By Dennis Yohnka – Daily Journal

Apr 132016
 

boots-new-neon-02











A green glow that lit up the corner of Central and Garrison for decades in the middle of the 20th century has been restored in the 21st century with the lighting of the neon Saturday at the Boots Court.
In another step in the restoration of a Route 66 icon, Pricilla Bledsaw and Debye Harvey, the owners of the Boots Court, flipped a switch on Friday, turning on yards of green neon tubing along the edges of the classic building.
Bledsaw said the sisters have been working since they bought the hotel in August 2011 to restore the motel to its 1940s configuration, and while Route 66 aficionados have heard about restoration, adding the neon give people more reason than ever to come and see it for themselves.
“We were so excited we were finally going to get the neon on the building because that’s something people will see,” Bledsaw said. “Right now people come because they’ve heard about the Boots, but with the neon on, it just makes it look so much more open. It makes it look like what it is, it’s a Route 66 icon.”

About 75 people attended a two-hour open house at the Boots on Saturday.
Tables were set up with information about the Route 66 Association of Missouri, the upcoming Jefferson Highway Association of Missouri convention and books about the “Mother Road.”
The Carthage Middle School Tiger Choir, dressed in poodle skirts and dark jeans and t-shirts form the 1950s sang a variety of songs to entertain the crowd and several classic cars were on display.

The motel was filled for the night, marking the first time the restored Vacancy/No Vacancy neon sign was used.
As the sun went down and rain drops started to fall shortly after 8 p.m., dignitaries spoke and it came time for the countdown.
Holding up green LED pens, the crowd counted down from 10, then Debbie Dee, the manager of the Boots, turned on the switch inside the building, bringing to life the yards of neon tubing.
David Hutson, with Neon Time in St. Charles, manufactured the neon tubing to exacting standards replicating the green neon that was on the building based on photos and pieces of the original lights that Bledsaw and Harvey had removed and stored.
Route 66 changed when the sun went down,” Hutson said. Route 66 really came alive to try and attract people into the space. So you have this whole thing flooded with light when it gets dark. I think these kinds of places were so inviting for travelers.”

Bledsaw and Harvey said they applied for a grant from the National Park Service that paid for half the cost of the restoration.
Jim Thole, chairman of the Neon Heritage Preservation Committee for the Route 66 Association of Missouri, said restoring the neon is a big step toward restoring the Boots and giving Carthage place that will draw tourists from around the world.

“It’s just a real prize possession of Carthage in terms of tourism. Route 66 tourism,” Thole said. “People are going to go out of their way to see this. And if you’re here at this time of night to see this, what are you going to do? You’re going to stay here, you’re going to eat here, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
“Signs and architecture like this have taken on a new life in the sense that they are now symbols of local pride. They’re local landmarks, symbols of pride for the community, the community can be proud to have this back.”

By John Hacker – Carthage Press

Mar 182016
 

sipp-shoppe-winslow








The Sipp Shoppe across from the Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow is doing brisk business as Nikki Greer and Jacob Martin serve up food and ice cold drinks to customers, including Beata King and Bea Cooper, who stopped in on their way from Phoenix to Wisconsin.

Spring is in the air and that usually means the beginning of tourist season along Route 66, but in Winslow the season is already in full swing. It’s a cautious drive along Second Street as tourists step into the road to get a better angle with their camera or take a quick jog to cross from one sidewalk to another surrounding the Standin’ on the Corner Park.
The center of all the attention is the statue of the lone troubadour waiting for a ride, which has become synonymous with Winslow and draws thousands of people each year as strains of Eagles tunes fill the air from the Standin’ on the Corner gift shop.
At the opposite corner from the gift shop is the Sipp Shoppe. There, numerous patrons enjoy a soda or choose from a long list of hot dog specialties such as the Oklahoma Tornado or the Baja Dog. Nikki Greer, who runs the shop, said that it’s been “total chaos” for the past couple of months, ever since the death of Eagles co-founder Glen Frey. “This is usually our slowest month of the year, but so far it’s been crazy busy, mostly with people from in the state,” she said.
A stroll into the Arizona 66 Trading Co. across from the Sipp Shoppe showed visitors sorting through T-shirts with the words, “Take It Easy” and “Such A Fine Sight To See” emblazoned across the chest, and deciding what knick-knacks to buy while a concert video of the Eagles plays on a wide-screen television.
Sabrina Butler runs the shop and said it’s been busy like this since January. “It seemed like the day after Glenn Frey died people just started showing up,” she said. Butler also talked about the success of the Corner and the people who make it happen. “We have a good group of citizens making that effort, between the Standing on the Corner Foundation and the chamber of commerce we have a lot of great things coming up,” she said before going down a list of events that include a Cinco de Mayo festival, the Father’s Day fishing excursion and the Standin’ on the Corner Festival.
La Posada also is a big draw; they get quite a few celebrities over there. We just had (former Diamondbacks pitcher) Randy Johnson in the other day and he was staying there,” she said.
Soon the city will have another attraction for visitors to the downtown. According to Community Development Director Paul Ferris, the $488,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s National Scenic Grant Fund has been freed up and the city can move forward with its plans for the Route 66 Plaza park. The park will be located next to the Standin’ on the Corner Park and will feature a mural of Chicago on the east wall and a mural of Santa Monica pier on the west wall. Winding between the two murals will be a pathway depicting Route 66 and all the highlights of the much-loved road. The work is expected to begin next month, with no time noted for completion.
“It’s taken awhile, but things are finally coming together. This plaza will be another added attraction for our visitors and one more reason to stop,” said Ferris.
Back at the Sipp Shoppe patron Beata King summed up why she stopped in Winslow on her way from Phoenix to Wisconsin: “We love the Eagles and of course we stop in Winslow for the food. We love this place.”

By Linda Kor

Jan 212016
 

Terri Ryburn - Sprague Super Station, Normal IL

Terri Ryburn – Sprague Super Station, Normal IL












I have met with Terri a couple times a few years back and she is a genuine person who really would like to see this gas station reopened and enjoyed by all the Route 66 travelers…

From those of us who embrace the Route 66 mythology that comes with living here in its shadow, today’s GO! cover story subject is owed a big debt of gratitude.

As if you didn’t already know that, per her many history presentations, books on the subject and even comedy club routines.

But we’re especially delighted to see that the tireless Terri Ryburn is doing her bit to get both us and That Road on a movie screen near us.

Move over “Grapes of Wrath,” “Cars,” “Two-Lane Blacktop,” “Bagdad Cafe” and all you other cinematic pretenders to the throne — including the fabled ’60s TV series of the same name (“Route 66,” with Martin Milner and George Maharis tooling away for an hour a week).

Ryburn thinks that series has aged none too well, leaving room for improvement.

As chronicled in the story above, Ryburn is hoping to do just that via the odyssey of the fictional pop duo, Hank & Rita.

The proposed film would involve tracking the married pair’s travels through a succession of small, obscure clubs … from Chicago to “Saint Louey” to Barstow to all the stops name-checked by Bobby Troup in a certain kicks-oriented anthem.

If it’s not exactly “the horror, the horror” stuff of “Heart of Darkness,” we’re advised that the road trip marks the gradual disintegration of a union … in fact, the one that comes to a head in the Hank & Rita show we’ll be seeing next weekend at the Bloomington Eagles Club.

If the movie is made, there’s been no word yet on what venues along this stretch of the road might serve as moment-of-truth stops.

So feel free to send your suggestion this way, and we’ll pass them along to Hank and/or Rita.

But back to Terri Ryburn, whose other big Mother Road project of the moment continues apace, at her own pace.

Which she admits is pretty much one mile on the odometer at a time.

Namely, her efforts on behalf of the historic former Sprague Service Station perched alongside Old U.S. 66 on East Pine Street in Normal, where it has stood since 1931.

“I have no money,” she admitted to us recently with the good spirits that fuel her “second career” as a stand-up comedian hereabouts.

“But I have managed to cobble together grants, and to keep plugging away at it!”

Indeed.

She purchased the two-story, 3,600-square-foot Tudor Revival-style gas station nearly nine years ago.

The first Pantagraph story on the project, in May 2007, announced that the then-75-year-old edifice would be reborn as a bed-and-breakfast, with tea room, gift shop and restaurant.

She has since received grants from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program of the National Park Service and the Town of Normal, which have slowly but surely allowed the project to move forward.

Bringing us up to date, she notes that “I’m getting a new parking lot in the spring and opening a Route 66 visitor center and gift shop.”

In addition, she says, “I’m working on a grant application for exterior work … tuck-pointing of brick … repair of stucco and timber … and painting.”

We’re not trying to stage-direct the movie from our desk across town at the newspaper, but …

We think that the Sprague Station would be a perfect fit for Hank & Rita to come to some moment of their truth … even though, technically, the drama would be taking place in the middle ’80s, when the station was a decade past its life as a gas station and three decades prior to its rebirth as a tea room/etc.

So haul out the artistic license, we say, and let’s dovetail Ryburn’s two big Mother Road dreams into one big fat fantasia of movies, music and memories.

All-singing, all-dancing … all kicks.

Lori Ann Cook-Neisler – The Pantagraph

Jan 152016
 

tropics-sign








A committee of local leaders has been assembled with the goal of restoring the iconic Tropics restaurant sign.

In May 2014, the symbol of Lincoln’s place in Route 66 history was dismantled for the first time since it was installed in the early-1960’s.
The roughly 4,200-pound sign was cut, lifted by an industrial crane and taken away on a trailer for storage on city property.

In March 2015, the treasurer of the Route 66 Association, Martin Blitstein, accompanied by Andrea Dykman, with The Mill, approached Lincoln City Council on the whereabouts of the sign, which was being stored outdoors at the landfill, raising many concerns from locals.
That following July, the Tourism Bureau took ownership of the sign and partnered with the City of Lincoln and the Johnson family, former owners of the Tropics restaurant, to restore it. Once restoration is complete, it will once again be city property.

Today, a committee of 10 is working to raise funds for the three-year project. Those members include: Executive Director of the Logan County Economic Development Partnership, Bill Thomas, The tropics family- Bob and Tammy Goodrich, Eric Johnson, and Kim Johnson, the President of the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County, Bob Wilmert, Event Coordinator for the Logan County Alliance, Cara Barr, Lincoln Alderman Michelle Bauer, Tourism Director Maggie McMurtrey, LCA intern Konner Browne and Rene Martin, with the Mount Pulaski Courthouse Foundation.
“The committee is working to get things off the ground. Our goal is for each member to network,” said McMurtrey. “Eventually we want to grow into a bigger group of people who really care. So, the role of the small committee, for now, is to brainstorm fundraising ideas and collecting information”

After reviewing several bids, the group is aiming to raise $50,000 for the project. Approximately $30,000 of that will go towards the restoration and the costly transportation of the sign, while the remaining money will be used for unforeseen costs and for the city to use for maintenance.
Currently, the group is utilizing Facebook for public awareness and collecting start-up costs through a Gofundme.com account.
“In terms of progress, the committee worked to establish an online process folks can use to make donations and the committee is working to plan fundraising events,” said Thomas.
The committee is also applying for several grant applications seeking funding support from the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Program, the Danner Trust, and The Woods Foundation. The amount of grants applied for will be just shy of $10,000.

Currently, approximately $850 has been donated from the Lincoln and Logan County Chamber of Commerce, which is held in a bank account designated for the project.
While the group is planning a large fundraising event this fall, it is currently hosting a silent auction for four Chicago Bulls versus Cleveland Cavalier tickets for April 9.
“It’s only been up on our Facebook page for two days and it is currently at $450,” said McMurtrey. “So, that’s kind of exciting. It should put us at $1,000 raised.”

As far as a destination for the sign, no decisions have been made just yet. It is still being stored on city property. However, it is now lifted off the ground and has been covered.
“Restoring the Tropics sign, locating it in an appropriate spot and ensuring there is an onsite means of telling the Tropics story to people who stop to see the sign are, in my opinion, the keys to creating a new attraction that will motivate folks to stop and visit Lincoln and Logan County,” said Thomas.
“More tourism money will flow into Lincoln and Logan County if we have more attractions available. The more attractions we have available, the more time visitors will spend in our area. The more time visitors spend in our area, the more likely they are to purchase gas, eat in a restaurant, spend the night, and/or purchase goods at our stores.”

According to McMurtrey, at this point the committee is in the phase of working to raise awareness and start-up funds. “Any donations would be greatly appreciated.”
To donate to the cause, checks can be made out to Save The Tropics Sign and sent to the LCA office at 1555 Fifth Street, Lincoln, Ill. 62656.
For more information visit: Gofundme.com/SaveTheTropicsSign or the Facebook page Save the Tropics Sign.

By Cassy Good – The Courier

Nov 182015
 

desert-motors









VICTORVILLE — An iconic car dealership that’s been located on Route 66 for more than six decades is changing hands after drawing countless car buyers and thousands of tourists.

Owner Patrick Matlach of Desert Motors said the car lot’s nostalgic neon sign, with its curved yellow arrow, will still shine bright long after he hands over the dealership to his friend, Sam Shihab. Desert Motors opened in 1951 and has been in its current location on D Street near First Street in Old Town Victorville since 1954.
Sam is the owner of Sid’s Automotive, which is located across the street, and European Automotive in Victorville,” Matlach told the Daily Press. “He’s been around for nearly 20 years and he’s a good man that I fully trust to keep the legacy of this dealership alive.”

The 85-year-old Matlach, who decided to hand the business over to Shihab due to health issues, said Shihab has big plans for the dealership that once supplied the movie industry with classic cars and has been photographed by tourists from all over the world.
“The lot is empty now because I’m just focusing on gathering up and closing accounts,” Matlach said. “Once Sam takes over, I’m sure that will change.”
Shihab said he understands the cultural significance of Route 66 and its shared history with the rise of the automobile industry, and he spoke of the importance of keeping “Patrick’s legacy alive through the dealership.”
“Long after the popularity of Route 66 faded, Patrick continued to sacrifice so much to keep this place thriving,” Shihab said. “The place will still remain Desert Motors and we will keep that nostalgic feel. We will also be known once again as the Route 66 Car Garden, a fitting name for the longest running used-car dealership on Route 66.”

Matlach said part of the nostalgic feel of the car lot is the multiple strings of clear-glass light bulbs that once shined on newly-waxed cars at night.
“You came around that bend in the road and you were greeted by a magical glow of lights,” Matlach said. “It was like moths being drawn by the light. You know, many of those moths drove off in a Chevy, Ford or Chrysler.”
As Matlach thumbed through the book “Route 66: Lives on the Road,” he explained that in 1954 he moved the dealership, once located closer to Interstate 15, to its present location after the construction of the first bypass to downtown Victorville began.
“That bypass really cut into our business because all that traffic from San Bernardino to Barstow did not come through here,” Matlach said. “Before moving down the road a bit, I must have sold 600 cars a year in that old lot.”
Matlach said he still remembers selling his first car, “a light-green, ‘33 Chevy Deluxe, four-door, with twin mounts and a trunk in the back,” to his friend, “a man by the name of Willie Green.”

“He lived across the tracks and he was my best booster because he said I treated people right,” Matlach said. “He was a wonderful friend who was also a hard-working family man.”
Matlach said when Green was in his 70s, he grabbed his 50-year old son by the ear and dragged him into the dealership after he discovered that his son was late on a car payment.
Matlach opened the car lot while stationed at George Air Force Base and serving in the Air National Guard. He added that opening the Victorville business was a continuation of a passion for selling cars.
“I opened my first used car lot at age 19 in St. Louis, right on 4955 Natural Bridge Avenue,” said Matlach as a BNSF train rolled past his lot. “Besides Victorville, I opened car lots in Fontana, San Bernardino and Austin, Texas.”

According to Matlach, Desert Motors once supplied vehicles for TV shows such as “77 Sunset Strip,” which aired in the 1950s and ‘60s, and for various movies such as “Angel Face,” starring Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons.
“James Dean drove a really beat-up old Duesenberg that I restored,” Matlach said. “I think that old Duesenberg was used in the movie ‘Giant.’ And the Jaguar was used in the ‘Angel Face’ movie where the roadster goes off the cliff.”
According to Shihab, Matlach’s experience helped him to create a solid and trusted reputation, and helped him to achieve, at one time, the status of president of the California Independent Automobile Dealers Association and National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.
Shihab said his dream is to restore Desert Motors back to the prominence that it once held by transforming the lot back to the shining gem that once sparkled along Route 66.
“I couldn’t find a better place to fulfill that dream, and a better coach and mentor than Pat Matlach,” Shihab said. “He’s a man with great history behind him since 1951, and I would like to be the continuation of that legacy here at Desert Motors.”

By Rene Ray De La Cruz – VV Daily Press

Oct 262015
 

victorville-20-anniversary








Victorville landmark draws in locals for celebration and car show

A local landmark that more often garners a mostly international audience drew in hundreds of locals Saturday to celebrate its 20-year anniversary of preserving the history of “The Mother Road.”
The mission of the California Route 66 Museum in Old Town Victorville is to “preserve and increase” interest in “all aspects of history and heritage related to the road,” which it has been doing since it opened its doors in 1995. With three display rooms and a gift shop, the 5,000-square-foot former Red Rooster Cafe location remains entirely free for admission, accepting contributions from patrons and donors.

Museum President Susan Bridges said it’s unfortunate that “all the locals don’t know this place at all.”
Bridges said that about 75 percent of the museum’s business comes from visitors from all around the world.
“We want to let people know that this used to be a prime area,” Bridges said.
She said the ongoing Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority construction project has taken a large toll on Old Town shops, including the Best Deal Furniture store that recently closed its doors after 20 years of business.
Best Deal joined the row of 17 other buildings between A and D streets on the east side of Seventh Street that were once open businesses that have shuttered their doors, according to a previous Daily Press article.
The museum continues to thrive however, and with Route 66 turning 90 years old next year, it will likely gain even greater attention.

California Historic Route 66 Association board member Scott Piotrowski traveled from Glendale to attend the Victorville museum anniversary celebration, providing information about the group to attendees.
The big buzz for the association is the Route 66 90-year anniversary national festival planned to take place in Los Angeles next year. Piotrowski said they expect at least 50,000 attendees at the festival, but are hoping for more than 100,000.

The main event of Saturday’s celebration was the car show, an annual display of classic cars ranging from hot rods to rat rides.
Among the cars was a 1963 Ford Galaxie replica of the Mayberry Sheriff’s car used in the Andy Griffith Show, and a unique 1936 Ford Custom pickup truck with a 1983 Volvo built in a custom rod shop.

A celebrity of the Route 66 community was also at the event, National Classic Miss Route 66, Monica Burrola, decked in her sash and stetson to sign and take photos with visitors.
Burrola said she didn’t know a lot about the road when her son’s girlfriend asked her to participate in the pageant for the Classic Miss Route 66 for women more than 50 years old.
The next thing you know, I had a love for the road,” Burrola said. “The coolest part is all of the people on the highway.”

By Charity Lindsey – Desert Dispatch

Oct 062015
 

rendezvous-san-bernardino








There’s no getting away from it – San Bernardino in the fall means classic cars and Route 66.
Gleaming chrome and the throaty roar of souped-up engines.

A little drive down Memory Lane.
On Saturday, car buffs can do it all again, cruisin’ back to E Street, where it all began.
The third annual “Where it All Began — Rendezvous Back to Route 66” (and back to downtown) revs up the memories — the good old days of cruising in classic cars and nostalgia for the Mother Road.
So polish up that chrome until it gleams, the candy-apple red paint until it dazzles — happy days are here again.

Join the 400 already registered car enthusiasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday when a community comes together for all-day entertainment, cars. cruisin,’ food and fun.
This year’s edition again celebrates the glory days of San Bernardino’s love affair with the automobile, going back to the city’s roots as a “car town.”
The event, presented by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of San Bernardino, returns to downtown San Bernardino at Court Street Square.

Judi Penman, chamber president and CEO, says this year’s edition keeps the spirit of the Route 66 Rendezvous alive in San Bernardino.
“I want this to be a community project,” she said. “We want to have something San Bernardino can be proud of again. We’ve brought together San Bernardino City Unified School District, Parks and Recreation, the YMCA, City Hall, the Neighborhood Association Council and nonprofits to help make this a wonderful event,” she said.
Dave and Mary Raphael of Long Beach are especially glad to see the Route 66 celebration back in downtown San Bernardino.
They are owners of a 1948 Ford Woodie they had taken to the traditional Rendezvous for 10 consecutive years.

“We had it on the stage with the Beach Boys back in the ‘80s when we first finished it. Then, it was at the San Bernardino Beach Boys concert a few years ago,” Mary said.
“It has been on TV and movies and weddings and mostly to the beach with our family. We can hardly wait for Oct. 10.”
There will be lots of neon and thunder, but you’ll also get to hear the sounds of the Beach Boys — thanks to Chris Farmer and his Beach Boys Tribute Band.
You can enjoy fantastic food and a Car-toberfest Beer Garden and creative kids’ games including a toy train for the little ones to ride.

Look for a variety of merchandise vendors, while food vendors offer tastes from different countries, including the U.S., Mexico and Asian countries. Of course, there will be bratwurst to make “Cartoberfest” official.
Two Beer Gardens will be on site offering tastes of Anheuser Busch fine products.
The Beach Boys Tribute Band is set for 4:30 p.m. at Court Street Square — and dancing in the streets is allowed.
Also, Thumper the DJ will be playing those memorable tunes from the ‘50s and ‘60s and maybe even some newer ones throughout the day.

And then, the thunder rolls.
Following the Beach Boys concert is the Open Header Contest, judged by John Mihovetz, known for his Accufab Lucas Oil 2010 Mustang Shelby pro street race car.
So then comes the Grand Finale, a Neon Light Parade with all the cars participating.
Get ready for awesome — the neon light parade should be a lot like low fireworks.
There should even be some ooohs and a few ahhhs.
People’s Choice Awards, designed by Quiel Bros. Signs, will be presented to the best of the best.
It’s so good to have “Rendezvous Back” back.

– By Michel Nolan, The Sun