Sep 142014
 

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Route 66 Cruisers Car Club is gearing up for its seventh annual car and motorcycle show Sept. 26-27 at Claremore Lake.

After starting in 2006, the club has grown to about 100 members and has gained national attention for its annual shows and charity events.
Ed Meacham established the club. As a car enthusiast, he joined the Tulsa Car Club, but after networking at several shows, he believed enough individuals in Claremore had a love for classic cars and would appreciate a local club. He was right.

The club began with only six founding members, but over the years has grown to a record of 160 members.
Meacham attributes the success to how active the club is in hosting swap meets, shows, cruises, and attending events.
“We get out and do a lot of stuff, and we really want to have money for charity,” said Meacham.
Shortly after starting the club, Meacham felt the club needed a driving purpose. Paul Kelsey, a local Shriner, expressed concern that their organization would fall short on providing toys to children for the upcoming Christmas. The need inspired Meacham to organize the club’s first toy run.
“If it can be done with motorcycles, it can be done with cars,” Meacham said, “We would line up for an all day cruise and start in one town and stop at businesses that collected toys for the Shriners.”
The toy run has been successful every year in helping the Shriners at Christmas, so much so that last year more toys were collected than the Shriners could give away. The additional toys were donated to the Good Samaritan Ministry.

Funds collected from the car shows and events are used to fund the Shriners’ effort to transport children to hospitals. The car club has also sent three veterans on an honor flight to Washington D.C. to visit the war memorials, and gave away a $500 scholarship to a Rogers State University student.
Along with its charitable efforts, the club is all about getting together with good friends and talking about a common love of classic cars, according to Meacham. Tall tales are common in the group, as well as practical jokes, and of course, a lot of laughter.
“Ted [the club president] always gets a trophy at every show — except at one,” said Meacham.
“Yeah, as judges passed my car, Ed yelled, ‘Hey guys, do not be fooling around with that car,’ so the judges moved on without judging it,” Ted Hancock said, laughing.

The group laughs, and Meacham holds strong to his story that he had no idea they were judges. The nature of the group is good fun, stories, and charity.
“We have a lot of fun; we go to fish frys and museums to show our cars. People contact us and ask for a display at a lot of different places,” said Meacham.
Leveraging technology has driven up membership over the years and has gained the club an international spotlight. The car club’s website has caught the attention of film crews from England working on a story about Route 66 and they plan to film the classic cars on a cruise. The website has had over 10 million views from people all over the world and maintains about 10,000 visitors every day.

The car show will include food and arts and crafts vendors, along with live entertainment, and of course, rows and rows of classic cars. There might even be a few “rat rods” competing, which are old cars from the 30s or 40s that have working engines but have been intentionally maintained as a junker.
Club membership is a $15 annual fee, but next year that price will increase to $20. Having a classic car is not a requirement to join the club, and there is plenty of room in other vehicles during cruises for those who lack a classic car. For more information about the Route 66 Cruisers Car Club or the upcoming show, visit www.Route66CruisersOK.org.

By Kristy Sturgill – The Daily Progress

Aug 312014
 

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Shadows of the past already line Route 66, but the historic highway is about to gain nine more.

This year, a silhouette of Shirley Temple drinking a soda at an old Elkhart cafe and a figure of a Gillespie miner will appear among the collection of memorable stops along the Mother Road. The Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway has introduced iron silhouette statues depicting moments from history at nine Illinois communities along the highway.
Locally, Sherman in Sangamon County, Elkhart in Logan County, as well as Benld, Staunton and Gillespie in Macoupin County are preparing to install the interpretive statues.

Bill Kelly, executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, said the initiative will allow tourists to create connections with the towns along the route through the visuals. The interpretive statues will help visitors imagine the dancers on the floor at the dance hall in Benld and visualize the children at a wayside park in Sherman.
“What they’re looking for is a unique experience,” Kelly said. “It strikes a mythic chord with people. … It’s the most famous road in the world, and people are looking for their own experiences.”

The Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program and the Illinois Office of Tourism funded the roughly $130,000 project. Each silhouette comes with an informational kiosk that gives a glimpse of the town’s history. Kelly said he’d like to see all of the exhibits on display by the end of 2014.

Memorable moments
While the grant money paid for the statues, the individual communities are responsible for installation costs. Many are still trying to determine display locations and ribbon-cutting days.
Elkhart, for its part, is trying to raise $500 to pay for the concrete that will help support its 300-plus-pound Shirley Temple statue.
Peggy Lee, an alderman in Elkhart, said the town’s exhibit focuses on the restaurant stops there during the 1930s and ’40s. The silhouette of Temple and a waitress commemorates the iconic actress’ stop at the House by the Side of the Road Cafe in 1938. She had used Route 66 on her way to Springfield for the “Little Miss Broadway” movie premiere.

“The owner of the cafe roped off the place where she had eaten, and no one ever sat there again,” Lee said.
Benld’s statue features dancers from the Coliseum Ballroom, which burned in 2011. During the Route 66 era, the ballroom was known as the biggest dance floor between Chicago and St. Louis, as well as a hot spot for gambling and bootlegging. The dance floor welcomed large crowds and, at the height of its popularity, hosted musicians such as Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, and Ike and Tina Turner.

In Sherman, the statue of two children sitting at a picnic table highlights something many have forgotten. John Swinford, village administrator, said Sherman is home to one of Route 66’s last remaining wayside parks. While the space today is empty land with a flag pole, the park once welcomed crowds needing a place for lunch as they traveled the famed highway.
“It’s nostalgic, kind of, with two kids sitting at a picnic table as you might have found back in the day,” Swinford said. “Just to kind of point to the fact to remind people how it used to (be) before there was Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s on every corner.”

‘Part of road’s DNA’
The silhouette of a miner in Gillespie identifies how the town began.
Councilman Dave Tucker said towns like Gillespie popped up around mines. His town only had four years on Route 66, a fact hardly noted in town history or old newspapers. Most people in Gillespie walked to work and didn’t use the highway. Yet Kelly noted that the coal that came from these pop-up towns used the Mother Road extensively.
“Coal is part of the road’s DNA,” Kelly said.

The Staunton statue portrays the Illinois Traction System, also known as streetcars.
Bill Bechem, who served on a committee for developing the Staunton statue, said both streetcars and the highway took a hit with the evolution of transportation. Streetcars eventually became obsolete with the use of personal cars, just as the interstate highway system robbed Route 66 of its travelers.
“My thoughts were that the streetcar was kind of a rise and decline that was similar to Route 66, and both suffered when Interstate 55 came,” he said.

While nostalgia for Route 66 has declined locally, international tourists still embrace the old pavement. Swinford said it’s not uncommon to see a visitor taking a picture of their feet standing on the old concrete. It always amazes him that European tourists leave behind structures more than 1,000 years old to take pictures of 80-year-old pavement.
He hopes the statues along the Illinois corridor bring a little more tourism but also a little more local awareness.
“There are a great number of people in this community that just don’t remember or know how much of Route 66 they have,” Swinford said of Sherman’s wayside park. “Some people don’t even recognize that park was part of Route 66. That really is America’s Main Street, and it is such a vital part of our town.”

By Maggie Menderski – The State Journal Register

Aug 242014
 

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Yavapai County has helped its Route 66 communities of Seligman and Ash Fork celebrate their history with new Historic US 66 shield signs painted right onto the highway, with a healthy dose of new Burma-Shave signs on the side.

That should slightly lighten the workload of the mysterious man who travels Route 66 painting the shields onto the road under cover of darkness. Seligman native Clarissa Delgadillo says the legend is widespread across the Mother Road.

“A couple times a year, the shields appear,” Delgadillo said, and then the Arizona Department of Transportation gets rid of them because ADOT has Route 66 jurisdiction in Seligman and Ash Fork.

Her sister Mirna once spotted a man leaving a safety cone in front of her family’s Route 66 Gift Shop right before the shield reappeared, but didn’t get a good description of him.

ADOT officials are concerned that tourists will stand on the road on top of the shields for photos, spokesman Dustin Krugel explained.

But Yavapai County has jurisdiction on the rest of the mostly uninhabited Route 66 segments through this county, so county Public Works employees recently painted the large shields on each end of Seligman as well as Route 66 near the Interstate 40 Crookton Exit and Ash Fork.

route-66-shield
County Public Works employees also crafted four new sets of replica Burma-Shave signs with the blessing of the current owners of the defunct company, Yavapai County Supervisor Craig Brown said. Local citizens picked out their favorite sayings.

A brushless shaving cream company called Burma-Shave came up with the idea in 1925 to place catchy poems along America’s highways and get its name known. Route 66 was born the next year in 1926. Each of the series of typically red and white signs contains one line of a poem.

“Listen birds, these signs cost money, so roost awhile, but don’t get funny,” one of the new sets of signs reads outside Seligman.

The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona has been working with ADOT, counties and municipalities to play up the Mother Road while also trying to make it safer, Mirna Delgadillo said.

“We definitely are trying to preserve and protect Seligman,” she added, praising the county’s help.

“Anything we can do to promote economic development, we’re going to do,” Brown said. By making the signs in-house they cost only about $1,000, he estimated. The county also rehabilitated other Burma Shave signs it originally made and placed on the highway as far back as 2002.

“They help bring nostalgia back for tourists,” librarian Charlotte Lindemuth said. “They’re so interested in the history of Route 66.”

Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona members in Seligman, including the Delgadillo family led by association founder Angel Delgadillo, are concerned about visitors from around the world being able to stroll across the four-lane highway in town, which has no stop signs or lights.

They asked ADOT for two crosswalks and a lower speed limit of 25 instead of the current 35.

ADOT’s preliminary analysis concludes the crossings don’t meet its standard requirements because there isn’t a concentrated area where pedestrians try to cross the highway, Krugel said.

Traffic speeds also seem appropriate as traffic is generally in compliance with the 35 mph limit, Krugel and the regional traffic engineer said.

Clarissa and Mirna Delgadillo say they frequently sees vehicles speeding through town, however.

ADOT hopes to have a final analysis on the crossings and speed limits sometime this year, the regional traffic engineer said.

The Seligman Historical Society also has been trying to restore the 1912 Cottage Hotel that has been serving as a visitors center, Lindemuth said. Community members would like to create a museum there, too.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has awarded Seligman a grant to get asbestos and lead out of historic structure.

“Anything we can do to preserve old historic buildings, we’d better do or we’re going to lose them,” Brown said.

To support the efforts to restore the Cottage Hotel, go online to seligmanhistory.com.

By: Joanna Dodder – The Daily Courier

Aug 042014
 

tulsa-route-66-experience








More than nine months after announcing it was seeking proposals to construct and operate a Route 66 interpretive center and commercial complex, the city is reviewing the one response it received.
“What we have, basically, is more questions,” said City Planning Director Dawn Warrick.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett in October announced that the city would begin seeking requests for proposals for the project, which is to be built on two acres of city land at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive.
Warrick said it is not unusual for the city to take this long to review a Request for Proposal, or RFP — especially on a project as complicated as the Route 66 center.

It’s not like it’s sitting stagnant,” Warrick said of the RFP. “The scope of this project is very large and it involves a lot of moving parts.

“It’s a complicated project and it’s a complicated site.”
The interpretive center and commercial complex is to be built on city land across the street from the East Meets West bronze sculpture at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive.

City officials last year said they were looking for a private developer to come up with a plan that makes sense in terms of density, scale and height.

The development could have restaurants, retail space and even a hotel but must include space for a Route 66 interpretive center, officials said.

The city would retain ownership of the property and lease it to the developer.
The RFP was purposely broad to allow the private sector to help define amenities that would meet the city’s goals for the site.

The city plans to spend $6.5 million for the project, including $1.5 million in Vision 2025 funds and $5 million in third-penny sales tax revenue.
The city in May finalized its agreement with Tulsa County making the Vision 2025 funding available.

Businesswoman Sharon King Davis was one of a group of local business owners and professionals asked by the city to advise in putting the RFP together and reviewing responses.
The proposal the city received came from a consortium of local individuals — each of whom is outstanding, King Davis said. “If we can get this thing to fly it will be so fabulous for this city,” she said.
King Davis — who stressed that the decision now lies in the hands of the city — said the consortium has the capital to make the project happen.

“It is a tight project,” she said. “It is just a matter of checking and double checking and making sure on behalf of Tulsa that they can do it.”

City Councilor Blake Ewing has long advocated that the city do more to promotes its link to the Mother Road.
A Route 66 interpretive center — commonly referred to as the Route 66 experience — would benefit the city culturally and economically, he said.

“While many Tulsans may not believe it, Route 66 brings a substantial flow of international visitors through Tulsa,” Ewing said. “A sales tax revenue-funded city should always be thinking of ways to attract and capitalize on its visitors. Route 66 should be at the top of our list as an attractional community asset. The Route 66 Experience represents a tremendous step in the right direction.”

By KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer

Jun 262014
 

styx-paradise theater











Back in 1981, before the last mile of Route 66 was on its way to be decommissioned, I remember this album cover and remembering how sad I felt as I watched history disappear.

Growing up on the north side of Chicago and being a ‘city boy’, I always had a thing for history, architecture, and Chicago history and Chicago architecture.

Like a lot of folks, one seems to start having a connection with bands from your home town. We had the Buckinghams, Styx, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Cheap Trick, the Ides of March and many other Chicago area bands. I loved Styx and I loved Chicago and would listen to EVERYTHING they made, even albums out before I was born (OK, there was only one but who is counting…)

I remember the Paradise Theater album in the collection my father had, and I remember just staring at the details in the artwork. I then remember listening to the album as it was about the rise and fall of the Paradise Theater which did actually exist in the city of Chicago, so it was a literal musical biography of this once grand venue.

From Wikipedia:
“The Paradise Theatre was a Balaban and Katz movie palace located in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood. Its address was 231 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60624. Located near the intersection of West Madison Street and Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski Road) on Chicago’s West Side, it opened on September 14, 1928, and was billed as the world’s most beautiful theater for its stunning interior and exterior beauty. It is regarded as one of the finest designs by architect John Eberson, as the sheer opulence and intricate craftsmanship that went into the theater made it a showpiece in and of itself. Unfortunately, flaws in the design (blamed on the vast domed ceiling in the over 3,600-seat auditorium) were exposed with the advent of talking pictures. Poor acoustics eventually cost the theater its attendance as neighborhood movie-goers would eventually turn to the nearby Marks Brothers showplace, the Marbro Theater. As a result, business at the Paradise never recovered.

The Paradise Theatre’s demise came in 1956, when Balaban and Katz decided to demolish the building and sell the land to a supermarket chain. The theater that was “built to stand forever” almost lived up to that claim: what was estimated to have been a six-month demolition job ended up taking two years.”

I remember looking at the album over and over and just wondering what it was like to see this place all lit up and packed to the rafters with well dressed folks on a “night on the town” at such a majestic place. I then remember flipping the album cover over and seeing the artists rendition of a broken down, ruined, old looking, empty building with ‘Temporarily Closed’ on the marquee. I was 12, and I knew this place would never open again (remember, I was 12 and this place was closed when my parents were children, but it felt more alive to me at that time.)

I was saddened by the fact places like these seem to go away, and not only some folks do not seem to care – they do not know places like this even existed. With my sights on getting through high school and wanting to get a degree in Architecture, I always felt I could do something about not letting this happen again.

Fast forward to 2009, almost 30 years later, this plan has come into reality. When I started Route 66 World – I had no idea preservation would be my passion on Route 66. I was planning on just enjoying it and being one of the many ‘roadies’ who just want to get on the open road and enjoy everything it has to offer.

I always say this and I will continue to say this: Route 66 has enough to do and see for everyone to have there own little slice of what they would like to contribute to the route. I tell everyone I try to do a lot of this with my own time and money and I mean that – I love the route and I wish I could just pack up the SUV and drive it everyday with paint brush and hammer in hand, stopping at places where they could use a hand and some guidance.

Thinking back, I realize you never know what any given impression could have on a child. The trip they didn’t want to take on the route, or to grandma’s or to anywhere they dread going to. One little thing could set their lives on a different path than they ever could have imagined.

For me it was an album cover………

Jun 242014
 

FSG-sign-new








I am starting to put together a project plan on what needs to be done to the building, when to do it and what it will cost me.

The Front Street Garage sign, to me, was the first priority.

I have contracted Doug and Sharon Quarles of Quarles Art Gallery in Benson AZ to work on this one with me. We all know them from all of the work they have done in Tucumcari with the murals, buildings and signs they have helped paint over the years. These murals and the many other things the Quarles have painted are one of the many projects which helped make Tucumcari the destination it now is. I have worked with Doug on a few projects and could not think of any other artists to work with.

I showed Doug the picture of the station in 1941 and I wanted him to recreate the sign to as close as original as possible BUT at the same time, make it a little more sharp and crisp as if a professional painted it taking their time and putting some care into it – versus someone grabbing some board and just painting a sign.

The sign is 2′ tall be 4′ wide and will hang where the original sign was. I knew the original colors but wanted to make the background of the sign a dark green as I think it just looks classic this way.

I will have the sign shipped from Arizona to Allen Sign Studio in Miami OK for them to create the bracket which will support the sign and will be able to mount it. The sign will be put up (hopefully) later this year / early next year as I really need to focus on the facade of the building.

FSG-signHere is the pic of what the original sign looked like. I think it is important to try to keep this building looking as period correct as possible….

Doug will be doing most of the sign work as well as a few other things, I will do some painting and other things with the building and Allen Sign Studio will help me restore the original neon sign from the late 40′s which I also want to hang on the front of the building.

More to come…

Jun 182014
 

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This is the press release which just went out. I am happy to say I have found a building I absolutely love and have huge, huge plans for it….

Galena KS – The building located at 118 N. Main Street in Galena KS has been sitting on the corner of Front and Main Streets since 1896. It has been a gas station, a tire shop specializing in new and used tires, and after World War II, it served as a tire retreading shop as rubber was becoming scarce like so many other materials which were being used for the war efforts. The building closed out the last few decades as a satellite dish manufacturing and repair shop.

The building has been standing close to 120 years and has seen Galena change over this time. Starting as a mining town, Galena had a population of 30,000 during the boom of the mining craze throughout southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma. The last mine closed in the 1970’s.
Route 66 was designated a travel way through Galena from Joplin around 1926 and the stretch of the route in Kansas is only 13.2 miles, the shortest strip in any of the eight states Route 66 passes through. The gas station served tourists and migrants heading west (and rumor has it gangsters frequented the station) as it was one of the only corridors of automobile travel between Missouri and Oklahoma.

Ed Klein, owner of Route 66 World and its website (www.route66world.com) has been doing preservation, restoration and education work on Route 66 for almost five years and does it all with his own time and money. He has traveled the entire route several times and has traveled many sections of it dozens of times. “I love the route, it gives me the peace of two things I truly love: driving and Americana.” Klein adds. He has worked with plenty of businesses and towns trying to help them get tourism dollars and gives advice on how to restructure their businesses or how to restore properties, buildings or his favorite: signs. He works with many other key ‘roadies’ on Route 66 to advance the help the inquiring business owner may have, and wants to make sure all options are exhausted.

“I have been on Route 66 through Kansas several times and always stop into Galena and Baxter Springs. The history of these two towns is so vast and interesting and folks need to slow down a bit and do more than a ‘photo op’ and then take off to the next stop. They really do not know what some of these old, historic buildings actually hold within its history.”

Klein said he was in the market to purchase a historic gas station for the last few years with the first being in Winslow AZ. “I called the owner of the (Richfield) gas station and I was number three in line to purchase it, so I had to wait to see if the other two potential buyers would pick it up or walk away. They both dropped out and I started working on negotiations with the owner and he decided to keep it. It was heart breaking as the plans were to restore it to the way it looked back in 1939”. Klein then mentioned another station in Holbrook AZ. “The Holbrook station was a former Whiting Brothers gas station and it was just screaming for a restoration. The current owner wanted to sell a bunch of other properties along with it and I just wanted the gas station and nothing more, so we could not work out a deal.”

It was by chance Klein and his good friend Bill Conron were planning a trip from Chicago to Scottsdale via Route 66 and Bill started to look at some properties for sale along the route. “Bill was getting the feel for the potential of Route 66 and as an avid investor in the stock market, he was thinking of expanding into a small property”. This led them to Galena.
After locating another potential property to purchase, Bill contacted the owner and arranged a meeting. The deal fell through but Klein was eyeing the building of the former Front Street Garage, sitting right across the street from ‘Cars on the Route’. “Bill and I sat at Cars on the Route, eating a hamburger and having a beer outside on the patio and noticed something strange happening. Tourist would pull up and literally jump out of their cars, take a picture of the (Tow Tater) tow truck at Cars on the Route, turn around 180 degrees and snap a few pictures of the old Front Street Garage building, jump back into their cars and drive off. Bill turned to me and said ‘if they were taking these many photos of an old boarded up building, how do you think they would react to it all restored?’”

After seeing all this activity with the tourist, Klein contacted Mike Hughes, the owner of the building and set up a meeting. After almost a year later of the initial contact, Klein had to wait for a few code compliance issues to be resolved and after negotiations were settled, a deal was finally drawn up. “The longest hold up was the winter in Galena. The contractors had to wait for the weather to warm up to be able to finish the exterior work, this took several months. Mike has been just great with everything and wanted to make sure everything worked out well between him and me. The transaction could have not gone any better.” The building is in compliance and plans are underway for the restoration of the building.

front-street-garage-galena-02“I look at this as the mother of all preservation / restoration jobs! Literally putting my money where my mouth is” Klein jokes. “It is just a great building and deserves to be the jewel it once was when it was open.” Plans are to restore the building to the way it looked back in 1941 using a photo from the Galena Mining and Historical Museum for reference. The front façade will be closely reproduced to exactly the way the photograph shows of the building and he has other plans for the north and south facing walls. “The intersection of Front and Main Streets are really the gateway into Galena and several folks I have talked to in town know this and want it to be a great, lasting impression as travelers are coming into town.” Klein also has been in contact with Galena mayor Dale Oglesby, Galena Council Member Ashley Qualls and Kansas Historic Route 66 Association president Renee Charles. “There are plans for Galena. There are many things these folks have implemented and so many more they are working on and all I want to do is to be part of those plans, and to help them in any way possible, starting with restoring this building.” Klein mentions the interior of the building will take some time as the exterior is the main priority. “I think travelers will be blown away by the way this place will look like in the next few years. As long as it helps Galena and gives the travelers something additional to look at and talk about, I have done my job.”

Klein is working on building a website for the garage and a Facebook page will follow shortly. With the purchase of the garage, he is also writing a book on Route 66 in Kansas, presenting at the International Route 66 Conference in Kingman Arizona in August, and still finds time to help many Route 66 businesses with questions.

Jun 172014
 

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Back in 2012 – I headed out to Needles CA to start the restoration of the 66 Motel sign. It wasn’t until August of that year I first saw this little gem called Fender’s River Road Resort, and swore I would be back.

I was in contact with Fender’s manager Rosie a few weeks ago and we started talking about how to get the resort on the Route 66 road map, seeing the building was built around 1958 and has been open for business ever sense.  Fender’s River Road Resort has a mix of ways a traveler can stop off the route and enjoy the river. If you are driving in your car or riding your bike, they have several motel rooms. If you are in your RV and looking for a place to stay for a night or 30, they have an RV park. If you are a little more adventurous, they have a camping area where you can pitch a tent.

I decided to go out there for the weekend as there were several things which I wanted to check out. Getting in late Friday night, we went over to the Riverfront Cafe to have a late dinner. The place was busy and overlooked the Colorado River. My BBQ sandwich was good, the beer was cold. What else can you ask for?!?!

Saturday started with us taking a run over to check out the 66 Motel sign, the old Carty’s Camp Shell Station and taking a walk back by the original Carty’s Camp. We headed back to the resort and started walking around the resort while I was getting caught up on the history of the property. Knowing Route 66 AND the National Old Trails Highway is at the front door, and the Colorado River is at the back door, it’s hard to match a property like this one anywhere on the route. I spent a little time looking at the neon sign to determine what work was needed to bring it back to its original condition.

We ate at the historic Wagon Wheel Restaurant for a few meals and went across the street to Juicy’s Cafe for dinner Saturday night. Fender’s is located in the section away from the town the locals call ‘the suburbs of Needles as it is only a few minutes from the Wagon Wheel. You get the town a few minutes away but are left alone in your own little world.

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The main draw to Fender’s is the river. We sat at the rivers edge with our feet in the water, drinking a few refreshments watching the boats go up and down the river. It was nice to just relax and not care about anything.

We spent Sunday on wave runners running up and down the Colorado River checking out Pirate’s Cove and then heading over to Topok. We then headed north up to Laughlin Nevada. It was great to get back on the water and get some sun and have some fun! The sunburn was well worth it!

My advice is simple: If you are looking to get on the water, plan on spending two days here. Fender’s works with a rental company across the river who can get you wave runners, boats and pontoons. It is nice to know after all of the driving we do to see Route 66, and all the time in the car you can spend a little time on the river before you head out into the desert. They are in the midst of bringing the property to what it once did when it opened in the late 1950′s. Drop them a line and plan your visit! Rosie is a wonderful host and wants to make sure your stay is pleasant.

Check them out via their website by clicking HERE or visit their Facebook page by clicking HERE.

May 302014
 
bel-aire-motel










Whenever Sandra Brunner returns from Montana to her hometown of Springfield for a visit, if she must pass the Bel-Aire Motel, she looks the other way.

Whenever Sandra Brunner returns from Montana to her hometown of Springfield for a visit, if she must pass the Bel-Aire Motel, she looks the other way.
The Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., is different things to different people. Some think of it as home, at least temporarily. People who don’t know it’s a mess think of it as a Route 66 attraction with cool neon and the Sputnik flying overhead. But most of us think of it as a rundown eyesore and breeding ground for crime.

For Sandra, the Bel-Aire means family. Her father, Charles Ciesler, built it. Sandra and her family had great times there when she was a little girl. She and her cousin, Chuck Ciesler of Springfield, have watched with dismay the deterioration of the motel that has taken place since 1986, when the family sold it to Gopal Motwani, absentee co-owner who lives in Florida.
“I saw (the Bel-Aire) start to go downhill two weeks after it was sold,” Chuck Ciesler says. “That’s when they let a bunch of the maids go.”

The exact date when the Cieslers opened the Bel-Aire Manor Motel is at least temporarily lost to history. We have a file of stories on it that date back to the 1960s, but if we ever printed a story when the Bel-Aire opened, it’s not there. The Sangamon Valley Collection, repository of local history, doesn’t have one either. And the closest the Cieslers can pin it down is 1949 or 1950.
The first appearance of the Bel-Aire Manor Motel in any Springfield City Directory is 1951, so it had to open in late 1949 or sometime in 1950.
It began as a collection of small cabins and grew from there. Charles Ciesler and his brother, Emil, had greater plans for the motel. In 1966, Emil attended a meeting of the Springfield City Council with blueprints for an $870,000 construction project that would make the Bel-Aire a six-story motel with 64 rooms, a restaurant, bar and convention facilities.
Though it was not within the city limits of Springfield at that time, the Cieslers had to go before the council because zoning laws that covered the perimeter of the city imposed a height limit on buildings.
At the council meeting, the Cieslers were given the OK for an 85-foot height limit on the Bel-Aire. I don’t know why they never followed through with those plans, but they didn’t. Charles and Emil have died, taking the explanation with them.
The Bel-Aire won a national reputation because of its Route 66 connection, a reputation that lingers today since most travelers down the highway don’t know what it has become. Which leads us back to Sandra Brunner, Charles Ciesler’s daughter.
“I remember my mom, 60-some years ago, would clean the cabins,” she says. “She would take me along in a little wagon, all bundled up. There was a gas station out front and a little bar not far from the motel.”

“After my dad sold it, it went right down. Every time I come home from Montana and have to drive there, I cringe. It used to be such a beautiful place. There was not a piece of litter in that parking lot back then.”
Now, the Bel-Aire is the butt of jokes. People post satirical reviews of it on Web-based travel sites.
The city of Springfield has been dealing with the deterioration of the Bel-Aire under Motwani’s ownership for more than 20 years. Mayor Tim Davlin wanted the city to buy it and renovate it into a Route 66 museum. There was no money for that.
We thought the ordeal was finally over in 1995. That’s when the city ordered it closed because of numerous fire code and other safety violations. The Circuit Court, on Sept. 20, 1995, granted the city’s request to close the Bel-Aire — until a fire alarm system was installed, damage from a previous fire was repaired and other safety improvements made. Not many people expected the owners to ever be allowed to reopen it. But somehow they did, and it continued to worsen.

The police reported being called to the motel 82 times in 2003. In 2004, Bel-Aire neighbors attended a meeting with the neighborhood cop at Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney’s office to air their complaints. Everyone had their say, and nothing came of it. Three years later, 12 people were busted for drugs at the Bel-Aire.
Motwani was fined $114,600 in 2011 for 386 violations. He appealed, and that’s still tied up in court three years later.
About a month ago, Motwani was hit with another fine (file all these fines under “I” for “ineffective”) when the city found 700 building code violations. What does a person have to do to be shut down, their property condemned or be hauled into court? Motwani’s Bel-Aire is as hard to kill as its cockroaches. So you can expect to read the same story again in the future.
There must be some financial advantage to owning a place like this. I’m just not savvy enough to know what it could be.
But really, how toothless are Springfield’s ordinances to allow this situation to fester for so long? It’s nuts. I feel bad for the Ciesler family, and I feel embarrassed for Springfield.

By Dave Bakke -the State Journal-Register

May 192014
 
eagle-scouts











The official Eagle Scout pledge reads, “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God. On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to my country. I reaffirm my allegiance to the three promises of the Scout Oath. I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself the obligations and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout.”

Less than four percent of all Boy Scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle, which is the highest honor of the Boy Scouts of America.
Three newly refinished plaques with the names of all of the Litchfield Eagle Scouts, dating back to 1935, were dedicated to the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center in a special ceremony on Saturday morning, May 17 at the museum.
To open the ceremony, members of Boy Scout Troop 89 led the “Pledge of Allegiance” outside the museum.

Once returning inside, Sharon Wood, a member of the museum committee, served as the master of ceremonies.
“We are here today because you, the Eagle Scout, are very important, and we are blessed to recognize each of you with your names on these plaques,” Wood said.
The original plaques were created in 1990 by John and Linda Thull, who wanted the citizens of Litchfield to see the achievement of the young men who attained this honor. They hung in Litchfield City Hall for many years.

“Many times, I had Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts come in the building to sell popcorn,” said Wood, who worked in the clerk’s office.
“I would take them by the hand and show them the plaques and suggest they work really hard and become an Eagle Scout with their name added to the plaque.”
When Wood became involved with the new museum, she thought it would be nice to move the plaques since so many visitors from all over the world stop in to see the museum. Due to their age, the plaques needed some refinishing and updating, which was done by Wood’s husband, Mike.

The Boy Scouts of America office in Springfield helped the Woods to update the records, and the Litchfield Knights of Columbus provided a monetary contribution to the project. Also helping were Cub Scoutmaster Lisa Francis and Connie Beck, who did the engraving.
“The Thulls’ idea has grown, and what better way to honor our hometown Eagle Scouts through the years than by adding their names to a plaque that will be seen by many visitors to our museum,” Wood said. “We are proud of the hard work these young men and their families endure to accomplish each rank on their way to Eagle Scout.”
After her remarks, Wood opened the floor to others present, and Litchfield resident Will Tackaberry, who earned his Eagle Scout in 1947, spoke. He talked about how the skills he learned in scouting helped him have a successful military career with both the Navy and the Air Force.
“What you learn in scouts will help you no matter what kind of a job you have,” Tackaberry said.

Following the ceremony, the plaques are now on display inside the museum.
Litchfield Eagle Scouts
Ray Prange, 12-7-1935
Don Lee Brubaker, 12-1-1936
Irving Nathason, 12-1-1936
Russell Eppinger, 12-7-1937
Fred Griffith, 12-7-1937
Charles Napier, 12-7-1937
Philip Rainey, 12-7-1937
John Ritchie, 12-7-1937
Bernard Schoen, 12-7-1937
James Griffith, 8-11-1938
Richard Savage, 11-29-1938
Melvin Kellenberger, 11-21-1939
Billy Griffith, 6-1-1941
John Morris, 3-12-1942
Herbert Perkins, Jr., 3-12-1942
Fred J. Carll, 8-23-1946
Fred Hammond, 4-25-1947
Warren L. Roach, 12-3-1947
Wilbur Tackaberry 7-9-1947
Carl Bierbaum 6-17-1949
Ross Schweppe, 12-10-1949
Paul B. Ulenhop, 7-25-1951
Chris McClurg, 9-24-1952
Patrick McClurg, 5-31-1953
Fred Barringer, 1-6-1953
Mike Ulenhop, 4-15-1956
Bruce C. Wilson, 6-10-1957
Robert Ulenhop, 5-24-1960
Thurman Schweitzer, Jr., 7-30-1963
James E. Gibson, 6-13-1973
John J. Benitez, 6-24-1975
Allen E. House, 6-24-1979
Steven C. House, 2-13-1980
Stephen J. Fiscor, 1-31-1981
David M. House, 2-21-1982
Christopher Thull, 3-21-1985
Brent Harty, 9-22-1988
Lewis F. Harty, 9-22-1988
Steve Jurgena, 12-17-1988
Joshua S. Hardy, 10-3-1990
Randolph T. Harty, 10-3-1990
Clark L. Johnsen, 1-21-1991
James A. Thull, 1-18-1991
Stewart E. Johnson, 12-22-1992
Corey M. Wood, 8-17-1994
Joshua M. Nickles, 8-22-1995
Brian Paul Reid, 5-16-1995
David Hiscox, 5-19-1996
Scott White, 4-21-1996
Nathaniel J. Harty, 10-18-1997
Andrew P. Weick, 11-4-1998
Jason W. Horrocks, 2-3-1999
Chad J. Nickles, 12-16-1999
Brian E. Smith, 12-16-1999
Michael B. Weber, 12-16-1999
Sean R. Donham, 6-20-2002
Nicholas L. Thull, 2-20-2003
Travis J. Pence, 12-2-2004
Ryan D. Bishop, 8-19-2005
Benjamin M. Weber, 8-19-2005
Joseph R. Weber, 1-19-2006
Michael D. Reimer, 2-22-2006
Michael J. Arnold, 3-12-2006
Michael R. Smith, 3-12-2006
Adam J. Fischer, 2-17-2011
Austin Marburger, 11-24-2013
Jacob Cadwell, 11-24-2013
Timothy Francis, 11-24-2013

by Mary (Galer) Herschelman – The Journal News