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

Oct 112016
 

grand-canyon-cafe-owners








The front door of the Grand Canyon Café in downtown Flagstaff was swinging open and shut multiple times on Wednesday, Sept. 13, and two waitresses inside moved rapidly between booths alive with animated and hungry customers seated for late breakfast or early lunches. The smell of frying bacon and eggs and toasting bread wafted out from the kitchen in the rear of the establishment.

Mid-September was especially busy at the iconic Route 66 dining spot, as devoted patrons visited to pay their respects to the owners and chefs, Fred and Tina Wong, as they headed for retirement after selling their business.

The restaurant officially closed Saturday, Sept. 17. It is scheduled to reopen in December after being gently revamped by the new ownership team: two couples, Paul and Laura Moir, and Michael and Alissa Marquess, who already own and manage several high-profile restaurants and beverage and food supply businesses in Flagstaff, as well as minority partner Paul Thomas, who is a faculty member at NAU’s W.A. Franke College of Business. The location has been continuously open as a restaurant since 1942, a total of 74 years. In the Wong family since 1945, Fred Wong’s father, Albert, in partnership with his two brothers, Alfred and Edward, and also a nephew, Bill Yee, purchased the restaurant.

Through the years, the café became a beloved destination in Flagstaff, with constant loyal customers and visitors, all seeking that historic Route 66 flavor.

“A visit to the Grand Canyon Café was just part of the day for us,” said Bill Cordasco, Babbitt Ranches president and general manager. “It was an important thread in the fabric of our lives.”

On this Wednesday, Maite Blin and Regis Loock, both from Beauvais, France, came to for breakfast.

“It’s not expensive,” Loock commented. “You have a beautiful breakfast, very complex. And the staff is sympathetic.”

Wong, who was born in a small village in China and came to the U.S. at age three, took over management of the café in 1980 when his father retired.

Among local eaters on this Tuesday was James Burns, 44, a regular at the café. He works next door at the Galaxy Sales leather and saddle shop, which his family has owned since 1949.

“I’m a local pest,” he explained. “I come and harass Fred and Tina every morning when I come and get my coffee. They’re some of the kindest people. They’re the oldest, and we’re the second oldest [business]; there’s a lot of history between these two places. Fred’s been here since he was a little runt peeling potatoes in the back.”

Burns also orders out lunch, to eat at the Galaxy where he took over in 2015 after his father, Isidore (Izzy) Siebenberg, died. Lunch often is corned beef, his favorite, or the chicken fried steak, which he said is “the best in town.”

With its art deco exterior and neon signage, as well as the eclectic novelty items adorning the interior, the restaurant has been featured in many cookbooks, travel guides and newspapers and magazines, including the Arizona Daily Sun and Arizona Highways Magazine.

Retiring from the restaurant will give the Wongs more time to work their farm in Camp Verde, where they have another home. They also plan to frequently visit family in Phoenix. The couple, who married in 1982, have three grown children, Mark, David and Jessica, as well as their first grandchild, born earlier this year. “I’ll be able to spend more time at the farmers markets,” said Wong. “I had to skip this year. My son couldn’t help me; we had our first grandson, four months old. We’ll be going between Phoenix and farmers markets. We’ll go back and forth.”

Tina Wong said she plans to keep busy.

“It’s not retirement,” she said. “I’ll find something to do. I can’t sit around.”

Wong, who was a business major at NAU, first learned his cooking skills from his father, who had worked cooking Chinese food in Colorado. Wong said he had also trained as a chef at Hyatt hotel in San Francisco. The Wongs often cook side by side in the kitchen, working from about 13 hours a day, six days a week. Tina, who her husband said learned to cook “on the spot,” is fluent in the Chinese language and is greatly valued for her tasty Chinese cooking.

“She’s known for her eggrolls, fried rice and Mongolian beef,” he noted. “I’m famous for my chicken fried steak. It’s time for me to retire; I’m 68 this month. We’ll stick around to help the new owners if they need us. Flagstaff is nice and cool in the summertime. We want to thank all the loyal customers through the years.”

One of eight staff members, waitress Paige Sandoval, 23, has been working at the café for 5 ½ years.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “I’ve known Tina and Fred my whole life, so working here is just like being at home. My great-grandparents, when I was small and we lived in Tuba City, used to bring us in for lunch just about every Friday. Tina and Fred, they’re wonderful employers, but to me, they’re more like a second pair of parents.”

Sandoval is not sure if she will be staying on with the new employers, but another waitress, Beatris Castruita, 28, will be relocating to be with family in Colorado.
“I’ve been seven years at the café,” she said. “I love it. I’ve met so many people here. Fred and Tina have been great. They’re really good people, and it’s time for them to retire and enjoy time with their grandson. I wish them the best.”

Local businessman Mark McCullough was sitting at the “Liar’s Table,” reserved for hunting and fishing friends of Fred in the back of the restaurant.

“I come down a couple times a week,” he said. “I eat healthy; the Chinese is healthier. Tina changes the special every day. They have worked very hard here, but it took a grandbaby for them to retire. I think that’s great.”

Local Flagstaff Unified School District teachers also made the Grand Canyon Café a favorite eating spot for decades.

At a booth against the wall, Linda Harris sat with her husband, Clair, and Dave Brown, both retired Flagstaff High School teachers, along with Judy Davis, whose husband, Terry, had also been a FHS teacher.

“We used to come at least once or twice a week for breakfast for 35 years,” Harris said. “We just moved out of town. We live not far from Camp Verde where Fred lives, so we know where the food will be.”

Teachers were such frequent diners that seats were assigned to them.

“They would come early,” Davis recalled. “Albert opened early on Friday so they could get to work on time. They all sat in the same seats for years and years. The waitress would say, ‘These people are family.’”

The Wongs always made sure everyone left with a full stomach, including a homeless Native American man who sat in front and was fed regularly.

“We have the most prestigious people in Flagstaff, down to that homeless fellow,” Dave Brown said. “Fred and Tina treat everyone the same.”

Jim Muns, a retired history teacher at Coconino High School, with 31 years in FUSD, has been coming to the café since 1968, when he first came to town to attend college.

“His dad, Albert, had the place; I came in to eat,” Muns said. “I’ve known Fred and Tina about 23 years. I come just about every day. I would come down in the evening and work for them, take cash when they were very busy. After I retired, I upped my job; I’m down here five days a week. Officially, I am the cashier. They’re very, very nice people, who work very hard. I think Flagstaff is going to have a very serious case of chicken fried steak withdrawal.”

Many folks were ordering Fred’s chicken fried steak during the last week the chef would be in the kitchen.

I’ve had a lot of local customers,” Wong recalled. “They come and go, generation after generation. That’s one thing I’m going to miss, all my friends here – all my loyal customers.”

By Betsey Bruner, Flagstaff Business News

Oct 112016
 

desert-sands-abq








An Albuquerque two-story brick motel with nearly 70 rooms that was once regarded as the latest in modern motel offerings is soon to be no more.

The Desert Sands Motel at 5000 Central Avenue NE, designed by well-known Farmington architect Irving Corywell, was put up in the mid-1950s and shortly became a favorite for both Route 66 travelers as well as local residents.

Owned by businessman Clyde Tyler, who also built the Desert Inn at 918 Central, the Desert Sands featured a front swimming pool, landscaped entrance, and two private dining rooms.

It was those spacious dining rooms that attracted everyone from the Kiwanis Club to the Philatelic Society, and the Bernalillo County Federation of Republican Women to hold their regular meetings there.

But in recent years the motel, after a series of ownership changes, fell on hard times.

This summer three separate fires destroyed much of the U-shaped building, finally prompting Albuquerque’s Safe City Strike Force to take control of the property.

“Prior to the third fire, we had not condemned the property and had not taken administrative control of it,” says Leslie Torres, in the City of Albuquerque’s code enforcement division.

“At that point the property owner did have potentially up to a year to decide what to do with it, as long as it remained secure,” says Torres.

But the third fire last month changed all that.

“At that point it was demonstrated to us that the property had not remained secure,” says Torres. The Safe City Strike force then gave the owner of the property an October 1 deadline to demolish the structure or put in place plans to do so.

Although that deadline was not met, the owner has made what is called a “good faith effort” to finally get rid of the old motel by the end of this year.

The decline of the Desert Sands, which according to one 2014 complaint filed with the local Better Business Bureau had both water leaks in one room and the smell of mold, is also a story of dozens of motels along Route 66 that have fallen into disrepair.

“There are a lot of them,” says Charlie Gray, the executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association.

“And some of those old Route 66 properties have great value, although many don’t,” Gray adds.

Built before the advent of the federal highway system in the late 1950s and 1960s, the Route 66 motels in New Mexico at one time numbered more than three hundred, although less than a third are left today.

But some of the properties are have survived for a new day.

The late 1930s El Vado Motel at 2500 Central SW is undergoing a $12 million restoration which will see the creation of a boutique property with an outdoor theatre, community food court, swimming pool, and retail space.

The De Anza Motor Court at 4301 Central Avenue, opened in 1939, is similarly seeing an $8 million restoration that will turn the property into an extended stay motel with a restaurant and pool.

“Everything we’re doing on this, the signage, the lighting along the way, the landscaping, we’re trying to stay true to that historic Route 66 form,” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry declared this summer as the project to restore the De Anza was announced.

Both restoration projects came about through a unique combination of public funding and incentives.

But many others have gone by the wayside, although restoration specialist Doug Reames says even heavily damaged properties like the Desert Sands can be saved.

“You need to preserve the architecture the way it was, and take on the new marketing techniques that we have today to really promote these properties,” says Reames, adding “but that also requires a financial commitment.”

“There is definitely a new interest in these motels among the Millennials, and that’s a good thing,” says Gray.

“The question now is whether there is enough interest to make saving them feasible,” he adds. “And I don’t think we know the answer to that yet.”

By Garry Boulard – Construction Reporter

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

Mar 162016
 







The Boots Court may not be shining green in time for St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, but it is well on the way to sporting its restored neon green shine starting next month.

The historic Boots Court went green for a few hours on Sunday to test the restored neon lighting along the edges and around the windows of the building. An official re-lighting of the neon is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at the Boots Court, located at the intersection of Garrison and Central avenues. Music, speakers and food will be available at the event which starts at 6 p.m.

Debye Harvey, one of the sisters who bought the historic motel in 2011, turned on the newly installed neon lighting to test it and for photos late Sunday evening.
Harvey and her sister, Pricilla Bledsaw, are planning a grand re-lighting of the neon for 8:15 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Boots Court near the intersection of Garrison and Central in Carthage, and the public is invited.
Harvey said the neon is being restored to its 1940s glory with the help of a Route 66 Corridor Preservation grant from the National Park Service.
“In the 1940s, green architectural neon was installed along the parapet and around the windows of the front building,” Harvey said. “Two shafts of the neon were also installed over the doors to Rooms #9 and #14 in the back building. By the time we purchased the Boots in 2011, the green neon did not work in many places, and much of it had already been removed. We removed the remaining pieces and placed them in storage.”
Crews have spent several days earlier this month installing the restored neon tubes and electric lines around the building and around the windows.
Rain earlier Sunday allowed the wet pavement to reflect the green glow.
Harvey said the April 9 event starts at 6 p.m., with food, music, speakers and informational tables about the Missouri Route 66 Association and other related groups. The switch will be thrown on the new neon lights at dark, which will happen around 8:15 p.m.
“Please make time that evening to come by and see the new, green architectural neon – one of the biggest keys to returning the Boots Court to its historic appearance of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s,” she said.

By: John Hacker – Carthage Press

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