May 182015


Sputnik will twinkle again. Crews from Ace Sign. Co. of Springfield removed the iconic satellite over the weekend from its decades’-long perch atop the soon-to-be-demolished Bel-Aire Motel building.

The fiberglass ball of spikes, frayed wires and burned-out, multi-colored bulbs was in pieces Monday on a warehouse floor at the Ace Sign headquarters, 2540 S. First St.

Plans are to restore Sputnik for inclusion in a company museum of vintage Springfield signs.
We spoke with the owners, and they were very gracious,” said Dennis Bringuet, president of Ace Sign Co. “We told them we had a little museum here, and we were just getting started. They thought it would be a nice home for it and donated it.”
The last of the residents moved out of the Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., early this year. The property is scheduled for demolition as part of settlement with the city of chronic code violations.

Sputnik won’t be ready for Tuesday’s dedication of an Ace Sign Co. museum through Local First Springfield, a shop-local business organization. The museum resulting from 75 years in the sign business is a neon who’s who of the city’s retail-commercial history from The Hub clothing store downtown to Reisch Brewery.
The best guess, according to the Bringuet family, was that Sputnik went up at the Bel-Aire in the early 1960s. Sputnik signs’ were common across the country as a way of grabbing traveler attention in the years after the former Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957.

After years of neglect and exposure to the elements, restoring Sputnik to its twinkling, multi-color glory likely will take a little creative tinkering, according to Bringuet.
“The electronics are antiquated,” he said. “The flasher made all the bulbs twinkle. They’d all come off and on at different times. We may have to do some searching to try to find that device.”
“Flashers aren’t used these days. A lot of municipalities have outlawed flashing signs.”

Sputnik completes an orbit in the sign business for Bringuet’s parents, Joe and Louise. The sign museum is named in their honor.
Joe Bringuet recalled installation of the original wooden and metal signs at the Bel-Aire, followed a few years later by Sputnik. He said the then-Bel-Aire owners purchased the Sputnik from a manufacturer in California.
“They made them as a specialty. They had salesmen on the road that would really target motels,” he said. “That (Sixth Street) was city Route 66.”
The Springfield Sputnik, said Bringuet, was a low-end model for its time. More expensive models, he said, would rotate. Bringuet also recalled seeing the real Sputnik in the skies over central Illinois in 1957. Historians credit the launch of Sputnik 1 with kicking off the space race and the eventual U.S. landing on the moon.
“In the evening, right at sundown,” said Bringuet, “it would shine on the bottom side of Sputnik, as it took its orbital flight around the world. You could sit in the yard and see it, because it wasn’t real high.”

Ace also installed a large, metal sign on the roof and a wooden “town crier” sign on the lawn of the Bel-Aire.
“It had a colonial man with a colonial hat,” said Joe Bringuet. “He had three bells on a flasher, and the bells would go up and down with an arm that would go with it. It was pretty neat for its time.”
Joe, 85, and Louise, 86, continue to work five days a week at the company now headed by their son. Louise Bringuet’s parents, Franklin and Alvina Horn, started Ace Sign Co. in 1940 with one truck and a handful of paintbrushes, according to a company history. Early company signs are part of the museum.

Joe Bringuet does much of the vintage-sign restoration work, while Louise works in the front office. Both said they had no plans to retire.
“There’s nothing to do at home but work,” Louise said with a smile.
In Joe’s case, 2015 marks 65 years at the company.
“She’s the boss’s daughter, and it was job security,” he said. “I married her.”
His next restoration, a vintage Anheuser-Busch neon sign, is in the works, said Joe, who speaks with detailed enthusiasm about his projects.
Why sit at home on the porch waiting to die,” he said, “when we can die here.”

By Tim Landis – The State Journal-Register

Jun 182014


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 ( 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.

May 032014

Route 66 Preservationist Ed Klein announced today he is to author a book about Route 66 through the state of Kansas. The approval for the book came from Arcadia Publishing who has over 9,000 books in their catalog, most written by locals and first time authors. The book will be titled ‘Route 66 in Kansas’ which will be part of their ‘Images of America’ series and is due for release mid 2015. It will cover the early mining days of southeast Kansas through present day Route 66.

Ed Klein is the owner of the website Route 66 World ( which is dedicated to the preservation, restoration and education of Route 66. He was researching information on several projects with locations ranging from Joplin, a building in Kansas and another project in Oklahoma.

“I scoured the internet and finding the information for Joplin and Oklahoma was much easier than finding certain bits and pieces about a location in Kansas I was working on. I then checked to see if there were actually any books written about Route 66 in Kansas and to my surprise, there were none.”

Klein contacted Arcadia Publishing to check to see if there were any books in the works for Route 66 in the state of Kansas, and they responded with a ‘no, but what do you think about writing a book about the route in Kansas?’

Kansas has the shortest stretch of Route 66 of all the eight states it runs through. Less than thirteen miles connects Kansas from Joplin Missouri to Quapaw Oklahoma, two towns which have been affected by tornadoes and in both occasions, Klein has helped by donating much needed funds to local relief efforts.

Route 66 is not only about the old motels, the diners and the gift shops, it is also about saving history and places so many travelers around the world come to see and experience. It is very easy to have a business close down or suffer a catastrophic loss like this, keeping them open is the hard part!” Klein adds.

Apr 092014

Construction is progressing on a project to rehabilitate the aging, historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge in rural Pulaski County.

“This is a project that began 10 or 11 years ago, and we are finally seeing the construction phase, so its very exciting,” Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk said. “It’s moving right along, and, so far, it’s been very smooth.”

The Pulaski County Commission took note of the bridge’s deteriorating condition—including severe rusting, cracked substructure and considerable soil loss near the south abutment—several years ago and began working to secure funding for a $1.3 million restoration project.

The funding for the project was found last year when the county commission was able to combine Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) and MoDOT’s Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds with a mixture of grant funds awarded.

MoDOT BRO and STP funds are covering 80 percent of the project, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program along with a small grant from the National Parks Service and a local match from Pulaski County make up the remaining project funding.

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) helped prepare the CDBG, STP and National Park Service grant applications and is serving as the administrator for the $250,000 CDBG grant awarded.
Not only will the rehabilitation of the project address safety issues, but it also maintains the historic significance of the structure.

“We have so many people from all over the country who come down to the bridge while traveling Route 66 because it is historic,” Newkirk said. “Many pictures have been taken of that bridge, and many people in our local communities, too, have pictures taken on that bridge from many, many years ago.”

The pages of the nearby Elbow Inn guestbook indicate that the picturesque place not only draws travelers from other states but from several other countries as well. Entries have included guests from France, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Australia to name a few.

“We are very fortunate here in Pulaski County to have 33 original miles of Route 66, and we are internationally known for that,” Pulaski County Tourism Bureau Director Beth Wiles said, noting that the stretch is also known as one of the most beautiful in the country.

“They look at Route 66 as that key component of America,” Wiles said of the international travelers.
The influx of tourists seeking a part of American history is greatest from April through October, and brings tourism dollars not just to businesses near the bridge like the Elbow Inn, but also into the cities of Waynesville and St. Robert.

Built in 1923, the bridge was part of the original Route 66. The portion of the nostalgic highway that passes through Devil’s Elbow, however, proved to be dangerous and soon came to be called “Bloody 66.”

As a result, the Hooker Cut realignment took place in 1940, bypassing the bridge. At that time, it was the deepest rock cut in the country.
According to the HAER Bridge Inventory, a list of historic bridges in Missouri, the Devil’s Elbow Bridge may be eligible for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is believed to be one of the earliest examples of Missouri State Highway Department long-span truss design still in existence.

Additionally, Newkirk noted it is also one of only two remaining bridges in the state containing a curve. The second is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, which was recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. Wiles added that it is the only curved bridge on the original Route 66 still open to traffic.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the rehabilitation project was held in October, and, by the end of March, the 400-foot deck of the bridge began to retake its original shape.

The framing of the new deck is in place and half of the decking concrete has been poured with the remaining half expected to be poured by mid to late April. Once the remaining portion of the deck has been poured, the bridge will be painted and additional structural work will be completed.

Engineering services for the project have been provided by Great River Engineering out of Springfield, Mo. The engineer currently supervising the project, Steve Brown, expects it to be re-opened to traffic by August at the latest. Phillips Hardy, Inc., out of Columbia, is the general contractor for the project. The contractor was selected through a competitive bid process.

For individuals interested in touring the 33-mile stretch of Route 66 in Pulaski County, a turn-by-turn brochure is available for download at Alternately, the brochure is available in audio format for listening as you drive the route.

By Rolla Daily News

Mar 202014

Runners, joggers, walkers, and strollers will all hit the pavement for the Sixth Annual “Race to the Rocker” at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 22 in Cuba. The four-mile, straight-shot run starts at the Mizell Funeral Home at 904 W. Washington and heads out to the unique 42-foot-tall steel rocking chair that sits next to historic Route 66 at the Fanning 66 Outpost.

Anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate or attend this event, sponsored by JOG, Inc. (Joggers of God, In Cuba). The race from historic uptown Cuba to the site of the World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Fanning is one that has steadily grown in popularity for a variety of reasons, with both new and old participants taking part each year. Proceeds from the event go to support local charities each year.

But it’s not only the running and the gifts to charities that make this a special event in Crawford County. As the race has continued to grow, organizers have heard stories about how deeply it has affected some of the individual participants. So, this year, they sent out a call for personal accounts of what the “Race to the Rocker” has meant to them.
These inspirational stories of personal triumph, dogged determination, and life-changing decisions have been shared as the race approaches. These stories are written by the participants, so readers can hear, in their own words, the impact of this event on their lives. Organizers hope that this year’s event will inspire new stories for the future.
Registration information and additional details about the event are available on the organization’s website at

Don and Lesa Mizell: Proud to Be the Starting Line
Mizell Funeral Home has been the meeting, registration, and beginning place of the Race to the Rocker for the last five years, and it will be again this year.
Having the opportunity to watch the amount of people growe each year has been amazing. “Not even sleet keeps them away.”
The first year, getting everyone a chance to the restroom was hectic, but with the Cuba United Methodist Church’s help and portable potties delivered, that issue was solved.

Parking was the second hurdle that had to be addressed, for there isn’t a big enough parking lot to park everyone. But with the buses picking most of the runners up at the Cuba High School, that issue was solved.
The committee that works year round on the Race to the Rocker does a great job making sure everyone is taken care of and any issues this year are resolved by the next year.
To be the place that everyone starts arriving at on a Saturday morning in March, before the sun rises, is just a great opportunity to give back to the community. We feel proud to be the starting point for the Race to the Rocker.

Dan Sanazaro: The Man with the Finish Line
In the fall of 2008, Brad Austin of JOG, Inc. approached me about a race that would finish at the rocker. I said, “Sounds great. Let’s do it.” That was the birth of the “Race to the Rocker” as far as Fanning 66 Outpost was concerned.
I thought to myself that it was really nice of him to end this race at our store. Then he told me what our portion of the donation would be. That’s when I figured out it was a community event that would help make lots of things happen for different programs.

We are glad to be a part of this great event as a sponsor and finish line. The rocker is owned by Fanning 66 Outpost, but it belongs to Route 66 and the community. I don’t know if it will always be the largest in the world, but it will always be the Route 66 Rocker.
It’s been fun to watch the race over the years—all the different people, costumes and teams. My favorite so far was the firemen running in full gear. That was impressive! It’s inspiring to see the people who finish the race that maybe all along the way had to keep telling themselves they could make it. I see a lot of people who have done it every year, but there are also new faces.
JOG, Inc. is a great group to work with. They set this race up and break it down fast. By one in the afternoon, you can’t even tell they were here. Brad Austin leads his group well, but one little known fact about Brad is that he cannot back up a trailer. It’s kind of funny to watch him. In fact, the whole Friday set up and Saturday race is fun to watch.

In the summer of 2015, the rocker is going to get a new paint job, and we are considering a contest of some kind of who can come up with the new look. So, while you’re here at the outpost this year, run some ideas in your head and look for the contest to begin early in 2015.

By Amy England – Cuba News

Dec 162013


Missouri Hick BBQ

I kept driving by this place for the past few years wanting to stop in – but never had the chance.
Then earlier this year, I decided to bite the bullet (or the beef rib!) and stop in – and I am glad I did!!

I love BBQ and will eat it any chance I can get. The three times I have been there this year (actually 3 times in 4 months) I always have the ribs – and they are just that good!

The food is great – the service is almost too quick! As soon as you order, the food is pretty much ready.
Twice I ate on the patio and once inside the diner area – and all three times it was busy.
A nice added bonus – the Wagon Wheel Motel is right next door! So I decided to stay at the Wagon Wheel AND walk next door to grab a beer and, of course, more BBQ!

Another bonus is it is in Cuba MO and while there – make sure you check out the great murals they have throughout town.

I would recommend this place to ANY Route 66 traveler, so time it so you can stop in for lunch or dinner.

You can check out their website by going to

Dec 042013


Driving to Halltown from Springfield on Historic Route 66 (now Missouri 266), you’ve probably noticed the ruins of a building on the northwest corner of the intersection with Farm Road 45.

Through the large arched windows and doorways, you can see the small forest growing inside. Tree branches reach out wildly through the open roof.

I had seen the rock walls a few times before, but only recently when I stopped to photograph it did I see the Greene County Historic Site marker that reads “Plano, a Ghost Town.”

Inside the structure, paths zigzag through the middle. Beer and soda bottles litter the ground. Vines climb the cracked stone walls. In the back, a tree grows at an odd angle through a window.

Standing in the woods within walls was eerie and made me wonder what this place used to be.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about Plano,” said Jackie Warfel, who prepared the historic site nomination.

A quick Internet search turns up many sites — mostly Route 66 travel blogs — that claim the limestone structure was a mortuary and casket factory.

“It was not,” Warfel said.

According to Warfel’s history, John Jackson and his family built the two-story 50-foot-by-60-foot building in 1902 of local limestone “with the help of neighbors as needed.”

The building became a hub of community activity. Two rooms on the lower level were a general store where farm families could sell their produce, eggs and baked goods.

The store was managed by Jackson’s son, Alfred, and daughters Mollie and Quintilla Jackson, who had taken a course on business administration in Springfield.

Upstairs, along with living quarters, was a large room used for club meetings, dances, court proceedings and even church services.

The Jacksons bought a wooden structure across the street, on the northeast corner, from Steve Carter. In this building, which is no longer standing, they operated a “mortuary and undertakers parlor where caskets could be purchased and a horse-drawn hearse was furnished.”

Warfel also noted in her research, “there was no embalming at that time and the families bought the caskets and lay the deceased family member out at their homes before burial.”

Besides the limestone walls of the general store, the only other current indication of the community of Plano is a rock building on the southeast corner, built by Alf Landon. Now a private residence, it was originally a store and Tydol gas station.

Warfel said Plano was a crossroads that served a large community. When the interstate system bypassed Route 66, the town faded into history, too.

By Valerie Mosley –

Aug 162013

The National Park Service (NPS) Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program announced last week the awarding of six cost- share grants to assist with the restoration of significant historic properties along Route 66. The old Milan Motel, today known as the Kachina Country Trading Post, is one of the recipients, according to a press release from the National Park Service.

Grant funds will assist with the electrical rehabilitation of the trading post to address serious fire and other safety concerns. The private owner will match the $10,000 NPS grant with an equal amount.

The Milan Motel and Trading Post has a rich history on Route 66. The motel complex was built in 1947 by the Milan family, for which the town was named. The family also managed a booming carrot industry in the area, which became known as the “Carrot Capital of the United States.” Although a second story was added to the trading post in the 1970s, the motel and trading post retain much of their historic integrity today and are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Plumbing and electrical system issues have forced the closure of the motel units, but the trading post remains open today.

Long-term goals are to restore the motel units to operating condition.

Others recipients include: Hilltop Motel, Kingman, Ariz.; Vic Suhling Neon Sign, Litchfield, Ill.; DeCamp Junction, Staunton, Ill.; Santo Domingo Trading Post, Santo Domingo Pueblo, N.M.; and, Whiting Bros. Gas Station, Moriarty, N.M.

The cost-share grant program provides financial assistance for eligible historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Grants are offered through an annual, competitive grant-cycle.

Since the program’s inception in 2001, 114 projects have been awarded $1.6 million with $2.7 million in cost-share match, totaling $4.3 million in public-private investment toward the preservation and revitalization of the Route 66 corridor.

By Cibola Beacon

Aug 092013

A piece of Route 66 history will be restored this afternoon in Springfield, kicking off a weekend of celebratory events.

A wayfinder sign (see above) that was damaged in a wreck in February 1952 will be reinstalled at the corner of Glenstone Ave. and St. Louis St. at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Gordon Elliott, who owns the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven at that location, says he wants to keep the Route 66 tradition alive for generations to come.

The resurrection kicks off the hotel’s 75th anniversary celebration festivities. The hotel will open a new pavillion at 4:30 p.m. with live entertainment by Mike Mac & The Rockabilly Cats.

A Classic Car Cruise down Route 66 will leave the hotel at 7:30 p.m. and travel west to Park Central Square, which will be the site of a Birthplace of Route 66 Festival Saturday, Aug. 10. That event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In the meantime, the city is using Springfield-based website “CrowdIt” to gather donations to help fund the Route 66 Roadside Park. City leaders plan to discuss that project during Saturday’s festival.

By – Ozark First News


Aug 072013

As celebrations go, we think the Route 66 International Festival was top-notch. On behalf of our community and our readers, we want to thank the Route 66 Alliance for choosing Joplin as the site of the festival.

We also tip our hat to the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau and all the local volunteers who made it a great event.

Michael Wallis, one of the co-founders of the Route 66 Alliance and the man providing the voice of the sheriff in the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” signed about 2,200 autographs in Carthage. He called his fan base “future road warriors.”

We like the idea that there are those who are keeping the story of America’s Mother Road alive. As a result of the festival, it’s clear that our own appreciation has been rekindled. Events promoted the history of the route from Vinita, Okla., to Carthage, Mo., with stops in Kansas in between.

And it seems like every time there’s a discussion about Route 66, we learn something new or discover something new right here in our own backyard.

A lot of work and planning went into the event, from the car cruising, to the kids roadie parade.

With that said, it would be a shame to wait 20 years for Joplin to get another turn to be hosts for the festival.

Wallis described the success of the event this way:

Route 66 is a linear village that has no state lines, county boundaries or city limits. We have to work together, and we saw that beginning to happen for the first time in Joplin.”

It’s an experience we would love to repeat again somewhere down the road.