Cause of Fire That Destroyed 150 Collector Cars on Route 66 in Illinois Remains Undetermined

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Cause of Fire That Destroyed 150 Collector Cars on Route 66 in Illinois Remains Undetermined
Sep 072017
 








A large fire last month destroyed at least 150 cars and damaged several more, according to multiple news outlets. The fire occurred at Country Classic Cars in rural Staunton, Ill., located on historic Route 66.

According to its website, the business grew out of a hobby of a Midwestern farmer. An experienced mechanic, Russ Noel, grew the business to include an inventory of more than 600 collector cars. Besides the buildings that house the cars, there is also a service area, inside showroom and gift shop.

Noel said he typically has an inventory of a little over 600 cars. The fire destroyed 143 cars and a 50 x 530 feet warehouse that also housed an office and gift shop. Outside, six more cars sustained smoke damage.

The fire was traced to the warehouse to one of five cars located in the middle of the building; however, its cause remains undetermined.

Some cars are owned outright while others are taken on consignment. According to its website, the owner of a vehicle on consignment should retain insurance until the vehicle is sold.

Noel estimated he owned 95 percent of the cars that were affected, with the remaining cars affected on consignment.

He indicated that when a car arrives, their first step is to disconnect the battery, though it’s possible that step may have been overlooked, he said.

Most of the vehicles were removed from the premises with two weeks of fire, he said. Building debris removal was completed last month, as well. He plans to rebuild and estimated a start date of mid-September.

According to Jonathan Klinger, vice president of public relations for Hagerty, a collector car and boat insurer, Country Classics inventory includes a variety of cars. Typically, he said the nicer ones are kept indoors.

Klinger said that there are likely consignment agreements in place for those cars offered on consignment.

“Regardless if its consignment or an auction, it is universal industry practice that the owner of the car is going to sign some type of consignment agreement that states that you are still responsible for any property damage to the car. Meaning that they legally are not held liable for any damage that happens to the car while it’s in their care, custody and control,” Klinger explained.

Where the agreement states the owner should maintain insurance coverage, owners of damaged vehicles would submit a claim to their own insurer first, he said.

For the many cars owned outright by Noel, there may be agreed value policies in place.

Klinger explained that collector cars typically hold or increase in value, while standard cars depreciate in value. Thus, a policy on a collector car would typically be an agreed value policy where the value is pre-determined and agreed upon at the time of policy purchase, while a standard car would have a cash value policy where the value is determined at the time of loss.

Payout would be agreed value minus deductible, if one applied.

Noel couldn’t say what the total value of the loss is and Auto-Owners, Country Classic’s insurer declined to comment on the ongoing claim.

– by Denise Johnson – Claims Journal

Grand Canyon Cafe Turns to New Chapter

 Arizona  Comments Off on Grand Canyon Cafe Turns to New Chapter
Oct 112016
 

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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

Desert Sands Demolition Points to Route 66 Motel Challenges

 New Mexico  Comments Off on Desert Sands Demolition Points to Route 66 Motel Challenges
Oct 112016
 

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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

15 minutes in Dwight: Ambler-Becker gas station on Route 66

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on 15 minutes in Dwight: Ambler-Becker gas station on Route 66
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

Steeped in history, Desert Motors on Old Route 66 is changing hands

 California, Daily  Comments Off on Steeped in history, Desert Motors on Old Route 66 is changing hands
Nov 182015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rene Ray De La Cruz – VV Daily Press

Rendezvous Back to Route 66 in San Bernardino

 California, Daily  Comments Off on Rendezvous Back to Route 66 in San Bernardino
Oct 062015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– By Michel Nolan, The Sun

Cruisin’ made San Bernardino ‘the car town’

 California, Daily  Comments Off on Cruisin’ made San Bernardino ‘the car town’
Jun 262015
 

san-bernadino-cruising







In San Bernardino, they don’t stroll down Memory Lane, they cruise it.

Memory Lane is E Street, one of the main north-south streets that crosses Route 66 in the city.

If you turned the clock back 50 years, you’d see gleaming chrome and hear engines revving as the “Happy Days” moments of cruising, ice cream shops and bobby socks helped define a generation.

Back then, cruising was bumper to bumper.

San Bernardino was the car-cruising capital of Southern California from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

Memories of cruisin’ E Street in 1955, stopping at Carnation Ice Cream and grabbing 15-cent burgers at McDonald’s are etched into the city’s collective memory.

An important chapter in San Bernardino’s history.

Steve Portias, a 1967 graduate of San Bernardino High School, says he was born at the perfect time.

The consummate “car guy,” Portias said the culture got its start in the 1930s and ’40s, when young drivers would go for “land speed records” at the El Mirage dry lake bed, near Adelanto.

“The most popular car at the time was the 1932 Ford — everyone wanted one,” said Portias, a member of the San Bernardino Historical Society and president of Inland Vans Berdoo, a car club that’s been around since the late 1960s.

“Most guys customized their cars to attract the girls,” said Portias, now 65.

Think “American Grafitti” or “Grease.”

“All towns had a cruise route, but San Bernardino was known as ‘the car town.’”

By the early ’70s, car clubs were huge, and the Over the Hill Gang, which had its roots at San Gorgonio High School, developed the car club culture, according to Portias.

Danny Castro, board member and former president of the California Historical Route 66 Association, remembers getting his first “muscle car” in 1971.

It was a baby blue 1964 Mustang Fast Back, he said, with four speeds and a 302 engine.

At the time, those cars we think of as “classics,” were cheap, said Castro, who always had several cars at the same time.

“You could get a ’64 GTO for $400,” he said. “But a car that might cost $500 to $800 would be bought by Europeans and then sold for $8,000.”

Cruisers in their heyday would stop at Eros and Bogart’s, a popular E Street nightclub and the former Orange Bowling Alley with a nice wooden dance floor.

San Bernardino was a happening place, attracting popular and up-and-coming bands at its venues.

The first time Van Halen played in front of an audience was at Eros and Bogart’s, and he introduced the band as “a garage band out of Pasadena.”

But things started changing in the ’80s, and as E Street declined, so did cruising.

The former nightclub is now a thrift store on E Street, between Ninth and 10th, Portias said.

Car shows became popular, but the car culture hit a new low when E Street died.

Enter Route 66 and the revitalization of the city with souped-up classic cars.

When the city’s classic car culture intersected with San Bernardino’s stretch of Route 66 (along Fifth Street), a national car culture rose up from the asphalt of the Mother Road.

Route 66, the legendary strip of highway running between Santa Monica and Chicago, dubbed “The Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” has connected a cultural cross-section of Americans since it was paved in 1937.

Cruisers were back on the road again.

Between 1991 and 2013, San Bernardino hosted the Stater Bros. Route 66 RendezvousCalifornia’s ode to the Mother Road — in the city’s downtown streets.

Roadies and car buffs could tell the stories and relive the memories of traveling in vintage vehicles across California’s vast yawning desert.

The huge automotive street fair, which celebrated cruisin’, classic cars and hot rods, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to the three-day event.

In 2013, the Rendezvous was put on hiatus after the city filed for bankruptcy and the state eliminated funding for the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau, producers of the event.

Fast forward to the present.

No matter how crazy the city is about classic cars, it’s the positive aspect of shining a light on San Bernardino that has so many people looking forward to this weekend.

On Saturday, the prestigious Great Race cross-country car rally comes to San Bernardino to join forces with local Route 66 car buffs in a huge celebration that includes yet another car culture.

The 2015 Great Race, this year themed “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” will transform downtown streets with 120 vintage cars.

Great Racers, who start arriving at 5:30 p.m. from their weeklong journey, will join the 1,000 classic American cars on display, with festivities including live music, a veterans parade, chili cook-off, food trucks, craft beer garden, stagecoach rides and vendors in the downtown area,

San Bernardino’s Great Race Committee, headed by city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Mickey Valdivia, has been working since early February to plan the event.

These days they are sprucing up the area around City Hall.

“We are getting the landscaping cleaned up, flowers planted and the Route 66 Cruisin’ Hall of Fame wall restored so it will look its best for the big event,” Valdivia said.

Sign painter and muralist Robb McDermott has been working on the wall for nearly a week.

McDermott, who owns a sign-painting company in Redlands, worked in three-digit temperatures giving the wall its face-lift for the Great Race event.

A self-taught muralist and painter, he is a San Bernardino native who looks forward to the festivities.

Welcoming signs are elsewhere in the city.

Great Race banners hang across downtown streets and at the former Arts on Fifth Street gallery, “This is San Bernardino,” a new public art project by poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern, will be unveiled Saturday in the windows of Arts on Fifth, 468 W. Fifth St., just in time for Great Race day.

The classic event, which showcases Americana and its diversity, would not be complete without a veterans’ parade and vintage military vehicles, as well as hundreds of small flags for bystanders lining the parade route beginning at 4 p.m.

Veterans’ services and a mobile service office for Disabled American Veterans will also be on hand.

So prepare to be amazed as San Bernardino recaptures its glory days — and once again, the shine will come from gleaming chrome.

By Michel Nolan – The Sun

Mural links Pontiac with Route 66

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Mural links Pontiac with Route 66
Jun 232015
 

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The 24th outdoor mural in downtown Pontiac made its debut on June 18, just in time for the Hang Loose weekend. It was placed on the eastern exterior wall of Edinger’s Filling Station at 423 W. Madison St.

Unlike the first 18 murals, which were painted in the summer of 2009 by the Walldogs — a collection of sign painters and muralists — the newest edition to the outdoor art collection was designed by international artist Tang Dongbai.
The mural portrays a red 1926 Pontiac driving past a cafe on Route 66. The vehicle Dongbai used for reference is currently on display in the Pontiac-Oakland Museum and Resource Center. According to american-automobiles.com, “The Oakland Motor Car Company was formed in 1907 by Edward Murphy, founder of Pontiac Buggy Company. In 1909, the company became part of General Motors. By 1926, the company was in full production of the Pontiac and the higher-priced Oakland.” The Pontiac brand was created by General Motors President Alfred Sloan. It was intended to be priced between the $525 Chevrolet and the $900 Oldsmobile.”

Like the vehicle, work on Route 66 also began in 1926, after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first federal highway system. Like the Mother Road, which was a cobbling of existing local, state and national road networks, the new mural ties Pontiac automobiles to Route 66 and the city of Pontiac to the international interest in Route 66.

“Since Route 66 and the Pontiac automobile are centerpieces of our tourism efforts, we thought it would be great to have a mural that would combine them,” City Administrator Bob Karls said. “With 1926 being the beginning of both of them, we thought that was a neat way to tie them together.”
Becky Edinger, co-owner of Edinger’s Filing Station, said when she and her husband, Jimm, purchased the building, they talked to the city about the mural process. Other than the initial conversation, Edinger said the city took care of everything, picking both the mural and the artist.

“When we were looking at purchasing the building last summer, we knew we would have a big space that we could use to add to the murals downtown,” Edinger said. “I think it adds some extra curb appeal to the building and brings tourists who are taking the mural tour a little bit further outside the square.”
In the upper-right-hand corner of the mural is a cafe. Although there is no signage, the cafe represents Jimmie’s Super Mart Grocery, which was owned and operated by Jimmie and Mary Hicks from 1946 until 1972. The business was one of the original buildings on Ladd Street, constructed in 1926, according to Dave Sullivan, an avid fan of Route 66 and a local historian.

“I just think it’s great that we can feature a mural on the side of our building that depicts part of Pontiac history,” Edinger said. “Customers like it, too. We posted pictures on our Facebook page and they have done well.”
Work on the mural was completed in Dongbai’s International Airbrush Art School nearby. For transport, the piece was split into four sections and covered with clear coat.
“Every five years or so we have to put a new clear coat on the murals, but it’s been pretty light maintenance,” Karls said.

Luke Smucker – Pontiac Daily Leader

Route 66 to welcome nine new statues in Illinois

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Route 66 to welcome nine new statues in Illinois
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

City still working to get Route 66 visitors center constructed.

 Daily, Oklahoma  Comments Off on City still working to get Route 66 visitors center constructed.
Aug 042014
 

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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