Return of Historic Sign Kicks Off Route 66 Festivities

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Return of Historic Sign Kicks Off Route 66 Festivities
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

 

Hotel room dedicated to Elvis’ guitarist Wilkinson

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Hotel room dedicated to Elvis’ guitarist Wilkinson
Apr 132013
 





Historic Route 66 hotel dedicated a themed room to late musician John Wilkinson, a former Springfield resident who played guitar for Elvis Presley.

The room, located in the Best Western Rail Haven motel next to the Elvis-themed room, honors the musician who played more than 1,200 shows with Presley from 1968 until Presley’s death in 1977.

Wilkinson, 67, died in January after a four-year battle with cancer and is survived by his wife, Terry, whom he married in 1983.

Tears were shed and memories were shared as Wilkinson’s friends and family gathered at the motel on Friday to view the room for the first time.

Tom Petit met Wilkinson in 1972 while working at a hotel in Aurora, Ill., and they became close friends.

Petit was unaware of who Wilkinson was when he checked in, Petit said. Later that evening, two women came to the hotel, asking for Wilkinson’s room number.

Petit refused to share the information and told the women, “Sorry, that’s not the way we operate.”

“The next morning, before I got off work, (Wilkinson) was down in the bar having breakfast, having it served to him in the lounge because he didn’t want to be around all the people,” Petit said. “Somebody came and told me there was a gentleman down in the lounge who wanted to have a word with me.”

Petit approached Wilkinson and asked, “So you wanted to see me?”

Wilkinson held up a finger to pause Petit and listened to a song that was playing on the jukebox.

A few moments after the song was over, Wilkinson told Petit, “Sorry, but that’s the only song we play that you can hear me play in.”

Petit said he thought, “Who is this guy? What are we talking about here?”

Wilkinson had two notes in the song “Burning Love” that could be heard. Petit said now he can’t listen to the song without hearing the guitar and those notes.

Wilkinson thanked Petit for taking care of things for him the night before.

“We sat down and we talked for a few minutes,” Petit said. “Next thing you know, we’re talking for half an hour.”

Gordon Elliott, owner of the Rail Haven motel, said the Elvis-themed room was updated for the motel’s 75th anniversary in August.

“We didn’t get the chance to do anything to tie (Wilkinson) into Elvis when he was alive,” Elliott said. “We ended up getting the room right next door to Elvis’.”

Elliott said creating the room for Wilkinson would be a great idea since he and Presley were close friends.

“And it ties into Springfield history,” Elliott said.

Presley appeared at the Shrine Mosque in 1956, and Wilkinson, then 10 years old, took the opportunity to tell the king of rock ‘n’ roll how he felt about his guitar playing.

Wilkinson sneaked into the mosque and approached Presley while he was in his dressing room. After some small talk, Wilkinson said, “Elvis, you can’t play guitar worth a damn.”

Presley, slightly insulted but amused, let Wilkinson play his guitar and said, “You’re pretty good.”

Wilkinson responded, “I know.”

Presley hired him 12 years later.

By Katie Lamb – News Leader

Our (partial) Route 66 trip – Day 1

 Daily, Illinois, Missouri, Route 66 States  Comments Off on Our (partial) Route 66 trip – Day 1
Jun 222011
 



The mission was to get from Chicago to Scottsdale as fast as possible – with minimal stops. Now – add in the fact we follow Route 66 for 85% of the drive – there are several people and places I have to / want to see, and 1800 miles is tough on just about anyone – ‘as fast as possible’ turned into ‘whenever we get there….’

I started our trip by making a quick stop over to the Sprauge Super Station in Normal IL to say ‘hi’ to Terry Ryburn and check on her progress with the station.

She updated me and we walked around the property for 20 minutes as she was pointing out what still had to be done. She mentioned the Route 66 Association of Illinois were coming out in Aug to do some interior work – if you want to help them / her in Aug – contact them association – I am sure they would love for you to stop out! If you want to help by sending a few dollars to further her progress – click HERE for more information.

After I said my ‘good-byes’ – we headed south. Now – I will almost NEVER travel throughout the southern part of Illinois on the route without stopping in and seeing Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch! Although he was closed and he was running around bar-b-queing he took 15 minutes and spoke to Juliana about the property, Big Red and Montana. She enjoyed the time and thought Rich was nothing but a ‘sweet man’.

So, for the first time of all the times I have been at Rich’s place, I hoped on the Giant Rabbit and took a picture!











We continued our way thru St. Louis and stopped the night in Springfield MO. We wanted to stop short of Joplin so we can tour it in the daytime.











Low and behold – we listening to air raid sirens and the hotel asked everyone to gather in a conference room for the fear of possible approaching tornados.











All was good – for the time and we decided to turn in and in the morning drive the 60 minutes to Joplin to check out the damage.
More on that tomorrow…

Route 66: Preserving an 85-Year History along the Mother Road

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Route 66: Preserving an 85-Year History along the Mother Road
Feb 172011
 

In 1926, Springfield became the Route 66’s Birthplace

Route 66 would have turned 85 this year. In 1926, pioneers of the east-west corridor officially named it ‘Route 66’ at a meeting in Springfield, Mo.

It was decommissioned in 1985, but the mother road still brings in tourists from across the globe.

“I wonder myself, what keeps bringing people back and what people find so exciting and intoxicating about this road,” said photography Michael Campanelli.

Campanelli travels the route as often as he can, snapping photos. Along the way, he promotes his work and photo exhibits.

He drove the road for the first time in 2002, and says he still isn’t sure what he loves about the road.

“To me, it’s the freedom just to get out in America and be able to drive around,” said Campanelli.

Whatever the reason, Route 66 lives on.

“You’ll find yourself coming back, and back, and back again,” says Gary Turner, owner of the Gay Parita Sinclair Station.

When the major 4-lane highways went in, Route 66 disappeared in pieces. In southwest Missouri, many of the buildings are disappearing, too. Run-down, deteriorating buildings dot the sides of the decommissioned highway.

As America changes, so does its landscape.

“The historic buildings that we have, that’s the fabric of our community. If they’re gone, the fabric of our community is gone,” said David Eslick, with the Route 66 Association of Missouri.

Not all of the buildings are forgotten. There’s been a recent resurgence of interest in the mother road.

Like Turner’s Sinclair station.

“It’s just my dream,” said Turner.

Turner rebuilt a gas station on his property in 2006, after the original burned down in 1955.

“It’s the greatest thing i ever did in my life,” says Turner. “It’s not a duplicate of the original gas station. It’s just my idea of what a 1930 gas station would look like.”

Now, Turner spends most of his days greeting visitors who stop in at the station. A quick thumb through his guest book shows visitors from across the country and around the globe.

That interest in Route 66 is good news for its official birthplace: Springfield, Mo. In 1926, at a meeting in downtown Springfield, pioneers of the route penned a telegraph, officially dubbing the highway “Route 66.”

In its hey-day, the road linked rural America to two major u-s cities: Los Angeles and Chicago. Now, much of it is still drive-able, just off the main route. In Missouri, most of Route 66 runs along-side Highway 44, criss-crossing it along the way.

“You’ll be driving along on the interstate, and you’ll see a Route 66 sign right there by the side of the road,” says Eslick.

Signs still direct drivers where to go to “get their kicks…”

Route 66 never died. It’s going to get better and better as we go. There’s hundreds of people on Route 66 that’s working on it now,” says Turner.

Copyright © 2011, KSPR-TV