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Fontana’s Route 66 motels cling to survival July 31, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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Route 66 through Fontana, Calif., has one of the biggest clusters of vintage motels in Southern California. According to an article Sunday by the Press Enterprise, about a dozen independently owned motels still stand along a stretch of Foothill Boulevard.

“There are your cities along 66 that have motels left, but I don’t think anything compares to Fontana,” said Scott Piotrowski, a preservationist who runs a production company devoted to documenting historic roads in America through film, books, and photography. “They’re fortunate that they haven’t had a lot demolished.”

Fontana city leaders hope to rebuild their long neglected portions of 66, but the area with the oldest motels sits on unincorporated county land with no redevelopment plans in sight.

Most of these motels are scraping by, and it’s doubtful many of them will survive in the coming years, even with no redevelopment imminent. But the story offers a ray of hope for at least one establishment.

Under the management of Maggie Marin, La Villa has tried hard to make itself a place unwelcome to seedy characters. The bright red-and-blue rooms recently got a paint job, and flowers grow in the dirt outside the main office.

Which town truly earns the “Redneck” title? July 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Music, People, Television.
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Harley Russell, during the course of his entertaining and sometimes eccentric Mediocre Music Makers shows with wife Annabelle, will tell his audience, “Welcome to Erick, Oklahoma, the Redneck Capital of the World.”

But the Oklahoman newspaper, in a lighthearted article, reports that East Dublin, Ga., was bestowed the “redneck capital” title by the “Jeopardy” game show. Looking over this Web site and this one, that is tough evidence to refute.

The Oklahoman says:

Conclusion: The Russells have done their best to make Erick synonymous with rednecks, but East Dublin’s games edge Oklahoma out. Besides, it’s hard to argue with Alex Trebek.

Erick is not the redneck capital of the world.

Oh, well. The mistake was that the Oklahoman took Harley seriously, when Harley himself doesn’t. :)

Joplin makes a case for Mickey Mantle Museum July 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People, Sports.
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Perhaps growing impatient at the slow progress of a Mickey Mantle Museum in his Route 66 hometown of Commerce, Oka., Joplin Globe guest columnist Scott Haar makes a pitch for putting the Mick museum in nearby Joplin, Mo., instead.

I’m not persuaded by Maar’s argument. I’d rather have the museum in Mantle’s actual home state than a neighboring one. Mantle is the greatest baseball player Oklahoma has ever produced, and that’s not small praise when you consider the Sooner State also boasts Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell, and Paul and Lloyd Waner — all of them Hall-of-Famers. I once did a listing of baseball players by state, and Oklahoma’s would be as good as any.

The Mantle museum also would be greatly beneficial to the struggling town of Commerce. Joplin is a thriving community and will be for the foreseeable future. Commerce needs the museum more.

Videos spotlight southwest Missouri and Kansas July 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Maps, Television, Web sites.
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The good folks at Route 66 TV Online tell us about two 25-minute films about Route 66 in southwest Missouri and Kansas filmed by Passport America, which is a site geared to RV users.

If you don’t mind sitting through the obligatory RV plugs, the videos are pretty good. They contain stories about the Joplin Museum Complex, Bonnie & Clyde’s hideout in Joplin, the Solar Car Challenge, Precious Moments Chapel, Eisler Bros. Store, the Riverton Arch Bridge and more. You can watch the videos here.

I should add that Route 66 TV Online has an excellent map of Route 66 through the Joplin area. Driving through this region can be confusing, so this map is welcome.

El Rancho Motel in Barstow catches fire July 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels.
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The historic El Rancho Motel on Route 66 in Barstow, Calif., caught fire late Friday night, reports the town’s Desert Dispatch.

There were no injuries to residents, although a firefighter suffered an ankle injury. The extent of the damage to the motel remains a bit sketchy. However, the Dispatch’s report indicates the roof collapsed on part of at least one wing of the motel.

The Dispatch promises more extensive coverage in its Sunday editions.

A vintage image of the motel can be seen here.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Deb Hodkin, curator for the Barstow Route 66 Mother Road Museum, just a few blocks from El Rancho. Her husband Ken went to the fire scene, and he reports that the blaze was contained in a rear west portion of the motel — the same area that sustained a damaging fire about a year ago. This part of the motel cannot be seen from Route 66. The rest of the motel complex is fine. However, it appears the fire-damaged portion may have to be torn down.

UPDATE2: Ken Hodkin supplied me these photos of the fire damage at the motel:

UPDATE3: An updated story by the Desert Dispatch says the fire was likely caused by electrical problems.

“Route 66″ film to begin shooting this fall in Oklahoma July 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies.
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The OUDaily.com reports:

A romantic comedy centering on the chance encounter between a Greek and a Native American will begin filming this fall in Oklahoma.

The film, called “Route 66,” was written by Andrew Horton, the director of the Film and Video Studies program at OU. [...]
The film is about Panos, a Greek soap opera star fulfilling his dying father’s dream to journey to America and ride down Route 66 on a motorcycle. During his road trip, he meets Shayla, a Sac and Fox Indian whose dream is to tell Native American legends to the world. The Greek actor Renos Haralambidis will play Panos, and an unannounced Native American actress will play Shayla.

The film takes place along historic Route 66 and many landmarks on its Oklahoma stretch will be featured. Although the rural setting and small towns are far removed from the white marble of Greece, the film shows how similar two culturally different people can be.

“I think that no matter how different you are, you can get along and you can fall in love and you can go down Route 66 and learn how to dance at the pow-wow,” Horton said. [...]

“We plan to shoot in September in Oklahoma and one week in Greece in October,” Horton said.

“We hope to have the film ready for theaters and for festivals next year, particularly for the Sundance Film Festival.”

Jill Simpson, the director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, said “Route 66” will have a 21-day shoot, and filming is expected to start around September 4. Her office provides resources, location scouting, and helps films in Oklahoma with clearances and permitting.

“I know they’re going to try to hire some Oklahomans and do some local casting,” Simpson said.

“The Mother Road” airs next month on PBS July 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Television.
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Award-winning filmmaker Lauren Cardillo always wanted to do a documentary about Route 66, but was having trouble thinking of an original angle in which to shoot it.

Then she realized that her mother, Irene, was born in 1926 — the same year the Mother Road was certified. So mother and daughter hit the road together.

The result of that trip is the documentary “The Mother Road,” which is set to air on PBS television stations in August. To find the station in your area, go to the PBS station finder here. From there, you should be able to find broadcast times and dates. I’ve also had good luck finding listings with the TV Guide Web site.

According to the news release about the documentary:

A role reversal on the traditional family road trip, the mother-daughter team hit all the tourist sites, but also chatter along the way, as women do, about the issues of aging in today’s world. They also reflect on the many parallels between the Mother Road and Irene’s journey through life — the pot holes, the unexpected dips and turns, the exciting side trips — and reflect on the memories that made the journey worthwhile. Like most mothers and daughters, Irene and Lauren, both native New Yorkers, enjoy a feisty relationship where nothing is held back and every grudge remembered! [...]

The film also tells the behind-the-scenes story that Cardillo and many other baby boomers face each and every day: dealing with aging parents as they themselves are entering middle age. In Cardillo’s case, she chose to position her own mother-daughter journey through life against the backdrop of a national treasure that has, like the boomer generation, stood the test of time.

And here are some of the places where Lauren and Irene stopped:

Among the places featured in the documentary are the start of Route 66 in Chicago; Ted Drewes’ ice cream stand and the Red Cedar Inn in Missouri;, the Ribbon Road, the Blue Whale and the Coleman Theatre in Oklahoma; the Cadillac Ranch in Texas; Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Oatman and the Grand Canyon in Arizona; and the end of the pavement on the California Coast in Santa Monica.

It sounds really promising. I’ll be able to watch the documentary this weekend. I’ll report back later.

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