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Lunchtime at Wrink’s Market July 27, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Food, People, Preservation, Restaurants.
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On Friday, I paid a lunchtime visit to the newly resurrected Route 66 icon, Wrink’s Market of Lebanon, Mo.

Even though longtime Route 66 aficionados will see changes in Wrink’s that indicate the convenience store remains a work in progress, I noticed two things that should gladden their hearts:

  • Terry Wrinkle, one of the sons of longtime Wrink’s operater Glenn Wrinkle, has carried on his father’s gift of gab. This is not a criticism.
  • Wrink’s is again making sandwiches the old-fashioned way — only when they are ordered, and with fresh ingredients.

One thing veteran Route 66 travelers will notice is a new marquee above the original metal awning, adding “Historic” to the “Wrink’s Market” sign. A new Route 66 shield also is prominent. Although the architectural neon lights have been repaired, the original “Market” neon sign was regrettably sold at auction shortly after Glenn Wrinkle’s death at age 82 in 2005.

Inside, past shelves of snacks and a large cooler full of soft drinks, was the new deli area. I was pleased to see locals chatting as much as eating. Route 66 author Michael Wallis fondly calls these “liars’ tables.”

Deli manager Vicki was busy making sandwiches for the lunchtime crowd. You fill out a form checking off the meat, condiments, cheese and bread you want in your sandwich. One good sign was that she wrapped the to-go sandwiches in paper, not plastic.

There are seven types of meat available, including liver cheese and pickle loaf. And yes, the list includes radio host Paul Harvey’s favorite from Wrink’s, bologna.

The long list of condiments includes both mayonnaise and Miracle Whip (sandwich buffs know the difference), along with tomato and the uncommonly seen bread-and-butter pickles.

By the way, Terry Wrinkle buys his tomatoes from local farmers, like his dad did. That’s why the tomatoes have so much flavor, unlike supermarket tomatoes.

I ordered the 99-cent special — chopped ham sandwich with tomato, mayo and bread-and-butter pickles on wheat bread.

The sandwich was juicy and tasty. It reminded me of the hand-crafted sandwiches at Eisler Bros. Store in Riverton, Kan. It seems simple. But a freshly made sandwich will hands-down beat a sandwich that sits for hours in a refrigerator case.

Although hoagie buns and Texas toast are available, Terry Wrinkle says most locals stick with the white or wheat bread.

“We tried to do some things differently, but people like the way he (Glenn Wrinkle) did it,” he said.

“And that’s what we’re doing now.”

Many of the store’s old coolers and freezers are gone, simply because they were shot, Terry Wrinkle says. One of them left “an inch of rust” when it was removed.

But he’s busy trying to transform Wrink’s into sort of a local history museum. These photos shown below are on the beverages cooler, and Terry Wrinkle vows to cover the entire cooler with them.

Plenty of other memorabilia, brought in by longtime customers or from the Wrinkle family collection, eventually will be displayed.

There’s room for new stuff, too. These T-shirts and ball caps feature the new Wrink’s logo, drawn by Terry Wrinkle himself. T-shirts are priced at $9.99.

On the original counter where his dad once sat is a guest book. Wrink’s reopened less than two weeks ago, but the book already contains signatures of travelers from Illinois, Ohio, California, Washington, Florida, Michigan and El Salvador.

Terry Wrinkle worked for his father beginning at age 4. He’ll draw from those experiences, plus working for three years at QuikTrip in Kansas City, to keep Wrink’s running smoothly and profitably.

Storytelling ability must be passed on genetically. Like his father, Terry Wrinkle spun dozens of yarns while I was there. Ask him about the 180,000 pennies he found in the store. Ask him about his father’s football prowess. Ask him about the pranks that he and his dad pulled on longtime customers. Ask him about the giant cigarette lighter on the counter.

Shortly after his father’s death, two women rented the Wrink’s building for two years but never reopened it. The two eventually were evicted. During an auction to liquidate their inventory, Terry Wrinkle said he got the itch to reopen Wrink’s himself.

“During the auction, I saw a lot of people and saw the place come alive a little bit,” he said. “I wanted to see it run. I didn’t want to see it die again.”

We briefly stopped our conversation so Terry Wrinkle could conduct a transaction with a customer.

“Thanks for coming here,” Terry Wrinkle said when he handed him his change.

“I’m glad you’re here,” the man said.

I and many other Route 66ers agree.

(Wrink’s Market, at 135 Wrinkle Ave. in Lebanon, Mo., is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day but Sunday. Its phone number is 417-588-8966.)

Notes from the road July 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Books, Events, History, Motorcycles, People, Preservation, Vehicles, Web sites.
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Dida Zende, an artist based in Berlin, is looking for at least one old gas station along Route 66 to repaint so it resembles a FIT art gallery (above). It would be repainted mostly white, with a bit of red trim and the FIT logo. Zende wants to come do this free of charge in November or December, and the grounds of the property would be cleaned up to boot. If you have an old gas station property you’d like spruced up or know somebody who would, e-mail Zende at zende (at) gmx.de to make arrangements.

  • A reader has pointed out the Markeroni.com site, an online community of history buffs and travelers devoted to tracking down historical markers across the country. Markeroni also has a blog, in which several Route 66 sites were among the 13 Cool Snarfs (a snarf an actual visit made to a historical marker).
  • The Kit-Kat and Friends Great All-American Road Show is making a stop at Afton Station on Route 66 in Afton, Okla., at noon Aug. 2. This is a tour that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Kit-Cat Clock.
  • Famed Route 66 author Michael Wallis and photographer Michael Williamson are on a tour to promote their Lincoln Highway book. They’re blogging about their experiences as they go west on the Lincoln. The site is here.
  • Deb Hodkin, curator of the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow, Calif., points out an excellent feature in the Bakersfield Californian about Joe de Kehoe, an expert about Route 66 in California and the Mojave Desert.
  • Son Life Church at 1203 Vandalia in Collinsville, Ill., is hosting a Cruizin’ in Antiques Car, Truck and Bike Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to benefit the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Fan Club. For more about the event, go here.

Rebuilding Amboy one chicken at a time July 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, People, Preservation, Restaurants, Towns.
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The Inland Press-Enterprise of Southern California published an excellent article about Juan Pollo restaurant chain owner Albert Okura and his efforts to restore Roy’s and the nearly abandoned town of Amboy, Calif.

“Everyone who has owned Amboy has been in it to make money,” he said. “You can’t.

“I see this as a marketing avenue for Juan Pollo restaurants. In the next 20 years, the biggest growth in Southern California will be in the Mojave Desert. Everything is built out in the Inland Empire.”

But no, he won’t launch a Juan Pollo in Amboy.

“That would not be in character with the town,” he said. “Amboy has the potential to be the greatest Route 66 attraction on the West Coast. There’s nothing like it anywhere. The good thing about the town is that it’s paid off. There is no debt.”

This is where the chickens come in.

“Primarily, we will fund the restoration through the company,” Okura said. “We will pay as we go, however long it takes. What we get is the good will. I will get more good will by keeping it, as best I can, the way it was.”

There’s a lot more interesting material in the article. Okura just trying to make progress, even if it’s slow.

The Press-Enterprise also produced a 4 1/2-minute video at Roy’s.

Needles brainstorms about revitalizing downtown July 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Towns.
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The Route 66 town of Needles, Calif., wants to revitalize its downtown, and is seeking input from residents on how to do so, according to the Mohave Daily News.

One of the ideas floated sounds intriguing:

A Hot Rocks and Rods on Route 66 event is currently envisioned as an alternative energy fair with music. The NDBA is hoping that service organizations and businesses will be interested in participating in the event, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 11.

The group collecting the ideas is the Needles Downtown Business Alliance.

I always thought Needles was an unpolished gem, especially with its closeness to the Colorado River. Yeah, it’s hot much of the year, but so is nearby Kingman, Ariz. That hasn’t stopped Kingman from becoming a fast-growing city. All Needles needs, it seems, is some imaginative leadership.

Creator of the Launching Pad restaurant dies July 24, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People, Restaurants.
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John Korelc, the founder of what became the Launching Pad Drive-In on Route 66 in Wilmington, Ill., died at age 87 on Friday in nearby Joliet, reports the Joliet Herald-News.

The Launching Pad originally was called the Dari Delite when it opened in 1960. That change the restaurant’s name to its current moniker in 1965.

The restaurant became famous across the country after they found something to make it distinctive. That was a 28-foot tall, 500-pound fiberglass green giant with a space helmet.

“The Launching Pad was his life,” said his daughter, Sharon Gatties. She worked at the restaurant and later she and her husband, Jerry, became the owners, until they sold this spring.

Korelc retired in 1986. But an article five years later said he was still making occasional deliveries for the restaurant and helping in its kitchen.

Morey Szczecin bought the restaurant a few months ago.

Official DVD coming for “route 66″ July 24, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Television.
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The demand was there for years. Finally, on Oct. 23, the critically acclaimed “route 66″ drama that aired from 1960 to 1964 will start to be officially released on DVD.

Unofficial DVDs of “route 66″ have floated around for years, many of them of erratic quality. This upcoming release by Roxbury Entertainment, in association with Infinity Entertainment Group, will be digitally remastered for the highest quality sound and picture possible, according to a news release.

The release also says that Roxbury is producing a new movie called “Route 66,” slated to be out in 2008.

The DVD will contain just the first season, or 15 episodes, of “route 66,” plus unspecified “special features.” It retails for $29.98. You can preorder it from Amazon.com, which lists it for as low as $20.95.

“This Old Road” July 23, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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A sublime song by a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Kris Kristofferson:

It looks like he’s strolling through Route 66 country in the Mojave Desert.

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