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Another tune from the garage September 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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The Beatles’ invasion of America in early 1964 and later rush of British acts spawned a lot of rock bands in the United States. Here’s one in the seemingly endless list, The Fabulous Pharaohs of Newark, Delaware.

The band’s take on Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ is notable in the lyrics are about as butchered as any version I’ve heard.

According to a bio by one of the band members, its version of “Route 66″ was recorded at a radio station after it had gone off the air for the night, live with no overdubs.

The Fabulous Pharaohs steadily played gigs in the Delaware region through much of the 1970s.

 

A visit to Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch September 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, People.
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A lot of videos have made their way on the Internet about Elmer Long and his unique Bottle Tree Ranch along Route 66 near Oro Grande, Calif.

But this one by KCET-TV, a community station in Los Angeles, is the best. The interview delves into Long’s background. And, much to my relief, Long says his sons will continue running the site after he dies.

But, if I had my way, I’d declare the Bottle Tree Ranch a national monument so people can enjoy it in perpetuity.

Long undoubtedly took some inspiration from Miles Mahan’s Half Acre, also known as Hulaville, which had a few bottle trees along with other quirky stuff in nearby Hesperia, California. Mahan’s Half Acre was bulldozed shortly after his death in 1997, although a few artifacts from there are on display at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville.

(Image of Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch by Peer Lawther via Flickr)

Take a cruise with Snookum September 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s an old jazz version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ you probably haven’t heard. It’s by pianist Isaac “Snookum” Russell and his All Reet Orchestra.

Russell’s band on the recording features Justin Adams on guitar, Artie “Weasel” Langston on bass, Frank Parker on drums, Wallace Davenport on trumpet and Hollis Carmouche on clarinet.

Details on Russell are sketchy, although it’s reported he and his band played in tobacco warehouses and dance halls throughout the South during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Snookum Russell died in 1981 at the age of 68.

Maple sirup and blue whales August 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, People.
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Since vacation, I’m getting caught up on KC Keefer’s latest videos on his Genuine Route 66 Life series. One that I missed was an interview with Glaida Funk, matriarch of the historic Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup business on Route 66 in Funks Grove, Illinois.

The second is an interview with Linda Hobbs, a volunteer at the gift shop for Route 66′s iconic Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma. She details some of the restoration of the adjacent grounds that once housed a children’s zoo.

Gallup’s anti-panhandling campaign comes under fire August 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Towns.
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The Navajo community is criticizing a campaign in Gallup, New Mexico, that discourages tourists — including those on Route 66 — from giving money to panhandlers, reported Indian Country Today.

In April, a coalition of city officials, church, business, and community groups rolled out the 90-day “Change In My Heart, Not In My Pocket”campaign to encourage people to “have compassion to say ‘No’ to panhandlers.” Giving money, the group’s press release states, enables substance abuse and harms the tourist economy. The group plans to step-up policing, educate businesses on trespassing and loitering laws, and increase donations to substance abuse treatment and homeless services.

That message sparked controversy. Many saw “panhandlers” as a misnomer for “Natives” and “Navajos” that didn’t address the city’s liquor economy, high rates of poverty, and economic dependence on Native business. [...]

At the first public meeting, Jeremy Yazzie, a Navajo student at UNM-Gallup, described the make-up of the campaign’s proponents: “It was an all white male group who wanted to push the [Native] panhandlers away from Gallup and make it more tourist-friendly and put a big red bow on Gallup.”

You can read more about the Gallup campaign here. Some excerpts from the news release:

Group member Bill Lee says, “Rather than giving a dollar randomly to people who will likely use it to worsen their condition, we are asking people to instead make a thoughtful contribution to something like the community food pantry. And when a panhandler asks me for money, I will simply tell them  ‘no’ and direct them to the charity I contribute to.” [...]

Group member Kevin Menapace says, “We need the whole community to be together on this. If we can collectively turn off the flow of money to panhandlers, everyone will benefit.” [...]

The campaign has other components as well, which include increased police enforcement, help from local veterans that have agreed to assist shoppers by being a “safe” presence, education to local businesses on loitering and trespass laws, as well as an initiative of extra hospitality and courtesy for tourists.

I understand what Gallup is trying to do, and I can attest to the panhandlers in the city — Indian and non-Indian, I should add — can get pushy.

But something about the campaign rubs me the wrong way. From my background, discouraging folks from giving a few coins or a dollar to a poor person seems profoundly un-Christian, or inhumane. And the notion that all panhandlers are going to use the money for booze or drugs is highly presumptive and simplistic.

And Yazzie’s criticism that the group apparently didn’t enlist Navajos before launching the campaign seems spot-on. If you seem to be targeting a specific group in an anti-panhandling effort, you’d better have a few members from that group to oversee it, at least.

Ultimately, the campaign smacks of coming from those who, to quote one of my favorite writers, “can not bear the agony of looking their country in the eye.” For centuries, the country called Native Americans savages, subhuman and slurs too vile to recount here. Its government embarked on a campaign of forced removals, forced assimilation and genocide against them. After the country came to its senses 300 years later and ended the abuse, it wonders why Native Americans suffer from poverty, suicide and substance abuse. And, yes, the parallels to African-Americans are not lost on me.

If people want to reject or help panhandlers, that’s fine — let it be an individual or case-by-case choice. But don’t roll out a campaign that targets a specific group without acknowledging and addressing the roots of the problems.

(Image of Gallup, New Mexico, by Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr)

Rock Cafe is no longer for sale August 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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Rock Cafe owner Dawn Welch announced on her blog Saturday she has removed the “For Sale” signs for her iconic Route 66 restaurant in Stroud, Oklahoma.

The announcement came on the 75th anniversary of the restaurant and her 21st year as owner. After almost two years of a lot of traveling while the Rock Cafe was on the market but still operating, she said she had a “change of heart.”

Several bikers who happened to be at the restaurant during her announcement helped her remove the Realtor’s sign.

She explained on a blog post titled “A Love Letter to Stroud”:

In my 21 years, I’ve reached a several phases of burn out from sheer exhaustion and frustration that would perpetuate extreme decisions to contemplate leaving a successful career for the hope of something new. During my tenure at the Cafe, I was also Assistant Manager of Tanger Outlet Mall, a licensed Oklahoma private investigator & security guard, an American Airlines Flight Attendant, studio manager in Los Angeles, and mentor for new business women in far away lands.  [...]

During my absence from Stroud and the Route 66, there was always much speculation and gossip but these careers and the people attached to them always provided tremendous growth and change.  Running a small business in a small town can be many things from rewarding to suffocating and trusting another to operate it in your leave can be vulnerable and detrimental. I’ve been blessed to have Beverly, who most wanted that damn sign down. She allows me to wander aimlessly because she knows upon return comes the tide of change. Change is something she is most afraid of but also trusts my instincts. [...]

The tide of change has once again arrived and it’s time to remove the sign. Its also the beginning of transformation and growth that Stroud can hang its hat on and tout that we believe in our city and its people. We are committed and stronger then ever.

I’ll be around…. seemingly aimlessly.

Could this be the future??? We hope so.

Welch didn’t mention it, but she also oversaw a complete and arduous rebuilding of the restaurant after a fire in 2008. The blaze destroyed everything but the rock walls and the restaurant’s original grill.

Welch initially became well-known to roadies because of her varied food offerings, which ran from Cajun to German to Oklahoma favorites such as chicken-fried steak. She gained fame when Pixar Animation Studios based her personality on the Sally Carrera character in the 2006 hit animated film “Cars,” and her already-popular restaurant became packed during the summer months.

Welch and her Rock Cafe have appeared in several television programs, including “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and she published a cookbook, “Dollars to Donuts.”

(Image from 2007 of Dawn Welch giving her “Cars” spiel from ElectraSteph; image of the Rock Cafe by Chuck Coker)

East St. Louis courthouse added to National Register August 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Preservation.
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The Melvin Price Federal Building and U.S. courthouse in East St. Louis, Illinois, was added to the National Register of Historic Places effective Aug. 8, according to an email this week from the National Park Service.

The courthouse, which also was a post office, is at 750 Missouri Ave (map here). Missouri Avenue served as Route 66 in East St. Louis during the 1950s, when the highway was rerouted to the 1951 Veterans Bridge, now known as the Martin Luther King Bridge, that connects St. Louis.

The courthouse also is very close to the original 10th Street alignment of Route 66 that went to the 1917 St. Louis Municipal Bridge, now known as the MacArthur Bridge, which has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1981. And old U.S. 40, aka the National Road, runs nearby as well.

The courthouse of gray Indiana limestone reportedly was built in 1910 (other sources say 1909) in Greek Revival, Roman Revival, and Federal styles of architecture. It’s still used as a courthouse and as offices for federal law agencies.

The courthouse was renamed for U.S. Rep. Melvin Price, an East St. Louis native who served in Congress from 1945 to until his death in 1988.

The federal building is the second East St. Louis structure in the last three months to be listed on the National Register. The old Union Trust Bank Co. building was listed in June. Large swaths of East St. Louis contain architectural wonders that await saving or rejuvenation, despite that city’s decay for myriad reasons.

(Image of the courthouse by courthouselover via Flickr)

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