jump to navigation

Kickstarter fundraiser launched to restore sign August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

The new owners of Cindy’s Eagle Rock Restaurant in Los Angeles have begun a Kickstarter campaign to preserve the historic diner’s vintage sign, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Monique King and Paul Rosenbluh bought the restaurant and reopened it in April. And, so far, they seem to be good stewards:

They’ve kept the original booths, wallpaper and countertops inside, from when the diner opened in 1948, but King says the sign outside is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the mid-century landmark.

“We felt like the luckiest people in the whole universe when we got it,” King said. “It’s a beautiful sign, it’s vintage, original and there is just something so important about preserving it and taking it away from being just a big pigeon roost.”

King and Rosenbluh started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $16,250 they say is needed to restore the sign. The two are hoping to fix the rusted metal, attach a new neon “open” sign, structurally reinforce the sign and replace the sign’s letters.

King reiterated the restaurant is keeping the sign, but it simply doesn’t have the money now to do it properly. If enough people help out, the owners will hire a sign preservationist to do it up right.

Here’s the campaign, with all the goodies detailed:

(Hat tip to Scott Piotrowski; image of the Cindy’s sign by Howard F. via Flickr)

New statues coming to Route 66 in Illinois August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History.
Tags: ,
add a comment

A series of new statues and wayside kiosks will be erected in nine towns along Route 66 in Illinois, according to a news release.

The Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway project was paid for by grants from National Scenic Byway Program and the Illinois Office of Tourism. The new kiosks and statues add to the 31 wayside exhibits and 14 “experience hubs” already up on the Mother Road.

Two-dimensional iron structures, called “shadow statues,” show a scene from Route 66. They are:

  • Godley: Miner and Mule – An interpretation of strip-mining coal operations in Braidwood, Coal City, Carbon Hill, Diamond, and Godley until the mid-1970s.
  • Elwood: Rosie the Riveter – A symbol of the female worker during World War II at the Elwood Arsenal factory.
  • Pontiac: Motorcycle Police – At the historic Illinois State Police headquarters building, the statue tells of the early days of the Illinois State Police motorcycle patrol (pictured above).
  • McLean: Dixie Gas Attendant – It interprets Illinois’ oldest truck stop, Dixie Truckers Home, that opened in 1928. It also features the McLean railroad depot.
  • Elkhart: Shirley Temple – It tells the story of actress Shirley Temple’s visit to the House by the Side of the Road Cafe in 1938.
  • Sherman: Wayside Park – It depicts a picnic during Route 66′s heyday at one of its surviving wayside parks.
  • Gillespie: Miner – Another coal-mining town, it proved crucial to the development of labor unions.
  • Benld: Coliseum Ballroom Dancers – The biggest dance floor between Chicago and St. Louis attracted large crowds, many of them top-name performers. The Coliseum burned down in 2011.
  • Staunton: Illinois Traction System – Electrified railways connected travelers before Route 66 became a major highway. The rail lines were phased out by the mid-1950s.

(Image of the Motorcycle Police statue that will be at the historic Illinois State Police headquarters on Route 66 in Pontiac, Illinois)

“Return to Route 66″ August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

A reader tipped me off about Kingman, Arizona, resident Chris Commisso, who wrote this song and shot the video on the Mother Road in Kingman.

It seems to be a mix of jazz, hip-hop and 1960s lounge. I like it a lot.

Commisso has his own YouTube channel here. His official website is here.

Los Angeles and Woody Guthrie August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Music, Towns.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Folk singer Woody Guthrie‘s many links to Route 66 have been long documented.

However, this excellent clip by filmmaker Aric Allen shows that Los Angeles played a crucial role in Guthrie’s road to fame in 1937.

Amazingly, many of the places where Guthrie hung around in L.A. still exist, as this film shows.

(Image of Woody Guthrie by James Ratcliffe via Flickr)

How did the Kingman Route 66 festival do? August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

The answer: Pretty well; thanks for asking.

The town of Kingman, Arizona, hosted the annual International Route 66 Festival for the first time last weekend. I’ve cobbled together some highlights from the event:

  • Estimated attendance, according to the Kingman Daily Miner newspaper, was 6,000, which was in line with forecasts.
  • About 60 percent of festival attendees were out-of-towners.
  • Businesses reported a sizable increase in sales over the weekend.
  • More than 1,000 went into Beale Celebrations downtown to check the work of Route 66 authors, artists, and collectors. A good roundup about it may be found here.
  • General chatter from other Route 66 and Kingman Internet groups was very positive for the festival.
  • Nearly 200 people attended the Route 66 Crossroads conference of speakers Friday and Saturday at Mohave County Administration Building. It also totaled 3,000 hits on YouTube’s live stream on Friday. The speeches are archived on YouTube here and here.
  • Hundreds were at Locomotive Park for concerts, including by the Route 66-themed Road Crew from Tennessee.
  • About 500 attended a sock hop and drive-in movie at the fairgrounds.
  • The Hilltop Motel in Kingman was honored by the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for its preservation efforts.
  • The 2015 International Route 66 Festival will be hosted by Edwardsville, Illinois, in late October, coinciding with the city’s popular Halloween festivities. (Clarification: Route 66 Alliance co-founder Michael Wallis informs me the Edwardsville event hasn’t yet officially been named as a host, but the group soon will be negotiating with the city for that purpose.)

“Route 66: The Road Ahead” report released August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, Preservation.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

The World Monuments Fund this month released its report on the “Route 66: The Road Ahead” roundtable held in November at Anaheim, California, that involved many movers and shakers of the Route 66 community.

The 67-page Acrobat document can be read in its entirety here. I commend it to your attention.

Much of the report dovetails from the Route 66 Economic Impact Study (you can read the summary here). But the roundtable produced its own highlights:

  • Stakeholders see an urgency — and an opportunity — with the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program expiring in 2019 and Route 66′s centennial in 2026. The implication is the Route 66 community needs a central organization that can dole out preservation grants much as the NPS program does now.
  • Vintage motels can tap into a niche market of so-called “heritage tourists” and those who want a vintage-Route 66 experience.
  • A missed opportunity is attracting a growing number of Hispanics — especially since the proportion of such populations on the Mother Road is twice as high as the national average. Stakeholders said Route 66 also needs to attract other minorities, such as American Indians — which have a long history with the highway in the Southwest — and African-Americans.
  • Roundtable participants discussed the possible need of Route 66 getting a permanent federal designation, such as a National Historic Trail. More about that idea can be read here.
  • President Obama has set a goal of 100 million international visitors in the United States annually by 2021. The U.S. market share of spending by international travelers dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent from 2000 to 2010 — presumably from the effects of 9/11.
  • Preservation of vintage roadways and bridges often is overlooked, but must be considered for the benefit of heritage tourists.
  • Landscape protection is the third-most important aspect for Route 66 travelers. Route 66′s open spaces are under threat from wind farms, solar farms, oil and gas exploration, cell towers and urban development.
  • Route 66 will need to attract the post-baby boom generation, which has no memories of U.S. 66 and less spending money than their forebears. However, the movie “Cars” and smartphones have provided a way to tap into that market.

And the report saw fit to print the entire text of a speech by the mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, Bob Russell. He told a lot of interesting things about how Route 66 benefits his town, and they may prove applicable to your town as well:

As the mayor of a community that is located on the route, I have been heavily involved in the promotion of Route 66. It is obvious to me that the only way that our community, and all the communities along the road, will be able to continue to support the route is to look at it as an economic development opportunity. Even though the City of Pontiac has had great success in this endeavor, there is continuing resistance from taxpayers, and understandably so in this economy. It is very difficult for our residents to understand how tourism can benefit our city when they live on streets that are in need of repair. Our passion alone will not be enough to be make this a successful endeavor. Our state and federal governments are poised to continue cutting the funds that we receive from them to provide the necessary day to day services that our residents expect. In light of this, it has forced us in Pontiac to take our fate into our own hands. The only available option for us has been the promotion of tourism that Route 66 has afforded.

In an economic era when many of the communities in Illinois are boarding up their storefronts, our city has achieved almost 100% occupancy in our downtown business district. The Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac has created opportunities for other museums to locate to the city, which in turn has convinced restaurant and retail store owners, along with bed and breakfast operators, to move their operations here. I have had to explain to residents for several years now that you do not attract retail stores until you have the foot traffic. Now we have the foot traffic and that indeed has attracted new retail stores, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. All of the Route 66 development must create additional sales tax and provide for more jobs. Without these two components, we will not be successful in the continued promotion and preservation of Route 66.

The one benefit that we had not anticipated is the investment of wealthy entrepreneurs who visit our city from other countries. The majority of the Route 66 visitors from European and Asian countries are fairly well off financially, and they still view the U.S. as one of the best opportunities for investing their money. As such, we are promoting the availability of land the city owns along our interstate and state highways as good locations for them to invest their money to start new businesses. We have been promoting this idea for the last 25 years with some success, but now have a renewed interest from our Route 66 visitors. The goal of this endeavor is the same as our retail development, and that is to create jobs and tax revenue.

The only promise I made to our residents when they asked me to serve as their mayor was that while I am in office, there will be no increase in our real estate taxes. The development of Route 66 tourism will enable me to keep that promise through the end of my term. The other somewhat hidden components that the Route 66 redevelopment has provided for the City of Pontiac is quality of life and community pride. The opening of new restaurants and shops in our downtown has provided our residents with wonderful places for them to get together with old friends to have a great meal and to just sit and chat with one another and then take a leisurely stroll around from shop to shop. It is always fun for me to see our local residents showing their friends or family around our city and seeing the pride that they have in doing so. Without the development of the Route 66 tourism, I have no doubt that our city would look tired and worn, as so many other communities do.

To make tourism work is not an easy task. The first obstacle for many communities is to get the elected officials to buy into the idea. The majority of them want to be able to see tangible results in a very short period of time. This is nearly impossible to provide, first, because it takes many years to develop, and second, because it is very difficult to quantify. For the City of Pontiac to make this work, the elected officials, our volunteers, our City Administrator, our Department Head, and all of our employees have all had to go that “extra mile.” All of our museum buildings are owned or leased by the city and we are in partnership with all the museum operators. We get a percentage of their income to offset our expenses. There have been thousands of volunteer hours provided by all of the above groups to get the museums ready and to keep them staffed. Some of the elected officials volunteer one to two days a week at the museums and some of our residents volunteer at least two to three days a week in helping to curate the museums. I have personally worn out a couple pairs of shoes over the last few years by spending so much time greeting all of our visitors and giving personal tours to various groups. If a municipality wants to be successful in developing tourism, they must put together a very dedicated team that is willing to work tirelessly to get it off the ground. Is it all worth it?

The answer is yes. The results for our city have been more than I, or anyone involved, could have ever imagined. The word that I keep hearing used in describing our community is “energy.” Many of our visitors tell me that there seems to be a lot of energy here, and there is. The people who love their community will put in as much energy as it takes to make their community a better place to live. I believe that we have just seen the beginning of the development of Route 66 tourism as an economic development tool. So many people from so many countries are just learning about it, and I am continually being told by our visitors that everyone from their country wants to make the trip.

We now have the opportunity as communities to grasp it by working together to promote it. I believe the strategic roundtable that World Monuments Fund sponsored was the best opportunity we have had to make this happen. Let’s do it!

BLM wants man to remove veterans memorial August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People.
Tags: ,
2 comments

A man who finished a small memorial to U.S. veterans three years ago just off Oatman Road (aka Route 66) near Oatman, Arizona, has been ordered to remove it by an official with the Bureau of Land Management, reported the Mohave Valley Daily News.

The veterans’ memorial is reached by a series of stone stairs leading up to two stone pedestals, one of which houses two flags — a solar-powered light illuminates the flags at night — and the other which holds the remains of a destroyed donation box Hicks cemented in place.

Over the past four years, the memorial has attracted traffic by word of mouth and on Internet sites such as the Arizona Office of Tourism and gokingman.com. Visitors post photos of their trip to the memorial on Flickr, Pinterest and their own blogs. Motorcycle clubs, veterans groups and individual travelers of Route 66 share directions to get to the structure, and businesses in Oatman sport photos of its construction.

But now the BLM has ordered the memorial off the site and onto private property, even though the agency knew about it when Hicks was still building it four years ago.

Hicks refused, and he’s probably got a good case on why he can — a recent battle over a war memorial in the Mojave National Preserve ended with the U.S. Supreme Court allowing it. Also, the newspaper explained:

Agencies like the BLM are required by law to balance the use of public lands — whether for activities like mining, maintaining roads and trails for recreation or providing opportunities for hunting and fishing — along with conserving land and water for wildlife and for the enjoyment of future generations.

The question of whether the agencies always find the right balance is an open one. They are, however, bound by laws in place to protect both the present and future needs of public interest and the natural resources the agencies manage.

“While the memorial is for veterans, it is important for all concerned to know that the Bureau of Land Management Kingman Field Office means no disrespect to veterans and fully understand that at times the public would like to construct a memorial or shrine to offer homage to those that have given their lives for the freedoms we all enjoy,” said Sanchez. “This is precisely why Congress approves memorials that represent the sentiments of this country for all our men and women in uniform.”

Individuals considering building a structure on BLM land would need to go to the BLM office with a proposal and apply for an authorization, said Sanchez. Such structures are guided by a federal land use permit under 43 Code of Federal Regulations 2920.

A bartender at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman has started a petition to stop the memorial’s destruction or movement. About 120 people had signed when the article was published, and more undoubtedly have been added to the list.

If I were the BLM, I never would have filed the objection. It’s a sincere, small and tasteful monument, and it’s earned respect from locals and tourism agencies. Hicks owns a sizable advantage of legal precedent. Even if he wanted to move it the stone and concrete structure, Hicks says his health now is too poor to do so.

And the BLM didn’t bother to check into the memorial when Hicks was building it four years ago. At the least, this seems like a “snooze, you lose” for the feds.

For the sake of good public relations and common sense, the BLM ought to quietly and promptly issue a press release allowing Hicks to keep his veterans monument and be done with it. Petty stuff like the current situation enlarges the already-large pile of stuff that gives the federal government a bad name.

(Image of the veterans memorial by Philip Lo Photography)

%d bloggers like this: