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World’s Largest Catsup Bottle up for sale July 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Preservation.
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The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, a landmark for decades in Collinsville, Illinois, has been put up for sale and faces a cloudy future, according to several St. Louis-area media outlets.

KPLR-TV posted this story today (the video isn’t embeddable). The Metro Independent, based in Collinsville, also had this report today:

Bethel-Eckert Enterprises Inc., owners of the warehouse below the 170-foot water tower, and the tower itself, are attempting to sale the icon voted as one of Time Magazine’s top 50 American roadside attractions in 2010.

Some lucky investor can buy the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle for $200,000, Larry Eckert, co-owner of Bethel-Eckert, said. He will throw in the warehouse and land for an additional $300,000, although he would prefer to sale it all together.

The newspaper said the owners quietly had the site for sale for some time and thought it had a buyer. However, that potential sale fell through.

The city of Collinsville was offered the site as a gift in 1995, and it turned it down. Bethel-Eckert isn’t willing to give it away again.

For obvious tourism reasons, the city wants to keep the landmark where it is. However, it doesn’t have much flexibility in making such a purchase. Instead, the city may look to helping sell it to a buyer who wants to preserve it.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits near the site of a former Brooks Catsup factory. The 100,000-gallon water tower, painted to resemble a Brooks ketchup bottle, was built in 1949.

Brooks eventually moved its operations to Indiana, but the big bottle remained. A local preservation group restored it in 1995, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits about two miles south of the nearest alignment of Route 66 at Beltline Road in Collinsville. But it remains a favorite side trip for Route 66 travelers.

(Hat tip: David Backlin; image of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

A chat with Melba Rigg July 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, Movies, People.
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Melba Rigg, one of the original proprietors of 4 Women on the Route, now Cars on the Route, in Galena, Kansas, explains the region’s Route 66 tie-ins to the Disney-Pixar “Cars” movie and makes some other observations.

This video is part of KC Keefer’s Genuine Route 66 Life video series.

Rigg didn’t always talk that fast. But her delivery sped up as she polished her spiel, and it sorta became its own thing — and why she calls herself “Melba the Mouth.”

But, in all honesty, Rigg is one of the nicest and most interesting characters you’ll meet on Route 66. If run into her, she’s one of the many reasons Route 66 travelers go back home with great memories.

(Image of Melba Rigg in 2011 being interviewed by a Disney film crew for a documentary)

A new hill rises north of Galena July 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Towns.
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The bad news is Galena, Kansas, is home to a new hazardous waste dump north of town just off old Route 66.

The good news is the hill of contaminated soil is covered with native grass, and people who have seen the finished product say it’s not as ugly or as obtrusive as feared.

Renee Charles, who works with the city of Galena and is co-owner of Cars on the Route, emailed photos of the dump. It is near the old Eagle Picher plant, and less than a mile north of the historic Front Street Bridge, part of old Route 66.

She and other Galena residents expressed fear two years ago, when the dump was being planned, it would “affect the view of the thousands of foreign and domestic tourists that have been traveling the Route, it would stick out like a sore thumb. … We have just received our Historic Byway designation and it will not help the intrinsic value of that area.”

But, in a recent email, Charles acknowledged the site, which was finished a few weeks ago, “doesn’t look too bad.”

The contaminated soil came from decades of lead and zinc mining waste in the region. The Galena dump site has a concrete slab underneath to prevent leaching, and is overseen by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment.

In many ways, this almost is a best-case scenario for a lead-mining town such as Galena. The town has been cleaned of much contaminated soil, the dump site is mostly unobtrusive, and downtown seems to be thriving after city officials spruced it up after noticing all the Route 66 tourists. And best of all, Galena isn’t as badly inflicted by piles of chat, or mining waste, as nearby Picher, Oklahoma. Despite millions of dollars in attempted cleanups, Picher never did escape problems caused by mining, and has become a ghost town.

I understand some people want Route 66 to be 2,400 miles of vistas. However, Route 66 is a complex microcosm of America … the beautiful intermingled with the ugly. You will encounter gorgeous areas in the Missouri Ozarks, Oklahoma ranch country, New Mexico mesas, Arizona’s red rocks, and California’s desert and beaches. But Route 66 also has junkyards, abandoned gas stations, stinky oil refineries, dusty feedlots and scenes of grinding poverty.

On Route 66, you’ll enjoy wide swaths of the road. But you also will learn a lot about America as well.

New Goodwill store in Tulsa doubles as a Route 66 souvenir shop July 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Signs.
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The new Goodwill Industries of Tulsa store on Southwest Boulevard (aka Route 66) in southwest Tulsa last week. The opening was a few weeks later than anticipated because of weather-related construction delays.

As we previously reported, the Goodwill store’s design takes a page from Route 66 and Tulsa history with a retro-looking sign in the front and Art Deco architecture with the storefront.

But longtime Route 66 News reader Susan Yates took note — and photos — of something else unexpected — the Goodwill store also is selling Route 66 souvenirs, in addition to its usual stock of used clothing, books and furniture.

Yates noted that it is the only store in west Tulsa where travelers can select from a sizable choice of Route 66 souvenirs. She wrote in an email:

It seems that the board that governs the Goodwill program has figured out a way to offer something to the many Route 66 travelers who pass by every day. It would certainly be the handiest place to find excellent Route 66 books and good quality souvenirs when traveling through Tulsa.

(Photos courtesy of Susan Yates and Laurel Kane)

2014 inductees to Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame announced July 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History, Route 66 Associations, Signs.
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Three inductees — including a previously announced historic bar in Edwardsville — were announced to the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame during the Illinois Route 66 Association’s Motor Tour last month.

Detail on the inductees may be read here. Here’s a brief overview of each:

Hi-Way Cafe and Tavern, Edwardsville — Sicilian immigrants Frank and Dora Catalano opened the combination liquor store, cafe and tavern along Vandalia Street (aka Route 66) in 1934. Their advertising slogan was “Good Cheer with Good Beer.” The business eventually expanded and engulfed the house next door. It was known for friendly service, spaghetti and biscuits-and-gravy. The Catalanos died many years ago, but the tavern recently reopened as the Hi-Way after being closed for two years.

Postville Courthouse, Lincoln — The building, originally erected in 1840 in the village of Postville, was one of the many places in Illinois where a young Abraham Lincoln practiced law. Eventually the county seat was moved, and the building was used a store, post office and residence. In 1929, Henry Ford bought, dismantled and re-erected the courthouse at his Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. However, a replica of the building was built in 1953 on what turned out to be alignment of Route 66.

Nelch and Son Concrete, Springfield — The longtime business is located at 900 S. Ninth St., on a 1930-1940 alignment of Route 66. Not only did the business play a role in constructing roads in the region, but also with many buildings, sidewalks and parking lots. The company was founded by Henry Nelch, the son of German immigrants, in 1896. The company is considered to be the oldest family-owned company in Illinois. The company also has a historic neon sign, which is hopes to restore in the coming years.

(Image of Hi-Way Tavern courtesy of 66Postcards.com; image of Postville Courthouse by OZinOH; image of Nelch and Son sign by the_mel)

Fire destroys Commerce antiques business July 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses.
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The Route 66 Treasure Chest antique store in downtown Commerce, Oklahoma, was destroyed by fire on the Fourth of July, reported KODE-TV in nearby Joplin, Missouri.

It took about two hours Friday night to bring the fire under control. The business was at 501 Commerce St., which is old Route 66 through town.

According to the business’ own Facebook page, it was primarily a flea-market-type operation. According to Internet records, it also once was a Price Rite outlet store and a Hawaiian Delights restaurant.

Via Google Street View, this is what the business looked like before the fire:


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This fire is not good news for downtown Commerce, which has long struggled to keep businesses.

The Commerce Fire Department is investigating, and is urging the public to notify them of other videos or photographs from the fire because they could assist in the probe.

A history of Bama Pies June 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Food, History, Restaurants.
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If you drive through Route 66 in Tulsa, you’ll probably notice a big beige building on the north side of 11th Street with the name Bama Pies.

It is part of The Bama Companies. This well-produced video by the company shows how it expanded from its mom-and-pop roots to becoming a multinational corporation.

Even if you’re a longtime Tulsa resident, I learned quite a few new things about Bama, and you probably will, too.

A History of the Bama Companies from Bama Companies on Vimeo.

It also shows how the growth of Bama is intertwined with another formerly mom-and-pop operation that became a corporate behemoth — McDonald’s.

(An image of one of Bama’s signs by Miles Smith via Flickr)

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