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Class of 2014 for Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame announced September 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Events, Museums, People, Route 66 Associations.
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Author Marian Clark of Tulsa and the late J.M. Davis of Claremore will be inducted Oct. 18 into the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, according to a release from the Oklahoma Route 66 Association.

The ceremony is slated for 2 p.m. and will be free to the public. A plaque for each winner will be placed on the Wall of Honor at the museum. An association panel selects two winners — one living and one dead — from a list of nominations every two years.

Marian Clark

Clark is most famous for writing cookbooks, using recipes from Route 66 restaurants or facsimiles of dishes from long-gone eateries, including “The Route 66 Cookbook” and “Hogs on 66.”

Clark is a native of the Texas Panhandle but has lived in Tulsa for more than 30 years. She resides a few blocks from the Mother Road, which kindled her interest in the highway.

Davis managed the Mason Hotel in Claremore, but became famous internationally for his enormous gun and arms collection and the museum that eventually was built to house it, the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum that opened on Route 66 in Claremore in 1969. Davis died in 1973 and was buried on the museum grounds.

The ceremony next month also will mark the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit Oklahoma Route 66 Association, which aims to “promote, enhance, perpetuate, encourage the development of tourism, economic opportunities, and historic resources and landmarks along Oklahoma’s section of Route 66.”

Southwest Missouri county will dedicate three historic sites September 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, Motels, Preservation, Signs.
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The Greene County Historic Sites Board on Saturday will dedicate three locations west of Springfield, Missouri, along Route 66 as historic sites, reported the Springfield News-Leader.

One of the ceremonies will include a lightning ceremony for a restored neon sign at a former tourist cabin complex.

The sites are:

  • Barnes Town & Country, 8240 W. Highway 266, formerly known as the Barnes General Store.
  • Main Street Feeds, 8270 W. Highway 266, formerly known as Barnes Feed Mill.
  • R&S Memorial Decorations, 9323 W. Highway 266, formerly known as Graystone Heights Modern Cabins, built in 1935. The ceremony will include a lighting ceremony for the restoration of the cabins’ original sign between 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday. You can see an image of the restored sign here.

Other historic sites along Route 66 in that area are Bennett one-room school, Clearwater Angus Farm, Yeakley Chapel, and the ghost town of Plano.

R&S owners John and Alexa Schweke, who are restoring at least two of the cabins, said they were inspired by the movie “Cars”:

In fact, seeing that movie is what got him started thinking about the importance of his property’s history, including the demise of little businesses like Graystone Heights after interstates replaced Route 66.

“It didn’t really hit me and hit my heart until I saw that movie,” he said.

Two years ago, the Schwekes joined the Route 66 Association and got the ball rolling for their property’s designation as a Greene County Historic Landmark and for restoration of the original sign.

All of those sites are within a short drive of each other, on a nice stretch of old 66 that veers away from the interstate and provides a glimpse of the past.

UPDATE 9/15/2014: Swa Frantzen, owner of the first Route 66 site on the Internet, happened to be traveling in the region that weekend and snapped this photo of the restored Graystone Heights Modern Cabins sign:

(Image of Greystone Heights Modern Cabins courtesy of 66Postcards.com)

Electric vehicle museum opens in Kingman September 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Museums, Preservation, Vehicles.
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The exhibit of electric vehicles at the Powerhouse Visitors Center on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona, during the International Route 66 Festival last month has become a permanent museum to EVs, with more vehicles coming soon.

According to a story on EV News Report, the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation‘s exhibit was visited by people from 28 states and 20 countries. It was decided to make the exhibit a permanent museum, called the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum.

Route 66 enthusiast Jim Hinckley said by email that more EVs will arrive in the coming months, and the foundation within the next few years will check whether a larger site for the museum is needed.

The foundation’s executive director, Roderick Wilde, credited Hinckley and Kingman city manager John Dougherty for the exhibit’s success and their enthusiasm for a museum. According to the EV News Report:

Jim Dougherty said the EV display was an exciting addition to the Powerhouse complex and that the city looks forward to further cooperation with the HEVF. Josh Nobel, Executive Director of Tourism, for Kingman stated: “The Route 66 Festival provided a suitable platform for the historic electric vehicle symposium, but it became evident the display was solid on it’s own.”

There was a very wide range of vehicles displayed from 1909 to the present, the oldest being a 1909 Ellwell-Parker baggage tug owned by Bob Oldfather, HEVFs Archivist. This is only one of two known to exist in the world. The newest EV was a sleek Tesla Model S graciously displayed during the opening day by its owner, Tudor Melville. John Wayland, another HEVF board member, brought his famous street legal electric drag car, “The White Zombie” all the way from Portland, Oregon. Also on display was the world’s first electric street rod, built by Wilde Evolutions in Jerome, Arizona back in 1995. Roderick Wilde brought his 1930 Detroit Electric and several US made electric micro cars which were built in California in the 1940s to 1960s. [...]

The HEVF plans to add several new vehicles to the Kingman display in the coming months, including a 1912 CT electric commercial truck from Bob Oldfather’s extensive collection. You have may have heard of duallys, but this serious electric truck has triple-wide solid rubber tires front and rear mounted on wooden spoke wheels. The driver sits ten feet in the air in the cab … it’s a real monster! Also coming in October will be our newest acquisition, a ‘Bombardier’ preproduction neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) which the Canadian company used in lobbying activities to get the US federal government to enact NEV legislation that we now enjoy today. This vehicle is being donated to the foundation by Skip Dunn, the President of the Northern New Mexico Electric Vehicle Association.

Incidentally, the Powerhouse facility also has a very nice Route 66 museum on the second floor.

(Image of John Wayland in “White Zombie” electric vehicle dragster at the entrance to the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum; photo by J.Bills via Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation)

Annual Cruise-In at The Mill slated for Saturday September 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Museums, Preservation, Restaurants, Signs, Vehicles.
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The annual Mill Car Cruise-In classic-car show will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the landmark but long-closed Route 66 restaurant in Lincoln, Illinois. The event also serves as a fundraiser in ongoing efforts to preserve The Mill.

Geoff Ladd, former leader of Logan County Tourism, a Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County board member and a key figure in The Mill’s preservation, sent along a news release about the event that contains intriguing news, including that the landmark is being considered for use as a recording studio, as well as a local museum.

Two bands — The Runner Ups and The Howell — will perform at The Mill from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Ladd explained the bands’ performances won’t be just for entertainment:

“We’re trying out some ideas to multi-purpose the facility here at The Mill, while the restoration process continues. We’ll run a Vendor Market with a variety of flea market items, crafts, specialty products and antiques on a monthly basis from May-October, headed up by our new member, Andrea Dykman. We’re also having these bands play to test the waters on whether the building would be good acoustically as a possible sound studio.”

An old wooden structure such as The Mill may very well be ideal for recording purposes, so the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds on first blush.

The vendor market will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Other nuggets of information:

  • The group is planning a crowdsourcing campaign soon to help raise the remaining estimated $50,000 to finish restoring The Mill.
  • “Thanks to a very special anonymous donation, we will also have on sale made-in-the-USA T-shirts with our brand-new Mill on 66 logo on them,” Ladd said. Other collectibles also will be on sale Saturday to raise funds.
  • The City of Lincoln plans to bring The Tropics restaurant neon sign to The Mill for a photo ops. The city took down the historic sign a few months ago and plans to eventually restore it.
  • The event will be dedicated to the late Mike Fak, who died recently. Fak was the preservation group’s treasurer and helped restore the wood floors on the restaurant’s first floor.
  • Tours of The Mill will be available that day.
  • The event includes a special lunch by Hallie’s Restaurant of Lincoln, which is owned by a descendant of the family that owned The Mill during its heyday.

The Mill, which featured a Dutch-inspired design and a turning windmill, opened on U.S. 66 in 1929. The restaurant fell into decline during the 1980s and closed in 1996. It appeared in 2006 the ramshackle restaurant would be razed, but Ladd and other area preservationists intervened and formed a resurrection plan for the landmark. The Mill is on the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame, and members of the Illinois Route 66 Association has done several big renovation projects for it.

More information about The Mill and Saturday’s event can be found at SaveTheMillOnRoute66.com. The webpage also has a PayPal donation button; the group is a tax-exempt nonprofit.

(Image of The Mill courtesy of Geoff Ladd)

A night at the opera at the pier September 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Music.
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The Santa Monica Pier on Sept. 17 is hosting a free big-screen broadcast of LA Opera’s production of Verdi’s famed “La Traviata.”

It’s not  like seeing an opera live at the venue, but the idyllic scene of a setting sun, ocean breezes and the surf will be a nice compensation, I’m sure.

More about the production:

The live broadcast will be captured by nine cameras at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and shown simultaneously on a large LED screen on the Santa Monica Pier deck. [..]

Prepared food picnics are encouraged. Bring your own seating: blankets, low lawn seats, and cushions. We suggest warm clothing and solid footwear as the surface of the pier can be unstable. We also suggest you bring CASH for parking, beer garden, and food vendors. [...]

Grilling or cooking is prohibited. Avoid large coolers (handheld coolers are OK, but subject to search). No canopies or tents or sun umbrellas. Guests may not bring alcoholic beverages onto the pier (though you may purchase at the beer garden).

Sorry, no pets. Smoking is not permitted on the pier.

Although the telecast on the pier is free, it’s strongly encouraged you reserve advance tickets online for a $1 fee so you can avoid long lines before the show. You also can get the free tickets from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office at 135 N. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles. Leftover tickets will be available to walk-ups at the pier the evening of the show.

I saw a film version of “La Traviata” starring Placido Domingo years ago, and can attest it’s an entertaining opera. And I’m not even an opera buff.

The Santa Monica Pier long has been known as the traditional western endpoint of Route 66, although the true terminus sits at a more mundane intersection about a mile away at Lincoln and Olympic in Santa Monica.

(Hat tip to Jim Farber; image of the Santa Monica Pier entrance by David Seibold via Flickr)

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

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns.
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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.
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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!

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