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Roof of Richardson Store building collapses October 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History.
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The roof and awning for the long-closed Richardson Store on Route 66 in Montoya, New Mexico, collapsed in recent weeks, reported an officer with the New Mexico Route 66 Association.

Andy House, president of the association, reports that the collapses probably occurred in August or September, after heavy rains in the region.

Here is an image of the store in June, before the collapse:

And here is what it looks like now:

House wrote in an email:

Unknown also is what disposition will be for it, but most likely it isn’t fit for a restoration, as it has sat closed and deteriorating for several decades now.

It’s also unknown if the owner as yet even knows about the collapse, but I do know a great many Route 66 cruisers stopped there for a photo op, and it’s not too cool a stop now.

The red sandstone store was built in the mid- to late 1920s by G.W. Richardson, an experienced storekeeper from Missouri, although he had a wooden-built store there as early as 1908. The store was set up to supply materials to ranchers, railroad workers and, later, highway construction laborers.

During the 1930s and 1940s, travelers found a cool oasis and something to drink under the tall elms that shaded Richardson Store. Designed to be as cool as possible, with a big portico out front shading the windows and the gas pumps, the store has a recessed front door and high windows designed to let in light and a breeze but not sunlight. The store adjoined a picnic grove and carried groceries and auto supplies for tourists and residents and also stocked saddle blankets, work gloves, feed buckets, and windmill parts for local ranchers. Like other local stores of the period, Richardson’s place was also a community meeting spot, complete with post office boxes and a postal service window. The portico is painted white to reflect the sunlight, as is the west side of the building, where bold, if faded stenciled letters read “Richardson Store.”

The store eventually was abandoned — according to one source, the mid-1970s — after the construction of Interstate 40 during the late 1950s. Richardson Store was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

It’s been a rough summer for parts of Route 66 in the Southwest. First, flooding tore up roadway and bridges in the Mojave Desert. And now this.

(Images courtesy of Andy House)

Stories sought about certain Albuquerque businesses October 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, History, Signs, Towns.
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Two authors are seeking stories about several long-gone businesses along Route 66 in Albuquerque that used Zeon Corporation-designed signs to attract customers, according to a story in the Albuquerque Journal.

University of New Mexico professors Ellen Babcock and Mark C. Childs are working on a book titled “The Zeon Files” that will be published UNM Press late next year.

Zeon Corp. also was known as Electrical Products of New Mexico, and drawings from that company will be included in the book.

The Journal reported:

“We have about 70 pieces of work that we’re finding the stories behind,” Babcock said. “This was an amazing time for sign productions and a lot of the businesses would up the ante with their eye-catching designs.” [...]

Babcock said that, in the early 1970s, the city moved in a different direction and changed the ordinance for sign heights.

“It kind of squashed the exuberance of it all,” she said. “But looking at the drawings, you can see all the hard work and detail that went into each sign.” [...]

“We’re hoping to draw the people out and get a conversation started about the signs,” she said. “It was an interesting time to drive down Central and see all of these signs. Now they are gone and we want to preserve the stories.”

Among the businesses the duo needs stories from are Star Florist, Roadrunner Coffee Shop, Bimbo’s Drive Inn, Paris Shoe Shop and Eddie’s Inferno Cocktail Lounge.

Several examples of the Zeon Corp.’s blueprints for the signs can be seen here.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque also had a story:

Childs can be contacted through mchilds(at)unm(dot)edu and Babcock at ebabcock(at)unm(dot)edu.

(Excerpted Zeon Corp. drawing of Eddie’s Inferno Cocktail Lounge sign via Friends of the Orphan Signs)

Former trooper tells about experiences in Mojave Desert October 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People.

A former officer with the California Highway Patrol has published a book about his experiences during the 1940s in the Mojave Desert — much of it on Route 66 — in a memoir.

L.A. “Buzz” Banks has published “Policing the Mojave Desert,” mining his stories from the time the highway patrol assigned him to Victorville, California, as a traffic-control officer in 1941.

According to a news release Monday from the publisher, Lulu:

Banks joined the CHP at a time when officers were expected to be on their own – resources were limited, technical support was virtually nonexistent, and officers relied on their common sense and their own judgment.

This collection of 30 vignettes recounts memorable, true incidents from Banks’ early experiences as a CHP officer. He honed his writing skills writing accident reports, his diary and published magazine articles. Recognizing the value of his unique experiences, he set out to share them in this unique new book.

Encounters that emerge in “Policing the Old Mojave Desert,” introduce readers to a famous WWII general, an iconic test pilot, a deranged doctor, a bizarre German spy, a sharpshooting sheriff and a kind baker, to name a few.

The book is available as an e-book for Nook e-readers or apps for $2.99. The book also comes in a Kindle version. A paperback version ranges from $10 to $12.

New road would partly restore old section of Route 66 October 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History, Maps.
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Rolla, Missouri

The Phelps County commissioners may apply for a grant to build a north outer road near Interstate 44 that would partially restore an old section of Route 66 near Rolla, Missouri, according to The Leader Journal newspaper in St. James, Missouri.

The new section of road would run between U.S. 63 and Missouri Highway V. The board would apply for $452,000 through the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Community Development Block Grant program. Phelps County would give $131,000 and the City of Rolla another $37,500. If the county gets the grant, it would take about 21 months to build the road.

A key excerpt from the story:

Commissioners have stated that a new north outer road would improve driver safety, alleviate traffic through residential neighborhoods in the Northwye area, reduce heavy truck traffic on county roads, open the area for development, improve the appearance of the area and restore the original historic Route 66 path.

Currently, a north outer road starts at Highway V and turns into County Road 2020. From there, travelers can access Highway 63 via County Road 2000.

A preliminary drawing created by Hargis shows that the new outer road would run parallel to I-44 from where the state maintenance ends west of Route V to the east end of County Road 2000.

It turns out that the new road does not restore the original Route 66 in that part of the county. I asked Jerry McClanahan, a Route 66 researcher and author of the “Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers” guidebook to check into it. In short, he found the county’s proposed new road would restore a late 1940s or 1950s section of Route 66, not the original alignment.

The original section of Route 66 between U.S. 63 and Highway V follows what now is County Road 2020 (see Google Maps screen capture above). That section remains accessible today, and is marked as Historic U.S. 66 locally.

The proposed north outer road, McClanahan says, would reconnect a dead end of County Road 2000, which is the updated alignment of Route 66, circa 1950 (see screen shot of Google Maps above). That’s about 2,000 feet of new road. But the real part of that remains buried under I-44.

McClanahan sent me documentation from original maps from those eras to back his assertions.

So the county board thought it was doing a good deed for Route 66 travelers. It turns out it was still good — just not as good as they apparently thought it was.

(Image of a section of Route 66 in Rolla, Missouri, by Dustin Holmes via Flickr)

A visit to the Ariston Cafe October 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People, Restaurants.
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Continuing with his Genuine Route 66 Life video series, KC Keefer sat down with Paul Adam, a third-generation manager for the historic Ariston Cafe on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois.

This video comes out during the restaurant’s 90th anniversary. It started a couple of years before Route 66 existed in Carlinville, Illinois, which wound up on the original alignment of the Mother Road in that region. The Ariston moved to Litchfield in 1935, a few years after Route 66 was moved there.

If you do go to the Ariston, try to snag one of the old-school wooden booths. If those are full, the old-school counter seats will do.

It’s a genuine landmark in central Illinois that’s found favor with locals and tourists.

(Image of the Ariston Cafe by Alan Berning via Flickr)

Voices of Tulsa October 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Movies, Towns.
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“Route 66: The Mother Road” author and Route 66 Alliance co-founder alerted me to this new video made for the Tulsa Historical Society.

Voices of History from Kirkpatrick&Kinslow Productions on Vimeo.

An explanation of the video by its creator, Kirkpatrick & Kinslow Productions:

“Voices of History” is a branding film from Kirkpatrick & Kinslow Productions, developed for the Tulsa Historical Society. The film showcases a 3rd grade curriculum created & implemented by the organization. The film also profiles pivotal points in Tulsa’s history, set against the backdrop of Tulsa’s historic Council Oak Tree.

To help tell the story, Producer Russ Kirkpatrick worked closely with THS Executive Director Michelle Place and writers Bond Love and Michael Wallis to create messaging that was beautifully put to film by Director Bunee Tomlinson & Director of Photography Sam Calvin.

The branding project is the first of two films being produced by Kirkpatrick & Kinslow Productions with the Tulsa Historical Society. The second is an untitled feature length documentary, produced for a national TV audience, that will answer the important question of why history is important.

The feature-length film is a good idea. I was thinking for some time — especially while reading a new book about Cyrus Avery — that Tulsa’s history especially would make for a very good Ken Burns-type documentary.

Solutions for Joplin’s troubled golf course October 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Sports.
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A few days ago, the Joplin Globe published a long article about the financial issue about the city-owned Schifferdecker Golf Course, which is on Route 66 on the west side of Joplin, Missouri.

The golf course runs an annual deficit of about $140,000 a year, and it draws about half the users it did a decade ago. It’s still booking about 20,000 rounds a year, but the course is facing a lot of imminent issues with aging golf carts and mowing equipment. And revenues aren’t robust because the city tries to keep the green fees low.

One of the possible solutions is hiring a golf pro, which will cost a little more money but will likely generate a lot more revenue, including some from the PGA. I’ve read about other struggling golf courses improve cash flow by doing this.

However, one of the things that really stick out about Schifferdecker Golf Course is this:

It is the second oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River, and it is located on Route 66.

A lot of big names from the game’s golden era have played there.

One of Garrie’s favorite stories is about Ky Laffoon, who is said to have won a $50 bet against a golfer who didn’t recognize Laffoon.

Byron Nelson, Patty Berg, Hale Irwin and Payne Stewart have also been on Joplin’s local links.
Flatt recommended the city tout the course’s history to promote it as a place to play.

I’ve been interested in Route 66 for more than 15 years, and this is the first I’ve heard about Schifferdecker’s history or those Hall-of-Famers who’ve played there. No such information is on the course’s website.

Avid golfers have a good sense of history about their sport. They love to play at places such as Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, where Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods won major championships. Schifferdecker doesn’t have that major-championship allure, of course, but it will would be cool to play on the course where Irwin — who grew up in nearby Baxter Springs, Kansas — cut his teeth.

And the notion of tourists going on a Route 66 tour of golf courses has appeal. Publications such as Golf Digest and a smattering of websites — such as this one — have taken that angle over the years.

But on its history, it seems the city of Joplin and Schifferdecker Golf Course are missing a big opportunity. They had better get on it.

(Image of Schifferdecker Golf Course entrance by Corliss Jahner via Flickr)

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