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Severe storm damages Burger Hut in Needles August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Weather.
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A severe storm that caused up to $5 million in damage to the Needles, California, included the historic Burger Hut restaurant along Route 66.

The Needles Daily Star had a roundup about the Aug. 12 storm, including the Burger Hut:

Ana Johnson, owner of The Burger Hut, said she was glad no one was hurt. She had finished with a customer when the storm struck about 4 p.m.

Repairs will take time, she said. The restaurant is insured but to evaluate the damage and possibly make repairs will take time.

There was significant damage to the plumbing and to the electrical system, she said. There is a piece of the roof missing and water damage inside.

Reopening will be a wait and see proposition, she said. It’s unknown what the cost is and she’s unsure of what will happen.

The Los Angeles Times also reported the closed Overland Inn motel also lost its roof during the storm. At least two cars were swept off the road by floodwaters and into the Colorado River. Fortunately, the motorists were rescued.

The Star reported 2.2 inches of rain fell during the storm, which is Noah-like proportions for such a desert town. Straight-line winds, estimated at 60 mph, also knocked over more than 50 power poles and damaged other businesses.

I was in Needles days after the storm. Most of the damage had been cleaned up, but a railroad underpass near downtown still contained several feet of water and remained closed to traffic.

The Burger Hut was built in 1957 by Lee McCary. It was renamed Irene’s Burger Hut, then Irene’s Drive-In, before reverting to its original name.

A visit to the Snow Cap Drive-In August 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People, Restaurants.
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Here’s a recent visit to the historic Snow Cap Drive-In restaurant that’s graced Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona, for more than 60 years.

Founder Juan Delgadillo died 10 years ago, but it’s apparent from this clip his family is keeping it going quite well.

For those who never met Juan, here he is in 1996, in all his irreverent glory.

(Image of the Snow Cap Drive-In by Brett Kiger via Flickr)

Springfield erects new welcome sign, Red’s Giant Hamburg replica August 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Restaurants, Signs.
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On Friday, right when the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival was kicking off, the city of Springfield, Missouri, showed off its new Route 66-themed welcome sign and a replica of the long-gone Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant sign at the newly christened Route 66 Roadside Park.

The Springfield News-Leader had some details about the park:

Plans for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park include incorporating memories of local Route 66 landmarks, sculptures, a filling station replica, a motor court sign replica and a history plaza. The first phase of the park includes the replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign, a park driveway and parallel parking, landscaping and sidewalk improvements along College Street. [...]

The initial streetscape cost $423,000, including $112,000 for utilities, and was paid for using ¼ cent capital improvement sales tax funding. The Red’s Giant Hamburg sign was funded with donations of more than $15,000, raised through the local crowdfunding company www.Crowdit.com.

The estimated cost for the park altogether is about $1 million, according to Rognstad. However, with additional ideas popping up, that could run higher, city leaders say.

To complete the park and other improvements included in a vision plan, the city must leverage its investment in the project with private donations and other sources of funding. A larger plan to revitalize historic Route 66 through other parts of Springfield could roll out in phases, as the city gauges interest and potential funding.

The KY3 station filed this report about why Springfield is suddenly embracing Route 66 — economic opportunity.

And KY3 posted this bonus — a report from 1984 when Red’s Giant Hamburg closed when the Chaneys retired.

The man behind Waylan’s Ku-Ku August 4, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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The Joplin Globe published a profile on Gene Waylan, the longtime owner and grill operator of the Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger restaurant along Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma.

What many people don’t know is the Ku-Ku is the last one of a chain that once boasted 200 restaurants across the Midwest during the 1960s. And the primary reason the restaurant has survived is Waylan himself, who’s owned it since 1973.

While other restaurants have come and gone on Miami’s two-mile long stretch of Route 66, he has continued to flourish thanks to a dedicated work ethic and community involvement that has caught the eye of major media throughout the country.

“I’ve been featured on the Food Channel. I’ve been in the New York Times and the New York Post,” Waylan said. “I’ve got a lot of people who have stopped in because they’ve seen me on television and they want to meet me. I always come out and say hi because that means a lot to me that they stopped here.” [...]

“We’re a made-to-order place and that means putting the kind of care into what people ask you for,” Waylan said. “Today, we are really busy behind here, but the other places aren’t. That’s because people want to come here because they know things are going to be done right. I’ll apologize to people when they come through when they know they have had to wait a little longer than I like, but a lot of times they are happy to wait because they know they are getting quality from me.”

Waylan closes his place only a few times for holidays. Also, when he was laid up after hip surgery a few years ago, he elected to close during that time. He’s the one behind the grill, and he wants to ensure everything is done right.

Fortunately for Route 66 tourists, he has no plans to retire. “I’m going to continue to serve here until I can’t do it anymore,” he told the Globe.

The Travel Channel produced a segment about Waylan and his restaurant:

(Nighttime image of the Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger sign by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

A promotional video for Kansas Route 66 August 3, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Gas stations, Museums, Restaurants, Towns.
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Check out this well-made, three-minute video for Kansas Route 66, made for Kansas Byways.

Route 66 MASTER from Gizmo Pictures on Vimeo.

The segment was produced by Gizmo Pictures, a film and video production company in Topeka, Kansas.

(A scene from downtown Baxter Springs, Kansas, by Aaron Sumner via Flickr)

Summit Inn reopens after four-month hiatus August 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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The Summit Inn restaurant, a historic landmark on Route 66 at the top of Cajon Pass in Southern California, reopened July 25 following a suspected drunken-driving crash that extensively damaged the building in March.

According to the Victorville Daily Press, the crash of a reportedly stolen minivan on March 27 by Jayson E. Johnson, 37, of Riverside, California, caused about $200,000 in damage and trashed the kitchen.

Last month, he pleaded no contest to possession of a controlled substance and reckless highway driving, and was sentenced to three years of supervised probation. Charges of DUI and receiving stolen property were dropped in a plea agreement.

Fortunately for restaurant owner C.A. Stevens, insurance covered the rebuild. But he worried customers would abandon him after the shutdown, as the reconstruction took far longer than the two weeks originally anticipated.

But three days after Johnson was sentenced, the Summit Inn reopened its twin doors, and a pair of regulars, Karl and Sue, brought a flower bouquet for the occasion.

“They’re the sweetest customers,” said server Tamara Shearer, 31.

In fact, they ate there for three consecutive days last weekend, she said.

Ranck immediately dialed the roughly 50 people who had called over the four-month down period to inquire about the restaurant’s status. [...]

A little more than a week in, business has “been really good,” Shearer said, “almost better than before.”

On the Summit Inn’s Facebook page, it posted a photograph where Stevens and an employee posted a banner that read: “Summit Inn takes a beating but comes back swinging: Now reopened.”

The newspaper said the Summit Inn is hosting a car show Oct. 6 to celebrate the reopening. Its official address is 5970 Mariposa Road, Oak Hills, California.

The Summit Inn has operated at the site since 1952, although its roots at Cajon Pass date to the 1920s. Celebrities who’ve eaten there include Elvis Presley, Pierce Brosnan, Clint Eastwood and Danny Thomas.

(Image of the Summit Inn by danpadilla via Flickr)

Fran Houser puts her Sunflower Station up for sale July 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, People, Restaurants.
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Fran Houser, former owner of the Route 66 landmark Midpoint Cafe and Gift Shop in Adrian, Texas, has put her western-themed antiques and crafts store, Sunflower Station, up for sale so she can spend more time with family members out west.

Houser started Sunflower Station two years ago after she sold the Midpoint to Dennis Purschwitz, who continues to run the restaurant and shop today. Because the store was next door in a long-closed 1930s gas station, it enabled her to visit with longtime customers of the restaurant.

She initially planned to run the store just two to three days a week. But it proved more popular than anticipated, and she was forced to extend her hours.

“Had I known it would have done that well, I would have started it years ago and hired someone else to be behind the grill of the Midpoint,” she laughed.

“I’ve had a wonderful two years there,” she said. “But my family wants me to be available when they do things. I want someone there who appreciates travelers on Route 66. It’s been a work of love.”

When she ran the Midpoint, Houser attracted worldwide notice for the the restaurant’s hospitality and its delicious “ugly crust pies.” Houser gained more fame when she became as an inspiration to the Flo character in the original Disney-Pixar “Cars” movie in 2006.

The building contains three rooms, and with a negotiable asking price of $195,000. Those interested in the property should call Houser at 806-538-6380.

(Images courtesy of Fran Houser)

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