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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)

Mobil pegasus sign taken out of mothballs in Carthage October 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Preservation, Signs.
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A Mobil pegasus neon sign that had been in storage for more than 30 years has been removed from the mothballs, donated and reinstalled at a renovated Skelly Filling Station in Carthage, Missouri, reported the Carthage Press.

Jerry Perry, president and CEO of Grace Energy Corporation, gave a Mobil pegasus sign to Mark Jenny and local artist Larry Glaze to display at the renovated station. This same sign, which is four foot tall, six feet wide, weighing 6,000 pounds, marked the original Grace Mobil Station on Central Avenue in 1953. [...]

The sign hung at the station on Central (across from today’s Hometown Bank) until about 1965. Perry bought the gas company in 1980, and had kept the sign in storage many years. [...]

Glaze, who once worked at the Skelly station with Luther Gowin when gas was 23 cents a gallon, said the sign was cleaned easily. The neon tubes and motor for the once-rotating sign have been removed, but there are plans to install lights at the base of the pole to illuminate the historic icon.

The renovated station is at 1101 S. Grand Ave. (map here). The former Mobil station was in the 300 block of West Central Avenue, which is Route 66 in Carthage. An image of the original Mobil station is here.

According to the newspaper, the Skelly Filling Station now is a hot rod shop and meeting place owned by Mark Jenny. It was a cleaning business.

(Image of a Mobil pegasus at the Hackberry General Store in Arizona by mlhradio via Flickr)

Joplin to install new directional signs September 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Signs, Towns.
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The city of Joplin, Missouri, will install more than 40 new wayfinder signs, including those that identify the original path of Route 66, reported the Joplin Globe.

The newspaper said:

Patrick Tuttle, director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the council that the 43 new signs, predominantly blue in color, will replace the current multi-colored signs and are compliant with state and federal sign standards. They will have reflective material to make them more visible in the dark.

The signs point motorists to such points of interest as Joe Becker Stadium, the Joplin Athletic Complex, the Joplin Museum Complex, the downtown historic district, the Range Line shopping hub and hotel district and some parks.

A special set of new Route 66 Byway signs will identify Joplin’s share of that historic highway’s original 1926 course. Some of the Route 66 signs will include an information box to tell the significance of Joe Becker Stadium near the original route that runs down Langston Hughes-Broadway and the Route 66 Mural Park near Seventh and Main streets.

The new signs, which will cost the city $83,000, were recommended by a tourism committee several years ago.

Continuing to have those signs is good news for Route 66 travelers in that area. Joplin is home to three alignments of Route 66, and it wouldn’t be easy to follow them without directional guidance.

(Hat tip to Ron Hart; image of a Route 66 Byway sign in Joplin by Leo Reynolds via Flickr)

Fox Theatre light returns to downtown Springfield September 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Signs, Theaters.
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A replica of the Fox Theatre’s neon sign in downtown Springfield, Missouri, was installed and lighted Thursday night, reported KLOR-TV.

The relighting was part of History Museum on the Square‘s fall fundraiser. The Fox Theatre is located at 157 Park Central Square.

More from the report:

The Fox Theatre’s iconic sign was lit at 9 p.m., with Hollywood spotlights, a live band and cheering onlookers below.

“It’s just another step in what is going to be a pretty long process, but an absolutely amazing process for the downtown and the citizens of Springfield and Greene County,” Executive Director of the History Museum John Sellars said. [...]

“This sign shined on route 66 for decades. Now we’ve brought back after 30 years and we’re so happy about that,” Sellars said. “We’re so happy about all the activities we got going on at the Fox.”

The History Museum, which is undergoing a large renovation, recently acquired the Fox. Sellars said there’s much more to come for Springfieldians, and visitors alike, to enjoy.

According to CinemaTreasures.org, the Fox opened as the Electric Theatre in 1916 — a full decade before Route 66’s existence — and was renamed the Fox after it was renovated after a fire. The theater closed in 1982, although other tenants continued to use the building, including a church.

The Fox was built by M.E. Gillioz, who also built the historic Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield, also on Route 66.

(Image of the sign relighting via History on the Square)

Plainfield considers new Route 66 signs September 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Signs, Towns.
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The village of Plainfield, Illinois, is considering new signage — including ones marking Route 66 (seen above) — as a rebranding effort for the town, reported The Herald-News.

The new designs would encourage commemoration of the “legacy” of the historic Route 66, which runs along Route 59 through the village. The Route 66 signs could be partially or fully funded by Illinois Department of Transportation grants. [...]

Bowan said the village’s goal is to find a way to reflect the village’s character.

“It’s just an old-fashioned community,” he said. “We’re trying to make the village look good.”

Plainfield’s downtown historic district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places about a year ago.

Plainfield had a 1940s and ’50s alignment of Route 66 on Main and Division streets through downtown. Plainfield also hosts a segment of the Lincoln Highway, which predates Route 66, in the downtown area.

Plainfield’s origins date to 1830 and is Will County’s oldest community. It is nicknamed “The Birthplace of Chicago” because the  early version of the Windy City depended on Plainfield for mail and supplies.

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)

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)

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