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Cowboy sign returns to Big Texan after one-month hiatus July 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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The 90-foot-tall landmark cowboy sign at the Big Texan Steak Ranch returned Friday after being removed for about a month when a wind storm damaged it, reported the Amarillo Globe-News.

The newspaper reported about the saga of Bull, the name of the cowboy figure on the sign:

Strong winds in late June damaged the sign to the point where it would have been dangerous to leave it up. That surprised Bobby Lee, co-owner of the Big Texan.

“He’s survived two tornados, a plane, blizzards … wind, you name it, but that one got him,” he said. [...]

AAA Signs of Amarillo spent weeks refurbishing and repairing the old herdsman. The high wind took its toll on the old steel, so plans were made for strengthening the design, AAA manager Dale Bural said. Some cosmetic touch-ups were made, but workers did their best to keep Bull authentic, Bural said.

The restaurant initially thought the sign would be down only a week or two. But the repairs apparently were more complex than anticipated. Either way, Bull probably will be fine for a few more decades.

Bull dates to 1960, among the earliest days of the Big Texan when the restaurant was on Amarillo Boulevard, aka Route 66. At one point, Bull had neon lighting. The sign’s surface was extensively renovated about 10 years ago.

Bull and the restaurant moved during the early 1970s after Interstate 40 opened.

(Image of Bull the cowboy in 2011 at the Big Texan Steak Ranch by bernachoc via Flickr)

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)

Neon restored on historic theater in downtown Los Angeles June 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Signs, Theaters.
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The marquee of the historic Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles was relighted during a ceremony Tuesday night.

It reportedly was the first time in 30 years that the marquee has glowed.

The theater is on 740 S. Broadway in downtown L.A., which served as the western terminus of Route 66 until it was stretched to Santa Monica.

Here’s a countdown from the relighting:

KABC-TV also filed this report:

The Globe Theatre was built in 1913 — more than a decade before Route 66. It is scheduled to reopen later this year. Owner Erik Choi is in the middle of a $5 million renovation.

Photographer wants to document America’s neon signs June 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Road trips, Signs.
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San Diego photographer Stefanie Poteet is traveling all over the United States the next four months so she can artistically document vintage neon signs, including on Route 66.

Here’s the video that comes with her Kickstarter fundraiser:

Poteet writes about her quest:

These signs and the places they were built for are an integral part of our history. Mom and pop motels, one of a kind diners and family owned businesses built this nation. They gave us reasons to explore Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Tamiami Trail.

These signs are beautiful and unique. They are art and hard work and hours of labor. These signs matter, and they are quickly disappearing from our landscape.

I want to encourage people to see, appreciate and preserve these pieces of Americana. I want to document as many signs as possible before they are lost from our roadsides and our memories. I want to spend 112 days chasing neon so future generations can stand in front of places like the Blue Swallow Motel and stare in awe.

Poteet said she fell in love with neon sign after seeing the Supai Motel sign on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona.

Poteet hopes to raise $10,000 by July 22 to help cover some of her expenses. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and her blog.

Boots Motel adds new supplementary sign June 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Signs.
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The historic Boots Motel in Carthage, Missouri, added a new “Air Conditioned” supplementary sign that’s a faithful re-creation of one that hung from the main sign decades ago, along with the “Radio in Every Room” sign installed last year.

I failed to notice the “Air Conditioned” sign in old postcards of the 1939 motel, which is being restored to its late 1940s to early 1950s heyday. Courtesy of 66Postcards.com, you can see that sign if you look closely.

Here’s a close-up of the sign, where the “Air Conditioned” portion is visible.

Ron Hart of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce noted in an email:

The electrical conduit was added to the exterior of the building so window units could be installed, and may date back to the 1940s!

Restoration work is ongoing for the rest of the motel, including the Clark Gable room, where he stayed at least once during cross-country travels. You can follow the progress on its Facebook page.

Illinois county taking next steps for establishing Route 66 corridor June 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Restaurants, Signs.
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Will County, Illinois, near Chicago, is about to take the next steps in transforming Illinois Highway 53 into more of an attraction for Route 66 tourists, reported Shaw Media.

The 20-mile stretch of Illinois 53 runs from about Interstate 80 in Joliet to Braidwood.

Larazza said more than 30 businesses and other stakeholders involved in the project will meet later this month to discuss next steps. That includes adding signage along Route 66, Interstate 80 and Interstate 57 to steer drivers toward key destinations. [...]

The county’s land use department also is in talks with BNSF Railway and the Illinois Department of Transportation seeking approval to paint a mural on one or two railroad overpasses along Route 53 to create a gateway to the road, Larazza said. [...]

New attractions would also be added. Some ideas include an observation tower for the Wilmington’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and a major bike trail connecting the Kankakee River Trail, Wauponsee Glacial Trail, the I&M Canal State Trail and Centennial Trail to one another.

The Gemini Giant statue in Wilmington and the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In restaurant in Braidwood were mentioned in the story as existing Route 66 attractions. County officials think adding attractions along the stretch would complement those landmarks and make Illinois 53 more attractive to tourists.

The county hasn’t come up with a name for the Illinois 53 corridor, although Will 66, Route 66 Prairies, Route 66 Stops and Prairies @ 66 have been suggested.

The story didn’t mention it, but I strongly suspect the Route 66 Economic Impact Study – namely, that Route 66 tourism creates $127 million in business annually — played a role in this proposal.

(Image of Brian Marsh at the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In in Braidwood, Illinois, via Flickr)

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