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Questions for Clint Eastwood and his Tucumcari time August 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Television, Towns.
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David Stevens, editor of the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune in New Mexico, in a column said he had a few questions for potential interview subjects about long-ago local issues. Stevens’ wish list had some urgency because all the people “are getting old,” he said.

One of those interview subjects would be actor Clint Eastwood, who spent time in the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico,  to film the television show “Rawhide.”

  • I want to know about Tucumcari in 1959 when he lived there six weeks filming “Rawhide.”
  • I want to have lunch with him at Del’s and ask if the food was better then or now.
  • I want to know what he thought about Route 66 in those days, if he even had a thought about that historic highway we’d all like to revisit, complete with its neon lights and hotel rooms with garages attached.
  • I’d like to know if he remembers hearing about the 13-year-old Quay County boy walking into his parents’ bedroom that summer and shooting them with a deer rifle. Gordon Ellis’ father died a few days later.
  • And I want to know how actress Kipp Hamilton ended up hospitalized for two days after accidentally stabbing herself in the foot with a knife while filming.

According to a 2010 story in Route 66 News, Tucumcari was used as a base for five episodes of the TV western. According to an excerpt from a Quay County Sun article at the time:

Actors and technicians arrived in Tucumcari on Aug. 10, 1959, for six weeks of work, the Tucumcari Daily News reported.

The show’s stars included Eastwood, Eric Fleming and Sheb Wooley. Guest stars also popped in and out of town for brief appearances.

The paper reported scenes were filmed at three Quay County ranches. The cast and crew, about 65 in all, were seen regularly around town and became regular patrons at Del’s Restaurant.

Eastwood is 84 years old and has gained considerable acclaim — and Academy Awards — as a director in recent decades. His mother lived to 97, so perhaps her son isn’t at death’s door (in fact, he directed another film this spring). But Stevens’ point is made — the urgency for having these questions answered is clear.

Perhaps Eastwood or one of his assistants will read this and be happy to oblige at least two curious journalists.

(An image from “Rawhide” by Peter Renshaw via Flickr)

Los Angeles and Woody Guthrie August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Music, Towns.
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Folk singer Woody Guthrie‘s many links to Route 66 have been long documented.

However, this excellent clip by filmmaker Aric Allen shows that Los Angeles played a crucial role in Guthrie’s road to fame in 1937.

Amazingly, many of the places where Guthrie hung around in L.A. still exist, as this film shows.

(Image of Woody Guthrie by James Ratcliffe 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.)

‘Million Dollar Courthouse’ needs $20 million in fixes August 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Preservation, Towns.
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Locals probably were startled and even irritated when the construction budget for the Macoupin County Courthouse in Carlinville, Illinois, swelled from $50,000 to $1.3 million by the time it was finished in 1870. That’s why the landmark has been called the “Million Dollar Courthouse,” for good or ill, ever since.

Imagine their reaction when, more than a century later, if they found out proper repairs to the aging structure would likely top $20 million.

A story in the Springfield State Journal-Register detailed how about $200,000 in local and state money was used in 2012 to fix a deteriorating north stairway. But repairs aren’t done — not by a long shot, Harry Starr, chairman of the building and grounds committee of the Macoupin County Board, told the newspaper.

A leaking built-in gutter system and roof have resulted in water running into the interior of the building. Pieces of the limestone exterior have fallen off. The building needs improved accessibility, heating and ventilation work and more storage for records, officials say. [...]

The price tag to completely restore the 114-year-old building has been estimated as high as $20 million — money that isn’t available anywhere in a lump sum. [...]

“We’ve got a laundry list of stuff that needs to be done,” he said. “Where do we go next? There’s not a lot of funding around at any level.

“In the absence of a big chunk of money, we’re going to have to do it slowly and over time.”

A lot of blame was spread around for the courthouse’s initial cost overruns, but investigators never got to the bottom of it. According to the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce:

Not only was the courthouse an exorbitant expense to the taxpayers, rumors of a scandal involving misused appropriations also tarnished the project. Initially, the blame was laid on Judge Thaddeus Loomis and George H. Holliday, county clerk. Judge Loomis was apparently innocent of any wrongdoing. (We may never know the truth about Mr. Holliday, however, because one night in 1870, he boarded a train out of town and simply disappeared.)

In spite of the controversy, the Macoupin County Courthouse has become a source of pride in the area. It’s been praised by the American Institute of Architects, and Starr called it “the heart and soul of the county.”

Starr also said he’s noticed an increase in the number of tourists and tours stopping in Carlinville to see the courthouse during Route 66 tours. That provides yet another motivation to properly keep up the landmark — so it’s “cleaned up and shiny” for visitors.

Carlinville was part of Route 66 from 1926 to 1934, when it piggybacked on Illinois Highway 4 from Springfield. Route 66 then was realigned to the east, until both the old and newer sections of the Mother Road join up again south of Staunton, Illinois.

(Image of the Macoupin County Courthouse by Matt Turner via Flickr)

Route 66 Alliance revealed as the group proposing a Route 66 museum in Tulsa August 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Route 66 Associations, Towns.
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Prominent Route 66 author Michael Wallis and the Route 66 Alliance he leads are part of the group that submitted a proposal to the City of Tulsa to build a Route 66 museum, revealed the Tulsa World.

City planner Dennis Whitaker and other unnamed city officials confirmed to the newspaper it was the Route 66 Alliance that submitted the only proposal for a museum on the site, which is on Riverside Drive and Southwest Boulevard (aka Route 66) in Tulsa. The site also contains the Route 66-themed Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza and the East Meets West statue and the original 11th Street Bridge.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett late last year announced that the city was seeking proposals for the project, which is commonly referred to as the Route 66 Experience.

The city’s vision for the center, as outlined in the RFP, includes a thematic interpretive space, retail space — including a restaurant — and on-site parking.

“The facility’s amenities should reach out to all age groups, complement the surrounding river-downtown experience, be a draw for tourism and be an amenity to local residents,” Whitaker said.

The facility, which would overlook the Arkansas River, could also serve as an outdoor staging area for races or car shows, Whitaker said.

The city has allocated $6.5 million for the project. If its proposal is approved, the Alliance would have to raise the rest of the money. Whitaker said there is no timetable of when the City of Tulsa would make a decision on the proposal.

Wallis is best-known for writing the best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road” during the early 1990s and voiced the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in the 2006 Disney-Pixar film “Cars.” He and Rick Freeland have run the nonprofit Alliance for several years in an office at the Tulsa Historical Society.

The Tulsa World did not reach Wallis for comment. Wallis also did not officially comment about the proposal in an email to Route 66 News. However, he said he did not tip off the newspaper on who or what group was behind the Route 66 Experience proposal.

Tulsa has long desired to have an anchor Route 66 attraction because travelers often bypass the city on the interstates.

The museum complex was part of the Vision 2025 sales-tax package passed by voters in 2003. The city eventually decided to ask for a public-private development because of the municipality’s tight budgets in recent years.

(An artist’s rendering of Tulsa’s Route 66 museum, circa 2003, via Vision 2025)

A look at downtown Los Angeles August 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History, Preservation, Theaters, Towns.
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With the help of a quad-copter, filmmaker Ian Wood produced this video about the landmarks of downtown Los Angeles, which was the western end of Route 66 until the highway was extended to Santa Monica.

Downtown Los Angeles from Ian Wood on Vimeo.

Wood’s description of the video:

Above the grit and noise of the street, downtown Los Angeles quietly provides some of the most amazing visual detail in its buildings and public art works. This is a selection of those buildings and public arts filmed across some 50 different locations in the immediate downtown area and the arts district. There are many many more locations that are not included and are equally if not more impressive.

Some of the buildings are in disrepair, some have been restored to their full glory while others have been transformed into artworks. In all of them, there is character, color and detail that makes the area a never-ending source of intrigue.

Wood also provided a very helpful map of many of the buildings he filmed here.

(Hat tip to Scott Piotrowski; image of the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles by David Gallagher 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)

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