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Big move is imminent January 4, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Web sites.

I’ve been informed by the good folks at WordPress.com that Route 66 News will be migrated to a self-hosted site starting at 5 a.m. Central on Thursday.

WordPress advised me not to count on posting anything for about 24 hours after that (although the down time probably won’t be that long).

In the interim, if any big news on Route 66 is happening, I’ll be posting on my Twitter account and at the Route 66 News Facebook page.

Just giving you fair warning.

Drink and ink January 4, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants, Road trips.

A couple of fellows who walk into the Iron Hog Restaurant and Saloon in Oro Grande, Calif., during a Route 66 trip bump into one of the tattoo artists of the stars:

I’ve had enough of these incongruous encounters on the Mother Road, the above episode doesn’t surprise me.

The video is part of the “Kilroy Was Here” series, by the Dutch Danish-based Lonely Tree Productions.

Needles developing a tour for its murals January 4, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Events, Towns.
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The Route 66 town of Needles, Calif., is developing a tour of new murals that have been painted on buildings, reported the Needles Desert Star.

The Needles Economic Development Corporation is developing the pathway for walkers, cyclists, and motorists. The newspaper said:

At the end of last year, the group was working on developing a walk, bike ride and driving tour of all the Route 66 murals that have shown up around town by muralists Dan Louden and Vicky Bowden. The plan is to have those routes figured out and then to encourage local businesses to get murals if they don’t already have one. Any new murals would be included in the various routes. Corporation members also approved setting aside a certain amount of money to be used as grants for businesses wanting a mural. There is to be an application process to get a grant from the corporation.

Davitt said he is anticipating the subcommittee working on the mural project will continue to develop those programs. He is looking forward to seeing what happens with those projects, he continued.

The murals along Route 66 and other downtown buildings even caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times.

On a semi-related note, the newspaper announced plans for the return of the Route 66 Hot Boat and Custom Car Show in Needles on Feb. 24-26.

“Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” January 4, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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Here’s an unofficial but well-shot video for Coldplay‘s new song, “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.” You’ll find a lot of Route 66 images from the desert Southwest.

The video was made by the Germany-based Blood Brother Productions.

Pontiac tourism rises 40 percent in 2011 January 3, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Museums.

A few months ago, Pontiac Tourism director Ellie Alexander reported that tourism in Pontiac, Ill., was trending at a 30 percent higher level than in 2010.

Note I said “trending.” I was skeptical the numbers would remain at that lofty level, especially when the off-season was looming.

It turns out Alexander was either being modest in her claims, or underestimated Pontiac’s tourism staying power to close the year. In the calendar year 2011, Pontiac drew 19,065 visitors — a 40.65 percent increase over 2010’s total of 13,554. And, yes, that was a record.

The numbers come from head counts compiled by docents at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s certain the actual number in Pontiac was higher, since a few of them didn’t go to the museum but checked out other attractions instead.

Interesting facts gathered from Alexander’s report:

  • In 2010, Pontiac tourism rose about 20 percent, from 11,220 visitors the previous year.
  • The busiest day in 2011 was July 23, when the new Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum opened. A total of 580 people visited that day.
  • The Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum logged about 7,000 over 9,000 visitors in less than a half-year of being open.
  • Pontiac’s busiest months were May through October, with monthly visitor counts hovering at the 2,000 to 3,200 range.
  • Visitors to Pontiac came from 57 nations.
  • The later off-season months — November and December — showed much stronger visitor numbers than the early off-season months of January and February.
  • In 2011, Pontiac averaged about 52 visitors a day. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But with many of them buying souvenirs or eating meals in town, that translates to probably thousands of dollars of revenue each day.

Alexander has said Pontiac’s multiple museums and the town courting tour companies were big reasons for the increase. But when asked in an email what one thing other Route 66 towns could do to boost visitor numbers, she came up with an interesting answer:

I’d have to go with hospitality. Just about every compliment we receive starts with the hospitality they received while visiting us. The friendly local smile and engagement by everyone from the docent at the museum, to the passer-by on the street, to the Mayor greeting them with a handshake goes a long way. Especially with the international visitors – they love the “Americana” feel they get here. They tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on.

Alexander says she anticipates an even bigger influx of British visitors in 2012, because of the “Billy Connolly’s Route 66” program that aired in the United Kingdom in September and October.

We’ve also had visitors from the UK who have seen it, and are so very excited when they are on the bus, standing where Billy stood! They ask questions about our time with Billy and what he is like – he’s a real super-star in their eyes.

UPDATE: Alexander said Wednesday the Pontiac-Oakland museum didn’t include its opening-week numbers. The total number of visitors in 2011 there was 9,494.

(Photo of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, courtesy of Ellie Alexander)

Asleep At the Wheel time machine January 3, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s a clip of western-swing band Asleep At the Wheel performing “Route 66” and a few other songs at Farm Aid in 1993.

This is one of the classic incarnations of the band, with Cindy Cashdollar on the pedal steel.

A high-speed trip on Oatman Road January 3, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Road trips.

No, the driver wasn’t doing anything dangerous. He mounted a video camera on the side of his vehicle, drove that winding stretch of Route 66 from Oatman, Ariz., to the Cool Springs Camp at normal speed, than compressed the 18 minutes of footage to under 5 1/2 minutes.

The video was created by Norman Fisk’s Diamond Valley Productions, which made the “Route 66 Arizona, an American Story” documentary for DVD last year.

“My father taught me how to drive and dream” January 3, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Motels, Road trips.
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This 13-minute film by Karla Berry from 2004 is well worth watching all the way through. But in particular it contains footage of the Coral Court Motel in St. Louis shortly before the bulldozers came.

The Coral Court footage begins around the 7 1/2-minute mark.

Shimmering in the night January 2, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Motels, Signs, Web sites.
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Here’s a short-but-sweet new video of the great neon sign at the Supai Motel, along Route 66 in Seligman, Ariz.

The video was created by Andrew Wood, a professor at San Jose State University and a longtime roadie. He owns the Motel Americana website, and published “City Ubiquitous,” in which Route 66 played a prominent role. My review of his book is here.

Programming note January 2, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Uncategorized.

If you see a few funky things on Route 66 News in the coming days, there’s probably good reason for it.

Route 66 News is moving from WordPress.com to a hosted site using the WordPress.org platform. It should be a fairly seamless transition, and you shouldn’t have to update your route66news.com bookmarks. News coverage of the Mother Road will continue as usual — or as best as possible — during this time.

I’m paying WordPress.com to make this transition, so I hold a fair amount of faith this should be accomplished with little fuss.

But, again, moving a large website goes into somewhat uncharted territory for me, and Murphy’s Law might be a factor in a few things.

The bottom line to you readers: Please hang in there, and everything will get ironed out eventually.

Incidentally, the host for the new incarnation of Route 66 News has been supplied by GRandall Web Design. Its owner, Guy Randall, has been a Route 66 enthusiast for a long time, and has built websites for several businesses on the Mother Road, as you can see here.

I’ll make more announcements about the future of Route 66 News as soon as this transition is finished and everything works smoothly. One of the changes won’t be drastic, but it should be exciting for a number of businesses associated with Route 66. Stay tuned.

Sad end to The Java Stop January 1, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Restaurants.

One of the eye-catching businesses along Route 66 in Dwight, Ill., in recent years was The Java Stop coffee stand, which used two rail containers stacked on top of each other and a fancy paint job.

The Java Stop was so striking that an architectural firm honored it for its design.

However, Java Stop was barely open for two years when it closed in mid-2009.

Now, Alan Denton encountered this sight recently when traveling Route 66:

The business apparently is being dismantled. Rail containers boast a lot of uses; these probably will find a more-mundane life as storage units.

I remained hopeful that someone would buy the business and revive it. But that doesn’t appear it’s going to happen.

(Photos courtesy of Travis Good and Alan Denton)

Historic Joplin pawnshop closes January 1, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, People.
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A pawn shop in Joplin, Mo., closed for good.

But it wasn’t just any pawn shop. It was the Ben Milgrim Pawnshop, which had operated near the Mother Road for 78 years, acording to the Joplin Globe.

The contents of the business were being auctioned today at Joplin’s Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center. The auction company, Bob Lasswell & Associates, posted photos of some of the pawn shop’s contents on its website.

The Globe described some of Ben Milgrim Pawnshop’s colorful items:

Readying the sale last week, Lasswell unloads a hodgepodge of items, including an old wall clock advertising “Time to Buy Calumet Baking Powder,” a hat maker’s metal hat block, a pair of stuffed bobcats and a bearskin rug.

Meanwhile, a tow truck delivers an 8,800-pound safe emblazoned with “Ben Milgrim Pawnbroker” in gold letters and an 1883 patent date from Mosler Bahmann and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio. The safe is rolled alongside other same-era beasts from “Lighthouse Poultry Co.,” a bygone Joplin business, and the “Webb City Council Chamber.”

Nearby, Lasswell’s wife, Cara, slips 45 rpms into slots along the front of a 1950s Seeburg Selectomatic record player, punches a button to release “I Get the Blues When It Rains” and dances a little jig. […]

A jumble of “a little bit of everything” — 1950s Winchester hunting posters, antique wooden wall telephones, a framed Elvis Presley concert ticket, saddles — will sell along with pieces of Joplin’s history, including 1928 and 1941 group photos of the Joplin Police Department.

A 2010 story in the Joplin Globe says the business was impacted by its closeness to the Mother Road:

Because of its proximity to the legendary Route 66, the pawnshop drew not only customers from the Joplin area, but also from all around the country and, in some cases, around the world.

“A pawnshop was almost like a tourist place,” Martin said. “We would get people who just wanted to look. Because of Route 66, we had customers from almost all 50 states. I don’t know if we had any from Hawaii.”

According to the obituary of the pawnshop’s founder, Ben Milgrim, he was born in Poland and emigrated to the United States as a child. He opened his pawnshop at 813 S. Main St. in Joplin in 1933, the same year he got married to Pauline Brown.

Ben and his wife Pauline operated the pawn shop for 69 years. Ben’s pawn shop became a Joplin institution. There was a time when a trip to Joplin wasn’t complete unless you stopped at Milgrim’s Pawn Shop. The number of Ben’s loyal customers was legendary, and pretty much reflected the heart and soul of Joplin.

Ben Milgrim died at age 100 in 2010. His son, Martin Milgrim, now 75, sold the business to a couple in 2002 but still owns the building.

Milgrim’s building is part of the Main and Eighth Historical District in Joplin, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the National Park Service, the building dates to about 1919.

The end and the beginning December 31, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.
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As the final hours of 2011 wind down, let’s take a look at the two symbolic end points of Route 66.

The first is Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park in Chicago:

The second is the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica:

Either could be the beginning or end of Route 66, depending on which way you’re traveling.


A tour of John’s Modern Cabins December 30, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Motels.

This well-produced video gives you a tour and a history of the abandoned and fast-decaying John’s Modern Cabins, located near Arlington, Mo., off old Route 66.

The video was produced by Texas-based Synergy Media.

Most of the historical information about John’s Modern Cabins was gathered by Emily and me a decade ago. The story behind the cabins was scant, and we felt an urgency to research them before potential eyewitnesses died. Our work culminated in two articles in Route 66 Magazine. A summary of the articles can be found here.

Manning’s Coffee sign being restored December 29, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs, Theaters.

The historic Manning’s Coffee Store rooftop sign in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles is being restored, reported the Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch.

Manning’s Coffee went out of business in the 1960s, and the sign’s neon lighting hasn’t functioned for many years. Las Cazuelas restaurant now occupies the building.

The area is part of the North Figueroa Street corridor in Los Angeles, which contained Route 66 from 1931 to 1934 and again from 1936 to 1960.

Here is an image of the unrestored Manning Coffee Store sign.

According to the story, a cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is being used to restore the sign. Community leaders and volunteers are covering the rest of the cost.

“It turns out, it’s kind of important in terms of signage history because it combines neon with opal glass, and there’s very few of those in existence,” said Amy Inouye of Future Studio. “As well as the fact that there’s not any signs like this from Manning’s that we know of at all on the entire West Coast.” […]

Richard Ankrum, a neon restoration expert, is currently working on painting the sign and is scheduled to install the neon lights later this week. A note on the flyer for the relighting ceremony taking place at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, states that original materials will be used in the restoration and only missing and broken pieces will be replaced.

According to Future Studio, the Manning sign was erected in 1933.

The newspaper also says the groups consulted with the Museum of Neon Art to ensure that the original neon colors are used in the sign.

Nearby, the historic Highland Theatre rooftop sign was restored and relit to much fanfare in May.

A drive over the Lake Overholser Bridge December 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation, Vehicles.
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This YouTube poster drove his old Mustang over the recently restored Lake Overholser Bridge, which carries old Route 66 in Oklahoma City:

The 1924 bridge was reopened to traffic in October after a $4 million repair project.

NOTE: Skip ahead to the 3:00 mark to see the relevant footage. I tried to embed it to that point, but it’s not working consistently. Also, there’s a bit of profanity in the very beginning of the clip.

Cookin’ from Scratch will appear on Travel Channel show December 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants, Television.
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The Cookin’ from Scratch restaurant off Route 66 in Doolittle, Mo., will be featured in an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Truck Stop Missouri,” according to The Rolla Daily News.

According to the newspaper:

A segment on the Doolittle restaurant’s recent Route 66 Burger Challenge was filmed last week […] and a followup session was recorded Tuesday at the Phelps County site.

The focus of the show is on the Route 66 Burger Challenge that began in February at Cookin’ From Scratch.

The challenge featured a 66-ounce King of the Road burger. Those willing to take on the task had 66 minutes to finish their meal. The contest drew diners from throughout the region.

Leftfield Pictures, based in New York, was filming the segment. Leftfield has also produced “Pawn Stars” and “American Restoration,” both on the History Channel.

“Truck Stop Missouri” takes place mostly at the Midway Travel Plaza off Interstate 70 near Columbia. The truck stop also boasts an eating challenge — 70 ounces of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Here’s one brave soul who conquered Cookin’ from Scratch’s King of the Road challenge:

Woody Guthrie Archives will move to Tulsa December 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Museums, Music, People.

The Woody Guthrie Archives, based in New York, will move to his home state of Oklahoma and the Route 66 city of Tulsa by 2013, according a story late Tuesday by the New York Times.

The Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation bought the musician’s archives from the Guthrie family for about $3 million and will move them into the Brady District, north of downtown Tulsa.

Woody Guthrie, long considered the patron saint of folk music, was born in Okemah, Okla., which hosts an annual free folk festival in his honor.

The announcement comes just before when his 100th birthday will be celebrated in 2012. The Kaiser foundation will host a conference and concert at the University of Tulsa on March 10.

The Times reported:

“Oklahoma was like his mother,” said his daughter Nora Guthrie, throwing back her tangle of gray curls as she reached out in an embrace. “Now he’s back in his mother’s arms.”

The archive includes the astonishing creative output of Guthrie during his 55 years. There are scores of notebooks and diaries written in his precise handwriting and illustrated with cartoons, watercolors, stickers and clippings; hundreds of letters; 581 artworks; a half-dozen scrapbooks; unpublished short stories, novels and essays; as well as the lyrics to the 3,000 or more songs he scribbled on scraps of paper, gift wrap, napkins, paper bags and place mats. Much of the material has rarely or never been seen in public, including the lyrics to most of the songs. Guthrie could not write musical notation, so the melodies have been lost.

Guthrie’s previously unrecorded lyrics have spawned at least three albums — “Mermaid Avenue” and “Mermaid Ave. Vol. II” by Billy Bragg and Wilco, and the recently released “Note of Hope,” by a variety of rock and folk artists.

A message from Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody and the curator of the archives, posted a message on the Woody Guthrie website that’s worth reading in full. A few excerpts:

Over the years, we’ve had a few requests for the Archives from a number of places; public institutions, universities, etc. In thinking about it, I always felt that Oklahoma was calling . All the major universities where many of these kinds of collections end up, seemed a bit too “precious”, too many stairs to climb. And it also seemed to me that most of the national institutions already had more than they can handle, with much of their collections sitting on basement shelves, awaiting a possible exhibit if the funding comes through. I discovered that the folks at the Kaiser Foundation are an extraordinary group of local people, working in many ways that benefit so many people. In particular, the 25 preschool centers they run bring the highest available educational facilities to so many of Tulsa’s neediest. It’s beyond impressive. It’s visionary. I sensed I could work with these people to create something really unique.

The next day I was walking around the Brady district in downtown Tulsa. I got to meet many of the local artists who were living and working in the old warehouse spaces; violin makers, furniture makers, visual artists, punk rock musicians, et al. It felt so much like the early ‘60s in Soho and the East Village. I felt an easy kinship with them, as I think my father would have. […]

Why do people like Woody Guthrie leave their hometowns? Why do talented, inspirational and visionary people have to leave for cities like New York? Why do they often say, “I couldn’t grow there”? Why do some people think they alone own the American flag? Why do some people claim they’re more “American” than others? Why do some people think they are uniquely qualified to pull the strings of democracy? These are many of the questions that Woody sang about in his songs, looking for his own answers. Luckily, all of these questions are presently alive and kicking, now often hotly debated in small towns and cities just like Tulsa all across the country. I think it’s a good time to bring Woody’s own thoughts on these topics back home. And being close to where new art and new thoughts are being born is always inspirational. To be a part of this Oklahoma “renovation” feels like being in the right place at the right time aka “grace”. Or maybe just luck.

As the Times story makes clear, Oklahoma has been reluctant to embrace Guthrie because of his communist/socialist leanings. However, Guthrie was a product of his time. During the first few decades of the 20th century, Oklahoma became of a hotbed of socialist and communist advocacy. Also, communist sympathizers should be given a bit of a pass when they came of age during the Great Depression,when it appeared capitalism was collapsing.

I (and many others) also tend to overlook a musician’s political leanings as long as the music is good. I’ve enjoyed songs by the right-wing Ted Nugent and the left-wing Rage Against the Machine, and still do.

In Woody’s case, the music is very good indeed. You’d be hard-pressed to find a song that conveys America’s glories and possibilities than his best-known song, “This Land is Your Land.”

And when you’re watching a documentary about the Depression, you probably won’t find better a better soundtrack than Woody’s Dust Bowl Ballads. Here’s one, about Route 66 itself:

This announcement is a big, big deal for Tulsa. The Woody Guthrie Archives will draw many Route 66 travelers and non-66ers alike.

Clinton Route 66 museum will close for renovations December 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums.
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The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton is set to close from January to at least mid-April for renovations, according to the museum’s website.

Pat Smith, the museum’s director, said in a message on the website’s home page that the museum will close its exhibits for renovations beginning Jan. 1, with the hope to reopen by April 15 — a few weeks before Route 66 tourism season begins.

Smith said the main lobby and gift shop will remain open during the museum’s regular hours throughout the face-lift.

According to a Facebook message from Route 66 booster Leroy Livesay of Clinton, the museum is undergoing a $500,000 renovation, and the exhibits will be “bigger and better” when they’re complete.

Officials at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum couldn’t be reached for comment.

Although the museum remains among the very best about Route 66, it probably needs some sprucing up. The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum opened in 1995, and its exhibits undoubtedly are seeing the effects of age.

According to an article last year in The Oklahoman, the museum saw 33,000 visitors in 2009, which was a record.

(Hat tip: Mike Ward)

Test flight with Luigi’s Flying Tires December 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Movies.
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Testing continues on the rides that will be offered at Cars Land of Disney California Adventure. A few days ago, the latest test was on the Luigi’s Flying Tires.

According to the Disney Parks Blog:

The vehicles have been made to look like oversized Fettuccini brand tires – the same tires Luigi proudly displays in his shop, Luigi’s Casa della Tires. Once guests are seated inside their tires, Luigi will direct Guido to turn on the air compressor. With that command, air will be pumped up through openings in the floor of the tire yard and the vehicles will begin to float and fly. With Luigi’s Flying Tires, the guest is really in control of the vehicle. By shifting your weight around, you can control the direction of your travel. And if that’s not enough fun, you can always turn a lever and make your tire spin!

“Cars” director John Lasseter recently came by to test one of the rides:

Cars Land is scheduled to open sometime in summer 2012.

By the way, the main Cars Land site contains a new video about the complex, which is a re-creation of the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs from the 2006 film.


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