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The good ol’ days weren’t always good May 28, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Highways, People, Restaurants.
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People who know of my fascination with Route 66 occasionally ask me whether I would have preferred to live in an era when the Mother Road was more vibrant, where I could see long-gone motels and businesses open and prospering again.

I admit that if a time machine were available, I would visit the 1950s for a short time. But never would want to live in that era because of this.

As a soldier in World War II George Yancy Johnson served with the “Ladies From Hell.” He did covert work in France several weeks before D-Day. He participated in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. During the Korean War he suffered so much from the cold that doctors considered amputating his feet.

But all the medals, and all his war stories, meant nothing in summer 1951, when he and his wife, Phyllis, and their infant son, Reggie, were on historic Route 66 at a motel in Winslow, Ariz., looking for a room.

“The woman in the office was curt. ‘No coloreds,’ ” he recalled.

“That night, as with many other nights, we slept in the Studebaker under the stars,” he wrote recently, when he put his memories on paper.

This is the reason you don’t see but one or two black faces at annual Route 66 gatherings. If you’re a white person, Route 66 generally brings up fond memories. But if you’re a black person who traveled the Mother Road up until about the 1970s, your experiences likely bring bitterness.

That history can’t be changed, but we can do something about it now by treating all races hospitably when they’re traveling America’s Main Street. A few months ago, I saw a black woman with her boyfriend greatly enjoying a meal at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Okla. Decades ago, that would have been an impossible sight. That’s because the Rock Cafe served blacks only through the back door. But now, owner Dawn Welch and her crew welcome everyone.

Route 66 can’t erase those old, hurtful memories of discrimination. But it can create good memories now.

Memories of 66 — past and present May 27, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History.
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Max Nichols, a history columnist for the Daily Oklahoman, tells about the past and present attractions of Route 66 in Oklahoma before the National Route 66 Festival in Clinton in June.

A slice of heaven May 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants.
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When traveling Route 66 through Missouri, we make it a point to stop at A Slice of Pie in Rolla.

We don’t think it’s hyperbole to say this is among the best pie to be found, period. Rural Missouri magazine readers agree. Early editions of Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood books agree. And locals certainly agree.

A Slice of Pie tends to get overlooked by roadies because it’s on a more obscure alignment of Route 66. It’s tucked away in an old strip mall at 601 Kingshighway (map here). But even with the traditional U.S. 63 alignment of 66, it’s just a stone’s throw away.

For lunch or dinner, A Slice of Pie usually has quiches (such as bacon and spinach), salads, pot pies and soups, along with a warm, soft dinner roll as big as your fist.

But many folks come for dessert. The prices are a bit higher than usual diner fare, but the slices are, too. So make sure your appetite is up for it.

A restaurant flier lists the types of pie:

  • Apple (American and Dutch)
  • Blackberry crumb
  • Boston cream
  • Cherry (double crust / crumb)
  • Cherry/raspberry
  • Chess
  • Chocolate chip mint
  • Chocolate cream
  • Coconut buttermilk custard
  • Coconut meringue or cream
  • Custard
  • Dixie
  • French Silk
  • Fresh strawberry
  • Fudge brownie (with ice cream), with plain, nut, mint or toffee
  • Key Lime
  • Lemon meringue
  • Mincemeat
  • Moe’s Millionaire
  • Mudslide
  • Peach
  • Peanut butter chocolate swirl
  • Peanut Butter Lust
  • Pecan
  • Pumpkin
  • Strawberry/rhubarb
  • Sweet potato
  • Tahitian cream
  • Toll House

I’ve not even listed the six types of cheesecakes or the five cakes.

Here is my favorite pie: Peanut Butter Lust, along with a glass of iced tea. I couldn’t resist taking a bite before snapping the photo.

A Slice of Pie is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Its number is 573-364-6203. But, remember, the restaurant is cash only.

Now, THIS is restoration May 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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These photos show why Illinois Route 66 preservationists John and Lenore Weiss won a prestigious Steinbeck Award a few years ago during the annual Route 66 awards dinner.

This is a “before” shot of the long-neglected Art’s Motel and Restaurant sign on Route 66 in Farmersville, Ill.

This is a shot after the Illinois Route 66 Association and the Weisses were through fixing it. The Weisses are the key reason why Illinois has taken the lead in restoring Route 66 landmarks.

Even some of the neon lighting was restored. More photographs of the sign can be seen at Peter Stork’s Digital Route 66 site.

By the way, Art’s restaurant and motel still are going strong.

(Photos courtesy of Digital Route 66.) 

Reuters correspondents finish Route 66 trip May 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Web sites.
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Reuters correspondents James Kelleher and Nick Carey on Friday ended their Route 66 Revisited journey at Lou Mitchell’s restaurant in Chicago, near the eastern terminus of the Mother Road.

Kelleher wrote:

We expected to see and experience many things and to meet some interesting people, as there is a lot of America in between the West Coast and the Windy City.

Our expectations have been exceeded. We’ve spent time on American Indian reservations, talked to firemen in Flagstaff, police officers in Albuquerque, cowboys on vast feedlots in Texas, Christians in Oklahoma and a sinking town in Kansas. […]

We return to Chicago with mixed feelings. It’s good to be home and it will be even better not to live out of a small bag or sleep in motels. The bad news is how much we’ll miss roaming around the country.

Route 66 is America’s ultimate road trip, with a broad cross-section of scenery, people and issues across a large chunk of the country.  It’s been an amazing ride, hope you enjoyed it too.

In case you missed the many stories they filed along the way, you can read them here.

Catsup Bottle Summerfest canceled May 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events.
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A couple days ago, I received an e-mail from Mike Gassman, reporting that the annual World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Summerfest in Collinsville, Ill., was abruptly canceled less than two months before its July 8 date.

Gassman promises more “gory details” over the weekend, but this story from the Belleville News-Democrat clearly shows that bickering, power struggles and bad decisions by the City of Collinsville sank the festival.

Gassman said it’s “all a bunch of nonsense, and unfortunately it’s the community that suffers.” He said it wasn’t as much a conflict with Downtown Collinsville as with the contractual demands of the city.

So the festival is canceled, and no one is sure about next year. Each group said it wants Summerfest to continue.

The festival was named after a specially painted water tower in Collinsville that resembles a giant Brooks Catsup bottle. The Brooks Catsup bottle isn’t on Route 66; it’s about a mile and a half from the Mother Road. But it’s frequently featured in Route 66 guidebooks as an example of roadside kitsch.

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