On Saturday, I received word from prominent Route 66 author Michael Wallis that Walter “Doc” Mason, former owner of the fabled Best Western Trade Winds Motor Hotel in Clinton, Okla., has died.
The Trade Winds is best-known for hosting Elvis Presley for at least four overnight stays during his occasional cross-country drives from Memphis to Hollywood or Las Vegas. The Trade Winds still has an Elvis Room (No. 215), where The King stayed, to this day.
Mason and his motel were listed in the closing credits as “Route 66 inspirations” in the 2006 Disney-Pixar animated movie “Cars.” The Pixar crew, guided by Wallis, conducted research on Route 66 during the summer of 2001 and encountered Mason.
I also found this June 2006 article in the Clinton Daily News (it’s near the bottom of the linked page) by Scott Mason, Doc’s grandson, about Pixar’s visit to Clinton. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but this excerpt stands out:
As I watched the movie opening night and saw the character “Doc Hudson,” a pillar of wisdom and leadership in the fictional town of “Radiator Springs,” it reminded me of my grandfather, a pillar on 66 and in his community. It would not surprise me if the character was not loosely based off of my grandfather, Doc.
The best surprise came at the end of the movie. As I sat there, I saw my grandfather’s name, Dr. Walter S. “Doc” Mason, Jr., listed as special thanks in the film’s credits. If my granddad didn’t have Alzheimer’s right now, he would be so proud.