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The end and the beginning December 31, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.

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)

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