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Let’s lobby for Route 66 half-dollar coins June 30, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Coins.

A writer for Numismatic News, a magazine about coin collecting, is lobbying Congress for a series of Route 66 commemorative half-dollar coins that would be minted in 2016 — the 90th anniversary of the Mother Road — and is advocating others to lobby for them as well.

Mike Olson, who is a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and a Route 66 traveler, said this. The key part is the last paragraph:

With the 90th anniversary of the establishment of Route 66 in 2016, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee has twice recommended a series of half dollars to commemorate the event, in both its 2011 and 2012 annual reports. The series of eight clad half dollars, one each for the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California would bear a common reverse and a state specific obverse.

Imagine the possibilities this series would provide to capture the unique history, architecture and landscapes along the Route, on coins the size of a half dollar: A sports car speeding through the California desert, the Marsh Rainbow Arch bridge in Kansas, the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the Chain of Rocks bridge over the Mississippi, the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne commercial buildings. These are just a few examples that come to mind.

The CCAC recommendation calls for not more than a total of 750,000 clad half dollars for each of the eight coin series, making for a very unique, fun and collectible set that would celebrate the American spirit and experience as never before.

A design contest would almost certainly result in some fantastic proposals from artists who are very familiar with Route 66 and what it has to offer artistically. This commemorative series would introduce a new generation of young collectors to an American treasure and stimulate further exploration by American and foreign visitors alike.

At this point, the commemoration of 90th anniversary of the establishment of Route 66 in 2016 remains a recommendation of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. In order for this series of coins to become reality, Congress must pass a bill that is signed by the President. Those with an interest in seeing this series produced should contact their members of Congress.

Fortunately, the Internet makes it very easy for anyone in the United States to contact their congressman. If you think a Route 66-inspired half-dollar is a good idea, let the lawmakers know.

“Yukon’s Best Flour” sign is restored June 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Preservation, Signs.
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The iconic “Yukon’s Best Flour” sign on top of the flour mill on Route 66 in Yukon, Okla., was glowing again Friday night during a relighting ceremony, according to KFOR-TV in nearby Oklahoma City.

The 42-by-55-foot sign reportedly is seen better than ever, because the lighting used is LED. Not only do LED bulbs last longer, but they’re dramatically more energy-efficient.

Yukon embarked on a successful $175,000 fundraiser to repair the sign. The letters on the sign were rebuilt because they were structurally “past their prime.” The video above shows some of the rusty old letters on display.

Reader Rick Martin emailed the photos you see in this post from the relighting ceremony.

The community also plans to refurbish the gigantic painted sign on the mill’s side that says “Yukon’s Best Flour.”

(Photos courtesy of Rick Martin)

Footage from the Bunion Derby June 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History, Movies, Sports.

Here’s rare footage of runners participating in C.C. Pyle’s International Transcontinental Foot Race, aka the Bunion Derby, in 1928. Two-thirds of the Los Angeles-to-New York race took place on a fledgling Route 66.

The footage is an excerpt from the Solomon Sir Jones Collection at Yale University. Jones was an African-American preacher who took his camera all over Oklahoma and good portions of the rest of the country during the 1920s.

I’m fairly certain the footage begins in Oklahoma City and ends in Chandler. Consulting Geoff Williams’ excellent book, “C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race,” runners mentioned they dealt with a cold, hard wind during the April 14 leg of the race. The footage clearly shows clouds of dust being billowed by gusts at the checkpoint.

Williams’ book described the runners looking like scarecrows when they reached the finish line in New York City. But based on the Oklahoma footage, those sunburned athletes already were looking ragged after 1,500 miles — just halfway through the race.

Also, the footage shows one of Pyle’s elaborate touring buses, which creditors seized in Tulsa after he stiffed an Oklahoma City shop for repair bills. So the film probably was shot before Tulsa.

In the film, you’ll see runner No. 43. He is Andy Payne of Foyil, Okla., who became the Bunion Derby’s winner and recipient of a $25,000 grand prize. A statue of a running Payne stands next to old Route 66 in Foyil today.

Consulting a database of the Bunion Derby’s participants, I matched up identifications with the runner’s numbers:

  • No. 220: The heavily bearded R. Lucien Frost of Los Angeles, who was disqualified from the race in Virden, Ill., when he hitched a ride.
  • No. 119: Sammy Robinson of Atlantic City, N.J., who finished 45th overall.
  • No. 65: Harry R. Gunn of Los Angeles, who finished 28th. He was one of the few speed walkers in the race.
  • No. 43: Andy Payne.
  • No. 103: Peter Gavuzzi of England, who led for a good part of the race but dropped out in Ohio because of pain from an abscessed tooth.
  • No. 165: Ed Gardner of Seattle, who finished eighth overall. Gardner reportedly endured threats from white supremacists in Texas and Oklahoma during the race.
  • No. 46: Lester H. Anderson of Elsinore, Utah. He did not finish, but I found no record where he withdrew.
  • No. 83: Mike Joyce of Cleveland, who finished fourth overall.
  • No. 121: Harry Abramowitz of the Bronx, N.Y., who finished 11th.
  • No. 126: Niels P. Nielson of Denmark and Chicago. He withdrew from the race in Gary, Ind., protesting the beginning of longer-distance stages after Chicago.
  • No. 7: H. William Kerr of Minneapolis, who finished sixth.
  • No. 107: John Salo of Passaic, N.J., who finished runner-up to Payne.
  • No. 146: Patrick DeMarr of Los Angeles, who was disqualified when he hitched a ride in Springfield, Mo.
  • No. 187: Ernest A. Cooney of Los Angeles, who finished 52nd.
  • No. 17: Seth Gonzales of Denver, who finished 15th.
  • No. 62: Carl I. Willberg of New York City, who withdrew in Chicago in protest over longer distances.
  • No. 120: Arthur E. Killingsworth of Lomis, Calif., who finished 18th.
  • No. 123: Harry Sheare of San Francisco, who withdrew in mid-May after suffering injuries from being hit by a car. He was the last contestant to withdraw from the race.
  • No. 129: A.G. Barnes of Middlefield, Ohio, who withdrew in Gary, Ind., in protest over longer distances.
  • No. 53: Paul A. Smith of Gates, Ore., who finished 21st.

Those are the uniform numbers I could make out. If there are others, let me know in the comments section and try to use the database to determine their identities.

(Hat tip: Michael Bates)

New Route 66 mural being installed in Galena June 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Businesses, Towns.
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Installation of a Route 66 tile mural began this week at Seventh and Main streets in downtown Galena, Kan., and should be finished by the weekend, reported the Joplin (Mo.) Globe.

From the newspaper:

The mural, designed by Chris Auckerman and Jon White of Images in Tile, is composed of 416 15-inch tiles. A concrete block wall was built for the mural’s installation, and a mural park is being constructed around it where travelers and Route 66 enthusiasts can spend a few minutes taking photographs. It is being installed by RC Tile and Hardwoods of Joplin, Mo. […]

The mural, which is expected to be finished Friday, depicts a 1957 Chevrolet pulling onto Main Street between the bordello and Cars on the Route. It leaves skid marks on the pavement that spell out “Michael Wallis,” the voice of the sheriff of Radiator Springs in the “Cars” movie and the author of “Route 66: The Mother Road.”

A local businessman, Brian Jordan, is funding the mural. He owns Jordan Disposal and other enterprises.

As the Globe article notes, Galena is seeing a big upswing in economic activity along its Route 66 corridor, including renovations to Cars on the Route (formerly 4 Women on the Route) and a former bordello that’s open for ghost tours.

Images in Tile also is constructing a big Route 66 tile mural in downtown Joplin, which will be completed in time for the International Route 66 Festival in early August.

Santa Fe motel reopens as special-needs apartments June 26, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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The historic Stage Coach Motor Inn in Santa Fe, N.M., reopened Tuesday as apartments for low-income or special needs residents, reported KOB-TV in Albuquerque.

The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper also had some details about the Route 66 motel’s adaptive reuse:

The Housing Trust of Santa Fe purchased the land where the old motel sat and began construction on the 60 new apartments in 2012. Despite some weather-related setbacks, every apartment has been leased to tenants who qualify for the complex’s affordable housing provision and some moved in as early as mid-May. […]

To be eligible to live in the new apartments, tenants must earn no more than 60 percent of Santa Fe’s median income — $62,000 for a family of four. According to Sharron Welsh, the Housing Trust’s executive director, on average, the tenants make around 50 percent of median area income.

Welsh’s organization worked in partnership with UnitedHealth Group and Enterprise Community Partners to secure funding for the project, which cost about $12 million. […]

In addition to the apartments providing exclusively affordable housing — with rents ranging from $260 to $853 per month — a quarter of the apartments are reserved for those who are emerging from homelessness or who have special needs. Lifelink, working with shelters around town and other organizations, helped find these tenants, who will receive ongoing case management from their referring organizations.

(Photo of the Stage Coach Inn Apartments ribbon-cutting courtesy of UnitedHealth)

66 Drive-In will host screening of “Cars” June 25, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Movies, Theaters.

The 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Mo., will host a special screening of the 2006 Disney-Pixar animated film “Cars” on Aug. 1, as part of festivities for the International Route 66 Festival in nearby Joplin.

Pixar Animated Studios will provide a life-size replicas of the film’s stars, Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, at the screening. Michael Wallis, who portrays the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in the film, will be on hand to sign autographs and “swear in young deputies,” according to a news release from the festival committee.

Also, kids age 12 and under will receive a picnic meal and a Route 66 or “Cars”-themed gift.  Games, music and other activities  are being planned before the movie.

Tickets to the screening are limited to 370, and will be priced at $25 a car load of six people. Tickets will be sold through the festival website only, starting at 8 a.m. Monday.

Many of the landmarks and characters shown in “Cars” were inspired by the real-life Route 66, including the 66 Drive-In itself in the first few seconds of this scene:

More about the inspirations for “Cars” can be found here.

UPDATE 7/1/2013: The entire allotment of tickets was sold out in eight hours.

George Benson’s tribute to Nat King Cole June 24, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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I’ve read a lot of warm reviews in recent weeks for jazz artist George Benson‘s latest album, “Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole.”

Naturally, if you’re going to record a tribute to Cole, you have to record “Route 66,” written by Bobby Troup. It was one of Cole’s early hits, back in 1946.

This video by Benson’s label, Concord, provides snippets of a few songs from the album, including “Route 66.” I always knew Benson had great chops at a guitar player, but his singing shines here, too — especially for a guy who’s 70 years old.

If you want to hear a complete version of “Route 66″ by Benson, here’s a performance from 2009:

“Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole” can be downloaded for $9.49 here. His version of “Route 66″ can be downloaded for $1.29 here.

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