Route 66 News

Longevity on Route 66 runs in her family

Those familiar with the history of Route 66 know of the late Lucille Hamons and her Lucille’s gas station near Hydro, Okla., that she ran for nearly 60 years.

But you may not be familiar with one of Lucille’s daughters, Delpha Dene Martin, who soon will enter her 50th year of running a business on Route 66 in Grants, N.M.

Martin, whom everyone calls Dene (pronounced Dean), owns and operates Serenade Music at 300 W. Santa Fe Ave. (aka Route 66) in downtown Grants with one of her sons, Sandy (below).

Unlike her younger (and now deceased) sister Cheryl, Dene was born in Hydro but not in the living quarters above the gas station’s pumps. The Hamons family didn’t acquire the circa-1929 Provine Service Station until 1941, when Dene was about 3 1/2 years. But encountering the station the first time produced one of her first memories.

“Mom took us upstairs and said: ‘We’re going to move here,'” Dene recalled. “But the toilet was broken. I didn’t know how where were going to live there because of that.

“But when we moved in, the toilet was fixed,” she laughed. “The owners must have replaced it.”

Despite the proximity to Route 66, Dene remembers a semi-rural existence at the station: “We had a few acres in the back. We always had a horse. We rode on the dirt roads nearby, joined 4-H, raised a few sheep, and always hit the rodeo. We weren’t far from town, so were able to do some things there, too.

“And Mama always sold firecrackers and fireworks for the Fourth of July. She was one of the few who did.”

She remembers helping run the gas station during summertime, when it was particularly busy. But she found from helping run the adjacent Hamons Court that being an innkeeper wasn’t in her future.

“By the time I saw 10, I had to clean motel rooms and do the laundry,” she said. “We used an old wringer washer. I knew I didn’t run to run a motel.”

Dene continued to run the gas station and motel when she wasn’t taking accounting classes at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in nearby Weatherford — also on Route 66. “I kept the books, and one time ran the station all by myself for two weeks when Mama went to Arizona.”

Dene estimates she spent only eight months of her life away from Route 66, when she and her husband Carl moved to Climax, Colo., so he could work in the mines there. When a job opened up in the uranium mines in Grants, they packed up and moved there.

Carl encouraged Dene to take up a hobby to give her something to do when he was at work. She tried bowling, but didn’t like it. She decided to learn guitar, which did take.

Dene took piano lessons in first grade, and played the trumpet in high school and college, so she already showed some musical talent. She learned basic guitar techniques from a book Carl bought her, then she took more lessons from a graduate of the Chicago Conservatory who owned a small music shop in Grants.

After a few years of lessons, the teacher wanted to move to Hawaii and offered the music shop to her. She opened Serenade Music on Nov. 1, 1964, and has operated ever since.

One of Serenade Music’s services is the rental and setup of sound systems, which she provided for Roy Clark, the rock band Firefall and other acts that rolled into town. She also provided sound for Oklahoma Route 66 Association cruises during the 1990s, before her mother’s death in 2000.

Dene says she holds fond memories of her mother and Route 66, although she acknowledges she hasn’t been to her home state since 2004. Her husband died in 2001 of a lung disease — a victim of his uranium mining days before the companies installed better ventilation systems.

When she isn’t helping customers buy a guitar or electronic keyboard six days a week, much of her spare time is taken up by providing music lessons.

“I don’t think I’ll ever retire unless I get sick,” she said.

So, if you’re in western New Mexico and need guitar strings or are hankering for a Native American or mariachi CD, you know where to go. And you might hear about Route 66 history in the process.

(Hat tip: Kyle Martin, who is Dene’s grandson; image of Lucille’s gas station in Hydro, Okla. by Pete Zarria; all other images provided by Dene Martin)

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