The last Whiting Brothers gas station still in operation on Route 66 had hoped to relight the neon for its refurbished signs during a ceremony last weekend.
However, a family of owls recently took up residence in one of the signs, delaying the neon installation at the station in Moriarty, New Mexico. Roger Holden at RETRO Relive the Route said in an email:
The owls are not protected to my knowledge, yet we wanted them to have a peaceful home life. Hawks Aloft said they would move them for a fee but we are getting a lot of publicity with their being where they are.
We will have a celebration when the lights are turned on. We will be planning the event at our next RETRO 66 meeting next Wednesday at the Moriarty Civic Center at 202 S. Broadway.
After the last owl leaves it will only take a couple days for the sign crew to install the neon and remainder of the signs.
As Holden intimated, the Route 66 folks decided to make lemonade out of lemons. In addition to leaving the owls alone, a live streaming camera has been installed in the sign so people online can see the birds’ activities through the website owlson66.com.
And the ceremony went on anyway, with “HOOT 66” and a photo of the owls (seen above) as part of the promotional flyer.
A photo of the mostly restored signs:
RETRO Relive the Route received a $3,700 cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to restore the signs. The group raised $1,500 through the sales of 150 specially made T-shirts.
The Whiting station in Moriarty has been operated by Sal Lucero since 1985, though the station itself dates to 1964.
Whiting Brothers started in 1926 and boasted more than 100 gas stations and several motels in the Southwest. The chain declined rapidly during the 1970s, mostly from stations being bypassed by the interstates. Ruins of several long-closed Whiting stations still stand, but the one in Moriarty remains the lone one still operating on the Mother Road.