Melba Rigg, one of the original four women of the 4 Women on the Route station in Galena, Kansas, before its name changed to Cars on the Route, announced her retirement over the weekend.
Rigg wrote on a Facebook post:
This video by KC Keefer on his Genuine Route 66 Life video series interviewed Rigg couple of years ago. It also shows how she got the “Melba the Mouth” nickname:
I recall among Rigg’s previous jobs was antique-store operator and bartender, which makes sense when you think about her combination of grit and hospitality. She was as nice as could be, but she could become a fiery protector of the places and people on Route 66. Her unforgettable persona was a reason people kept coming back to the Mother Road.
I also recall Rigg’s 16-year-old daughter, Shelby, helping run the station soon after it opened. Shelby now is in her mid-20s and married.
4 Women on the Route opened in 2006 as a souvenir shop and small cafe in a renovated Kan-O-Tex gas station on Route 66 in downtown Galena. The four women who ran the shop were Rigg, Renee Charles, Betty Courtney and Judy Courtney.
It opened a few months after the premiere of the Disney-Pixar animated movie “Cars,” which featured a rusty tow truck named Mater, whose direct inspiration was a 1951 International boom truck parked at the station.
The business changed its name to Cars on the Route in 2013 because of an ownership reshuffling and to more strongly identify the “Cars” link. Also, charter member Betty Courtney died at age 79 in 2010. Rigg continued to work there.
Cars on the Route may have occupied a small corner of Route 66 in Galena, but it led to big things in town. The town’s mayor was inspired by the business’ ability to draw Route 66 tourists, so he shepherded an effort to spruce up downtown with repaved streets and streetscaping, which led to new businesses springing up there.