Charlie Nixon, a native of Glenrio at the Texas-New Mexico border who was interviewed in a documentary about the Route 66 ghost town, died on New Year’s Eve in nearby Vega, Texas. He was 89.
If you have a few minutes, read the colorful obituary on Nixon’s life. It’s apparent he enjoyed his time on Earth immensely.
Here’s the key part about Glenrio:
Charlie began his life on April 13, 1932, in Glenrio, New Mexico. He grew up in several small towns along Route 66, including Glenrio, Endee, San Jon, Porter, and Tucumcari. He was the second son of James “Ivan” Nixon and Rosa Lea Hackett Nixon. His family worked long hours in the cafes, service stations, bars/dance halls they managed and owned during these early years. The T. & N. Café and Bar in Glenrio was one of their businesses; the name stood for Texas and New Mexico, since it was on the state line. Later in his life, Charlie was interviewed by K.C. Keefer, Nancy Barlow, and Nick Gerlich for a documentary about Route 66, titled “Exit Zero Glenrio, Historic Route 66.” Charlie’s family and friends were thrilled at his newfound celebrity.
Nixon was born in the two-story Cooper Hotel in Glenrio, just a few years before a fire destroyed it. Below is a vintage postcard image of the hotel, courtesy of 66Postcards.com.
Here’s the trailer for the aforementioned film, via Keefer’s Unoccupied Route 66. Nixon doesn’t appear in it, though.
Alas, it appears the DVDs of Glenrio and other sites along Route 66 have gone out of print. The Route 66 News review of the film is here.
KC Keefer mentioned him in a recent Facebook post:
More about Nixon and his deep ties to Route 66:
A knack for salesmanship showed itself early, when they would try to play pranks on tourists coming through on Highway 66. They gathered up a bunch of goat heads and cockleburs and told people they were porcupine eggs. Some folks actually bought them!
Route 66 came to be a lively place with a lot of happenings. The film crew that was producing Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” decided to film a portion along Route 66 in Glenrio. During filming, Charlie’s brother Edsel ran across the road and managed to be included in the scene. The movie was produced in 1940, so he was about 10 years old, and Charlie would have been eight. In real life, Charlie remembered seeing some of these destitute families trying to make it out West.
Nixon’s health began to decline in late 2021, and was sent home to hospice care. The obituary essentially concludes with this:
Charlie’s family members sat with him and told him what was on their hearts, and said their goodbyes, as they played gospel favorites for him. Gracie came to see him on December 31, 2021. She sat by his bed that evening and laid his new baby great-granddaughter next to him. Soon after, while “I Saw the Light” was playing next to his bedside, he drew his last breath. As one life was ending, another was just beginning.
His first granddaughter, Amy, said “It is fitting for Grandpa to pass on tonight, (New Year’s Eve) since he’s always been the life of the party.
Rest in Peace, Charlie. May the Circle Be Unbroken.
He was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Vega.
(Hat tip to Brian Gregory; image of Glenrio by Brent Lind via Flickr)