2016 Hall of Fame Nominations Announced!

The Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame recognizes "those people and places along Route 66 whose blend of hardy individualism and grassroots community spirit gave the road such special character." To that end, each year our Association nominates several of these special people and/or places to induct into our Hall of Fame. Nominees are inducted at our annual Hall of Fame banquet, held the Saturday evening of our Motor Tour Weekend (this year, June 11).

We are proud to announce that our Hall of Fame "Class of 2016" Inductees are:

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8408 West Joliet Road, McCook, Illinois

This is an add-on nomination to recognize the importance of the restaurant structure that formerly housed Snuffy’s 24 Hour Grill (with parking) and other Mom and Pop diners in the limestone building built in 1926.

The building started out as a diner built out of Joliet limestone that was actually mined less than a mile away. It was located on a corner “wedge” of land, a small building with a large parking lot for cars and trucks.

The original owner ran a diner there until the 1950’s when the Nikitopoulos family took the business over. Tony Nikitopoulos and his uncle ran “Snuffy’s” until his uncle left in 1969. At the time, Gus Nikitopoulos joined Tony. Tony and his wife Nancy ran Snuffy’s until it closed during the winter of 2011-2012. The last owners had leased the land for 38 years.

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This building had always been a truck stop/local dive/diner that had always entertained locals, truck drivers, and Route 66 travelers. Open 24 hours a day Monday through Sundays. When it was Snuffys, they would close at 1 p.m. on Sunday until 2 a.m. Monday morning. There were 17 stools at the bar, 3 booths along the windows facing the parking lot, and the total capacity was 35. It was a no frills piece of paper for a menu eatery, but was a real silverware and plates place to eat. The husband and wife, Tony and Nancy, were comfortable exchanging “words” so some meals had a bit of unplanned excitement and in
retrospect, was one of the first “immersive” reality shows. You just never knew what you’d find there.

The business was bought by Terry Car, Sr., and during interviews with the press he had noted that the exterior’s limestone had always attracted him, but the interior needed major renovation. They added a tower with a Motorcycle in it and kept the integrity of the design while upgrading the Interior’s seating and kitchen. Several months after the restaurant reopened someone drove their car through the side of the restaurant. The owners rebuilt
the diner using the limestone they had and adding glass blocks as it was difficult to find matching limestone after all those years. It was very important to the Carr family that the building retain its original look.

Since purchasing the business, the owners have added a new paved parking lot, a “Welcome to McCook” sign, and the waitresses await excited travelers and locals with hot coffee and a sparkling clean interior and grill. It’s now a “Steak and Egger” and serves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This is a destination that has served alongside the Mother Road for 90 years. It has housed
many diners, all small Mom and Pop or family owned businesses that served good food
at reasonable prices to all those that walked through their door. Trucker, tourist, local,
It didn’t matter. Hot coffee and a smile never goes out of style.

Clay Dooley – Bloomington, Illinois

Clay Dooley Inc. opened as a tire business on July 4, 1917, in the 400 block of West Washington Street. This business was always based on “Customer service and customer relations, and knowing what we’re selling.” This full service tire and auto repair service has been in Bloomington at locations at 210-212 W. Front Street in 1928; moving to 210-216 E. Grove in February 1962; and moving in 1986 to 307 E. Grove Street. The business is now located at 207 S. Gridley Street, Bloomington.

The longevity of Clay Dooley started with its founder, staff, and service. Clay Dooley
borrowed $500 from the Corn Belt Bank and soon the “rubber” hit the road. Clay Dooley assisted locals and Mother Road travelers with roadside service calls to hundreds of stranded motorists and truck drivers. Clay Dooley provided both repairs on and off the road to keep everyone moving on to their destinations.

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Dooley started with Goodyear tires in the early 1940’s when farmers were converting from steel tires to rubber. During World War II when rubber was scarce, the business handled whatever brand it could get, and Dooley had about five tire lines including Denman, Diamond, and Gates. During the war years, the business expanded into appliance sales to offset the lack of tires available for sale.

Vernon Trower joined the staff in 1948. He started in the back shop and worked his way up to bookkeeping responsibilities before becoming a partner in the 1960s.

In the early 1960s, Clay Dooley added engine tune-ups and worked on transmissions, air conditioning, brakes, mufflers and shocks in addition to its main business-tires.

The company dropped its appliance sales as it couldn’t compete with the “big box” stores. However, its tire sales and auto repair sales remained constant.

Vernon Trowler was celebrated in the local papers back in 1992 when the company celebrated their 75 years in the business. At that time, the company was run by Trowler, his daughter Ruth, and sons David, Steven, and Brian. Several grandsons were also coming of age to be included in the family business.

This year is Clay Dooley’s 99th year in business serving the Bloomington-Normal and surrounding communities along Route 66. A business like this survives because of the dedication of the owners and staff to customer care. Service and respect, long the hallmarks of the true Route 66 service businesses, is alive and well at Clay Dooley. The family is still there as well.

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Highway GuideWatch Route 66 evolve into The Mother Road  with maps and highway guides from 1917-1992 courtesty of the official Illinois Digital Archives.