Summer is finally here and there is so much activity going on in communities surrounding the Mother Road as well as on the road itself. Check our calendar often for fun and educational opportunities near you!
It’s always a welcome sign when the grays and browns of winter start turning our special “Illinois” green. The roar of motorcycles on the two lanes is surely a sign of tourism on the road, and people are back out cruising during the warm nights. Town festivals, parades, and Pancake Breakfasts are in full swing. The “little Abe” commercials are widely watched and I’ve gotten many emails regarding Route 66 icons that people didn’t know existed.
The 25th Anniversary Motor Tour took place June 13th-15th. Over 140 cars participated in our south to north run. Opening night we were guests of the City of Edwardsville at the Route 66 Festival (Mother Road Fest) in the City park. Saturday morning we crossed over the Chain of Rocks Bridge, led by longtime member and Grand Marshall Tom Armbruster. It was a perfect day as the tour wound its way up the Mother Road stopping at Route 66 Ridez in Hamel for a Goody Bag courtesy of Rich Henry’s Ra66it Ranch and Route 66 Ridez. Next stop was the Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, then winding up to Litchfield and helping the Route 66 Welcoming Center and Museum celebrate its 1st Anniversary. On to beautiful downtown Carlinville, and on to Doc’s in Girard where almost everyone enjoyed a hand-stirred soda and homemade pie and/or ice cream. The day ended in visiting many of Lincoln’s historic stops and enjoying the Route 66 garage sales that were happening in town.
The “surprise” for those attending the Hall of Fame banquet at Lincoln College was the Tropics sign parked out front! What a great site to see close up – and great photo opp for those who stopped to see it. Most people were amazed at the detail on the original sign.
Sunday morning started out with a visit to the new Lincoln Heritage Museum. The museum was opened especially for our tour goers. We wandered north to another surprise – the “Breakfast of Champions” at Funks Grove where the extended Funk Family served Dixie Cups with Funks Grove Sirup! Heading north to Towanda, tour goers enjoyed Dawn’s DK Garage, and new stop, Joe’s Garage in Towanda, and lunch at Kicks on 66. Over 160 meals were served! Heading north members drove thru Memory Lane and up to Pontiac for ice cream at the new Pontiac Creative Nook store. Longtime members who could not attend the tour treated tourgoers to an old-fashioned ice cream social. Leaving Pontiac, mini-stops were at Odell Station and the Ambler-Becker Texaco Gas Station, as well as the Gardner 2-cell jail and the Streetcar. Milltown Market in Wilmington served 25th Anniversary cake in their business and Wilmington closed off Water Street for end of tour shopping and the City of Wilmington took photos and gave away Goody Bags at the Gazebo.
It was a great weekend and hope that all enjoyed the tour and making new Route 66 "roadie” friends.
Part of the special treats of this tour was a DVD of 25 years of “The 66 News” tirelessly scanned by Jim Jones and paid for by Preservation donations to John Weiss. John has always reminded us that what we do today will become the history of tomorrow. In looking back on 25 years of the 66 News it is amazing how much has been accomplished and done. We can’t save everything but we can help with physical work (We Work For Food), and fundraising activities. The quilt fundraiser raised $347 for Preservation. The 50/50 Split the Pot another $186. Doing the original preservation is one cost, but the ongoing maintenance costs are another.
The second surprise was a 25th Anniversary License Plate. How much fun it was to see those plates in people’s back windows as they drove down the road!
There are still many things going on regarding the High Speed Rail – new train stations are being erected in Pontiac and Carlinville. The Illiana Toll Road continues its saga with letters and hearings regarding its impact on the City of Wilmington. The Illinois Route 53 Stakeholders Group is having a meeting regarding their first tier efforts later this week. Anyone going down Route 66 between Joliet and Wilmington is very aware of the high rate of truck traffic and the new hubs that have been created in Elwood. It’s business as usual for state and local governments, but there is now more Route 66 acknowledgement than ever before. We continue to ask communities to let us know what is happening and if they need our help. It’s not always money that’s needed, it's volunteers who can give an hour or two that can make the difference.
Another tour is under our belt, and we are proud to add 3 new Hall of Fame Members in the Class of 2014.
The Hi-Way Tavern and Frank and Dora Catalano of Edwardsville. The Catalano family ran the Hi-Way as a 24 hour restaurant with the motto of “Good Cheer with Good Beer” for over 25 years.” The business was closed and it was announced at the Hall of Fame dinner the Tavern was just purchased and reopened as the Hi-Way Tavern once again on Route 66.
Nelch and Son Concrete, who has been a continuously run family business since 1896 located in Springfield, Illinois, and had provided bricks for Springfield as well as concrete sidewalks, roads and concrete for buildings. It is still run by the Nelch family today.
Last but not least was the Postville Courthouse which was a replica of the original Courthouse built in 1953. The building was rebuilt exactly as it was originally and featured an 1840’s courtroom and county office on the 2nd floor. This museum is under the auspices of the Illinois State Historic Preservation but is run by volunteers. The museum was organized and the collections groomed and maintained by countless volunteer hours by Shirley Bartelmay and her late husband Jack. Shirley has health problems and can no longer volunteer, but Volunteer Coordinator Stu Churchill talked about how 25 volunteers keep the courthouse open for visitors who come to see where Lincoln practiced law.
I owe a great deal of thanks for those who worked the Motor Tour. The Board Members who, like family, live very separate lives but come together to work as one during the tour to make the tour a great deal of fun. Thanks to those old timers who reached out to new our goers and helped them find their way. New friendships were formed and for many of us it’s a perfect “same time next year” scenario.
It’s important to remember those we’ve lost in the past year, Hall of Fame members Andy Granatelli, Bill Shea, and Marie Fitzhenry. This tour's theme, Making Memories, brought back great memories of past tours and those members we’ve lost over the last few years. I think of Lenore Weiss and her laughter at every Preservation workday, I will miss Harold Levy’s enthusiasm. I would love to have Ernie Edwards pick up the phone and call me and start with, “I have a bone to pick with you,” one more time. I will miss the gentle tap of Larry Scinto’s cane while he was explaining his position at a Finance Meeting. I think of Doris Scinto working on the windows at Odell Station while she was losing her vision. I think of Russell Soulsby standing outside his station talking old times and all the changes he saw thru his years at Soulsby’s Station. I think of Wilton Rinkel and his sharp memory and his explaining just where everything “used” to be in Edwardsville. I miss Jim Allen’s top hat and tie dye shirts and his crazy adult tricycle races and his enthusiasm for Route 66 and all its people. It gives me great comfort to have known all these people who shared their lives with me. Like the childhood song, “Make new friends but keep the old, some are silver and the others gold.”
Thanks again to all who make Route 66 a linear community. Thanks to everyone who trekked over the Mother Road and ate lots of road food and ice cream and didn’t complain. I also need to thank the editor of our newsletter, Gina Blitstein, for putting up with me and having to delay the printing due to my wanting to be able to recap our Hall of Fame and Motor Tour for those who couldn’t share our journey this year.
Happy Anniversary everyone! We’ve had ups, downs, and many changes yet like family we pull together for each other and tough times. I am blessed to be part of you. I look forward to seeing you on the road!
We welcome your Route 66 news, stories, photos and events for publication in our newsletter or on our web site!