The search for hidden gems in my efforts to chronicle the history of Route 66 for the Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas often makes me feel as though I am a kid with a pocket full of nickles in a candy store. Of course there are also a number of days when I feel like a kid with no nickles in my pocket at a candy store.
My latest endeavors have involved sifting through decades of newspapers from communities large and small, as well as a few that no longer warrant a dot on the map. The discoveries made present the illusion that the pieces from several puzzle boxes have been mixed together but the reality is the puzzle picture is a vast tapestry.
The Amarillo Globe, Thursday, August 22, 1928, “The new Pennant Motor Oils sold by the following courteous Pierce dealers.” This followed by a short list of a dozen or so but buried in this, about half way down is “Wildorado Garage, Wildorado, Texas.”
Now, this gives me a bit more insight into the town of Wildorado. It also dovetails with the material Joe Sonderman provided regarding Pierce Pennant stations.
Another glimpse of the Wildorado portion of the tapestry was found in a single paragraph from the San Antonio Light, Sunday, May 21, 1933. “Burglars hauled off a one ton safe containing more than $500.00 after breaking into the State Bank (Wildorado, Texas) sometime Friday night. Most of the bank fixtures were torn down by the burglars in getting the heavy safe out the front door.”
Adding to this was a headline and story found int he Syracuse Herald, Sunday, January 29, 1928.”Wildorado, Texas a town plundered so many times that six shooters no longer terrorize.” The article then details several years worth of robberies. What kind of place was Wildorado in the 1920s and early 1930s?
Wildorado may have been plagued with thieves before it vanished from the map but other communities along Route 66 were not immune from such activity. The Hutchinson News for Tuesday, March 13, 1923, featured a story about a Halltown, Missouri robbery on the front page. The Ada Evening News for Monday, February 8, 1960, has a nice headline about a bank robbery in Depew, Oklahoma.
Then, as well as now, it was bad news that sold papers. So, unfortunately many of my discoveries are a bit on the tragic or dark side. There is an article from the Roswell Daily Record dated July 24, 1929 that details a deadly auto accident at the bottom of La Bajada Hill. Another details a bloody weekend on Route 66 in Oklahoma with numerous accidents resulting in 13 deaths.
An interesting curiosity in the Joplin Globe from November of 1968 leaves one asking what are the odds. A car plunged into the Spring River at Riverton in the afternoon of the same day that another car left the roadway and crashed through a guard rail.
Then, as well as now, most of the stories are softened with human interest tales of miraculous survival. An articles date May 30, 1909, details the destruction of Depew, Oklahoma by a “cyclone” and the stories of survivors.
Wild weather stories are another staple of news. A 1964 newspaper from Placerville, California details the harrowing experience of a couple of residents on their vacation in the southwest when, “a desert cyclone between Hackberry and Seligman nearly forced our car and trailer from the road. Many vehicles were damaged and there was extensive damage in Kingman and Las Vegas.”
If I were limited to one statement about what has been learned from this research it would be this, I will never drive Route 66 and see it the same way again. How can I now that I know about Widlorado and the Christmas parade in Shamrock, or GIs at Kingman Army Airfield teaching the local kids to roller skate, or the …