MORE THAN JUST A NAME

The names roll off our lips with little thought to the story behind them. Chevrolet is a car, not a Swiss immigrant who came to the United States in the employ of Fiat, became a racing legend in the promotion of Buick, and who joined forces with William Durant to launch an automotive empire that become an American icon. 
Chrysler is also a car, not some fellow named Walter who was instrumental in keeping GM afloat during some very difficult times. Likewise with Dodge, Nash, Buick, Edsel, Ford, Cadillac, and Studebaker. 
We drive along Route 66, see the signs that ring with familiarity – Winona, Kingman, Barstow – and never give thought to the stories, or people, behind the names. Mention Cuba and fans of the highway think Wagon Wheel Motel, not an island in the Caribbean. Mention Romeroville and few will think Don Trinidad Romero. 
Those individuals who lent their names to products and towns have been awarded a very dubious form of immortality. Their names are remembered and spoken throughout the world decades after their demise, but few know who they were. 
The Stanley brothers were the fellows who manufactured the steam car. They were also the fellows who invented the dry plate photographic process that became the cornerstone of Eastman Kodak and manufacturers of quality violins. 
The Don Trinidad Romero or Romeroville was a man without a country after the United States gained control of the New Mexico territory. He was also a prosperous freighter on the old Santa  Fe Trail, a prominent rancher, the territorial representative to Congress, and sheriff of San Miguel County. 
His home in Romeroville was the showplace of northeastern New Mexico. It was there he hosted formal dinners and entertained a wide array of prominent gusts such as President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, and General William T. Sherman. 
For fans of the double six, Afton is that faded old town in Oklahoma with a former DX station that has been transformed into a “must see stop.” However, for Anton Aires it was a tribute to his daughter, Afton Aires, and a memorial to his former home in Scotland along the Afton River. 
Kingman will be forever linked to America’s most famous highway resultant of a song that proclaimed this as THE road for getting your kicks. Meanwhile, the industrious, adventuresome, and somewhat vain, Lewis Kingman, a railroad location engineer who named this stop for himself, has been relegated to obscurity. 
And that little town in Illinois known worldwide for the hospitality and good food found at the Ariston Cafe is the legacy of Electus Bachus Litchfield. 
So, the next time you decide to motor west, give some thought to the names you see along the way. There might not always be an interesting story behind them, but there is most likely a very interesting person. 
As a bit of a shameless self promotion, if your curious about the names of the towns along Route 66, I am quite sure you will find my next book, a Route 66 Encyclopedia & Atlas, of interest as I provide a concise history for every town on every alignment of Route 66! The book is scheduled for an October of 2012 release with an official debut being scheduled at the  Wagon Wheel Motel during Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri.