VINTAGE NEON, A MARVELOUS MECHANICAL MENAGERIE, GOOD FOOD, GOOD FRIENDS, AND THE PASSING OF THE GUARD
When it comes to imitating Indiana Jones, I may not be in the same league as “Roamin” Rich Dinkela or Dr. Nick Gerlich. Still, I have a fair share of adventures.
This past Friday that adventure included a fascinating odyssey into a century old garage, conversations with an interesting fellow who has worked in that garage for 82-years, and a bit of vintage neon.
In January, the Route 66 Association of Kingman launched an initiative to locate, renovate, recreate, and reinstall vintage neon signage along the Route 66 corridor and in the historic business district. This was in addition to the personal initiative of the associations president that has resulted in the restoration of a circa 1960 OK Used Car sign, and the addition of neon at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner.
As envisioned, the restored or recreated signs will be installed at original locations, even if the buildings are gone. Stage two will be informative kiosks at these locations that include historic photos. The third part of the project along Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) is the Route 66 Walk of Fame but as noted previously, this is currently in limbo.
To date the association has acquired the signs from the Desert Drug, Frontier Lounge and Brandin’ Iron Motel. They also have an interesting “Entering El Trovatore” sign donated by the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.
On Friday the Graves family partnered with the association to have a vintage (1930?) Packard sign restored and placed back on the Old Trails Garage. In talking with Elmer Graves, the 90-year old owner of the garage, I learned that the Packard sign had been hung at two other locations in KIngman before its placement at the Old Trails Garage.
If you would like to make a contribution to the 501(c)(3) organization for the sign initiative, or if you have a lead on vintage signs from a Route 66 business that are for sale, call 928-753-1314 or send an email to email@example.com Legacy Signs, a company that recently relocated their facilities to the historic business district, has the equipment needed for neon sign restoration or construction. Long term plans for the facility located along Route 66, is the installation of a neon gallery of smaller custom signs that will be for sale.
Retrieving a Packard sign that hasn’t seen the light of day since sometime around WWII was quite exciting. However, as with Route 66 itself, the people, specifically Elmer Graves and Scott Dunton, president of the Route 66 Association of Kingman whose family has had a business on Route 66 since 1926, made this a truly memorable day.
Speaking of the Dunton family, they and the Route 66 community suffered a great loss early Sunday morning with the passing of Roy Dunton, Scott’s father.
In the 1946 book, A Guide Book To Route 66 by Jack Rittenhouse there is a segment on Sitgreaves Pass. “For eastbound cars which cannot make the Gold Hill grade, a filling station in Goldroad offers a tow truck which will haul your car to the summit. At last inquiry their charge was $3.50, but may be higher. Cars with trailer may need this service.”
A short time ago I attended the Hot August Nights event at the bowling alley in Kingman and was remiss in posting a few of the highlights. One of the many things that fascinate me in this town is the diversity of vehicles that turn out for events such as this, for Chillin’ on Beale, the Route 66 Fun Run, or Best of the West on 66. These events are always a marvelous mechanical menagerie. As an example, at this particular event there were extreme rat rods, home made 4×4 contraptions, classics restored and unrestored, muscle cars, and some downright amazing sights.
I just noticed the time and need to wrap this up. So, let’s talk good friends and good food for just a moment. Zdnek Jurasek of the Czech Route 66 Association is closing in on the halfway point during his solo bicycle ride on Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. To close out the Arizona crossing, he will be staying at Grand canyon Caverns and Ramda Kingman before tackling Sitgreaves Pass, and his first California stop at Fenders Resort in Needles. A request has been made that bicyclists join him along the way, even if it is for just a few blocks. Dries Bessels and Henk Kuperus are also on the road with a tour group from the Netherlands. If you happen to see them, show a bit of hospitality and meet some very friendly folks. Now, a quick note on good food. This afternoon I had lunch with Ed Klein of Route 66 World at Rutherford’s. As always the food was excellent (Greek salad). Best of the West on 66 Festival, scheduled for the weekend of the 23rd, is shaping up to be a bit of a roadie get together in Kingman. Dries and Marion Bessels, grand marshals for the parade, and Mike and Sharon Ward will be in town. Who wants to get together for a dinner or breakfast? I am thinking Calico’s.