The hulking Tufa stone walls of the Brunswick casts long shadows on Route 66 in the late afternoon. Perhaps the most notable event associated with the hotel was an impromptu reception held for Clark Gable and Carol Lombard after they married at the Episcopal Methodist Church on Spring Street, March 29, 1939. As of this writing, the hotel that dates to 1909 is undergoing a complete renovation. The Sportsman Bar next door is a bit of a dive but it is well worth a quick visit. Dark, tobacco stained walls can’t obscure the fact that this old saloon is an almost perfect time capsule from the era of statehood, 1912.
The Hotel Beale with its towering sign advertising the fact that the hotel is “air cooled” is a forlorn sight. The historic old building that dates to 1900 faces a very uncertain future but The old adage that if walls could talk is more than fitting for this tarnished old relic. Tom Devine, father of character actor Andy Devine, took on the role of proprietor in 1906. Legendary pioneering rancher Tap Duncan was a regular guest. Duncan was linked to an altercation with members of the gang led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He was also linked to outlaw Kid Curry who died using the alias Tap Duncan after a botched robbery attempt in Parachute, Colorado. In 1925, Buster Keaton took up residence at the hotel. He was filming Go West at tap Duncan’s Diamond Bar Ranch about sixty miles north of Kingman. Louis L’Amour was a regular at the Nighthawk Saloon at the hotel during this period. He worked at the Katherine Mines above the Colorado River and would occasionally engage in amateur boxing matches in Kingman. Charles Lindbergh often stayed at the hotel during construction of the cities first commercial airport, a link in his pioneering TAT airlines. Amelia Earhart was also a guest during the opening ceremonies for that airfield.
This is an excerpt from a book, Jim Hinckley’s America: Kingman, Arizona & 160 Miles of Smiles, that I wrote a few years ago. I had two reasons for penning this small tome. First, I wanted to call attention to Kingman and showcase it as a destination, not just someplace to drive through on the way to somewhere else. Second, I was curious about the self publishing process.
Every Route 66 fan in the world knows about Kingman, after all it is mentioned in the famous song about getting your kicks on Route 66. And for at least 100 years people have been rolling through town on a major highway. First, the National Old Trails Road. Then Route 66, I-40, and US 93, and soon, I-11. And, it just so happens, the city is located at the heart of an incredible vacation paradise, a destination for those in the know. From an economic development standpoint the problem is that not enough people are in the know.
I have long had a fascination for marketing, for promotion, and for advertisement. My office is festooned with advertisements for 1917 GMC trucks, the 1940 Hudson, and Greyhound vacation destination brochures from 1950. The desk is awash in AAA hotel and service station guides from 1928, 1940, and 1955, as well as promotional atlases from a half century ago, and a pile of road maps. The file cabinets that frame my cubicle overflow with brochures for Ramblers and Studebaker trucks, decades old post cards, and the occasional odds and ends like a promotional brochure for Irish Hills in Michigan circa 1960.
As a result, I have learned that marketing linked with passion, vision, and leadership can successfully sell or promote almost anything be it an Edsel or a community. St. Robert, Missouri, a Route 66 community, is not mentioned in the famous ditty about getting your kicks on Route 66. Aside from Uranus General Store & Fudge Factory, and Fort Leonard Wood, they don’t have major attractions or iconic Route 66 locations such as Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. BUT they have Beth Wiles who has passion, vision, and that provides leadership. You can see this made manifest in the new Route 66 Passport Missouri Facebook page.
The Mother Road Route 66 Passport developed by Marian Pavel of Touch Media represents an incredible marketing opportunity for communities. Beth Wiles and the folks with Pulaski County tourism recognize this and are capitalizing on it. Meanwhile other communities presented with the same opportunity … Well they are at the train depot waiting for their ship to come in.
For more than a century Kingman has flirted with becoming a major southwestern tourism destination. It has never happened. And yet, communities such as Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City, places that didn’t really exist 60 years ago and that don’t have much to offer have eclipsed Kingman as a tourism destination. Neither of those Colorado River communities have a twelve month tourism season like Kingman. Nor do they have access to major highways or Amtrak. And they don’t have Route 66. So, I wonder what the problem is? In some towns it just seems like tourism is an accident, sort of like throwing enough paint at a canvas in the hope of creating a masterpiece.