It’s A Deal

It’s A Deal

With a population of just over 2,200 people Jonesville, Michigan is little more than a wide spot in the road on US 12. The scenic road is old. Before the arrival of Europeans it was the Sauk Trail. Then it was a road for pioneering immigrants looking to carve a life from the Michigan wilderness. Then it was a stagecoach road that connected the village of Detroit with Chicago. Jonesville is old. It was established in 1828. One of the towns founding residents was Benaiah Jones who settled with his family on the Saint Joseph River. Throughout the 19th century, and into the early 20th century, it remained a small, progressive agricultural village. It was here that the first “Free School” opened in Michigan and was the first school district with a defined curriculum. Vestiges from those times abound today.

The streets of Jonesville are lined with historic homes including a Victorian mansion, once owned by Ebenezer Grosvenor, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Michigan. Grosvenor was a member of the state building commission that oversaw the construction of the Capitol in Lansing. His stunning home has been meticulously maintained and is now a museum. Here is a bit of trivia. The Andrew Mack Brush Company and Jonesville Lumber are family-owned business that opened in the 1890’s. Powers Clothing is another family owned business in business for more than a century. This store is also the oldest Carhart clothing retailer in the United States.

By 1910 astute businessmen in Jonesville and communities throughout the Midwest were turning their attentions toward the manufacture of automobiles. Counted among these men was Jacob Deal, owner of the Deal Buggy Company that was established in 1865, and his son George. In 1905 George motorized a buggy, and built a few for local customers. In 1908 the Deal Motor Vehicle Company was organized. It was a short lived endeavor. George died late in the year, and the company closed its door in 1911.

The story of Jonesville and its brief attempt to become a center of automobile manufacturing was a common one during the first decades of the 20th century. Adrian in Michigan had ten manufacturers. Hillsdale also in Michigan had five. Port Huron had four. Holland had two.

With a population of more than 30,000 people, Jackson was not exactly a village in 1910. Still it was to small to be classified a city. And yet during this period Jackson was a leading manufacturer of automobiles, ancillary components, and products associated with the auto industry. David Buick launched his automotive career in Jackson. Between 1902 and 1930 more than twenty different manufacturers produced cars including the Reeves, Jackson (and Jaxon steam powered car), CarterCar, Argo, Briscoe, Hackett, and Standard Electric. Hinckley-Myers became of the largest manufacturers of specialty tools and garage equipment in the nation. Then there was Sparton.

Sparks-Withington was another company that operated in Jackson, and that is largely forgotten today. The well established company began manufacturing automotive components in 1909, specifically  radiator cooling fan assemblies. By 1912 the required a larger facility and so a new factory was constructed on North Street in 1912. The first in a long list of innovations introduced by the company was the electric car horn introduced in 1911. The horn was adopted by the Hudson Automobile Company as standard equipment and within two years more than 30 other companies followed. Sparks-Withington named its products Sparton – derived from a combination of the Sparks and Withington names.

After WWI, Sparks-Withington used its expertise in electronics to branch out into another fledgling industry – radio, and in 1926 introduced the first push button and “electric eye” tuning radio. In 1926, the growing radio department moved into leased space in the old Jackson Automobile Co. factory on Horton Street and E. Michigan Ave., now known as the Commercial Exchange Building. In 1927, Sparks-Withington again needed more space, so it bought the former Brisco and Earl auto factory at what is now 2400 E. Ganson St. In 1939, Sparks-Withington again took a chance on a new product when it began field-testing TV receivers.

I share all of this as a preamble to a new chapter in the Jim Hinckley and Jim Hinckley’s America story. Last year I was privileged to speak about the early auto industry at a fund raiser for the Hackett Auto Museum in Jackson. I have been asked to return this year and in October will be speaking on Jackson’s rich automotive history at another fund raiser for the museum. And there are now discussions about me serving on an advisory committee for the museum, and to working on a variety of projects associated with harnessing the towns automotive history as a catalyst for tourism development.

Full circle. As noted on previous occasions my family has a long association with Jackson and its automotive heritage. I lived in Jackson for a few years and left for Arizona after graduating from Vandercook Lake High School and Jackson Area Career Center. Now here I am returning, sort of. I can’t imagine trading my beloved desert southwest for Michigan winters.

This Jackson based company became a leading manufacturer of specialty tools and garage equipment.

Life is full of twists and turns. I have to admit, when I set out on the road to Arizona and a new life so long ago, I never imagined that that road would one day take me back to Michigan.


Where The Streets Are Paved With Gold

Where The Streets Are Paved With Gold

During the 1930s, Stonydell Resort in Arlington, Missouri was a vacation destination for people from as far away as Kansas City and Oklahoma City. Photo Steve Rider

“Route 66 was completely paved in Missouri as of January 5, 1931. The final section of pavement was just east of the Pulaski County line, near Arlington. Workers tossed coins in the wet cement to celebrate. A few weeks later, thousands of people turned out in Rolla for a huge parade and celebration to mark the occasion.” Author Joe Sonderman, A Bit of Missouri 66 History. In Quapaw, Oklahoma, on March 24, 1933, to celebrate completion of Route 66 paving between Commerce, Oklahoma and Baxter Springs, Kansas there was a major celebration that included Quapaw chief Victor Griffin laying a commemorative zinc tablet in the middle of Main Street.

There was a time when communities large and small celebrated their association with Route 66. Most communities along that highways corridor were quick to recognize, especially during the dark days of the Great Depression, that US 66 offered tremendous economic opportunity. Even though the highway no longer officially exists, Route 66 is more popular today than at any time in its history. Surprisingly, unlike in times past, only a few communities between Chicago and Santa Monica see the highway as an economic boon. Many will go through the motions of harnessing the highways popularity as a catalyst for economic development and historic district revitalization. Few, however, develop promotion, marketing, and related initiatives to fully capitalize on the potential represented by Route 66 tourism. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

In all communities grassroots initiatives that are well informed, passionate, and are able to put aside egos to build cooperative partnerships are invaluable. In communities with tourism departments shackled by apathy, a lack of vision or ambition, and entrenched cronyism, these grassroots initiatives are the key to the harnessing of tourism as a contributor to economic development. In a nut shell providing the information and tools needed to build effective grassroots initiatives in a community were the reason I developed tourism/hospitality classes for Mohave Community College in Kingman, Arizona. This is also why I developed a condensed version of the classes that are being offered in the form of a presentation.

Examples of how to build effective grassroots initiatives are some of the projects developed and launched in Kingman. One of these was the Kingman Promotional Initiative. It is a relatively simple concept but it was initially hampered by the apathy that has plagued tourism development for years and as a result attendance was anemic. Once a month the initiative hosts an informal meeting. Business owners are invited as are city officials, event organizers, members of the arts community, and anyone interested in helping build cooperative partnerships in the company as well as representatives from, Kingman Main Street, and the state and Kingman Route 66 associations. The goal is simple, foster awareness.

To date there have been an array of positive results. An informational kiosk in the business district that stood empty for more than two years was transformed by Kingman Main Street. The Route 66 Association of Kingman working with a few business owners and the organizers of Chillin’ on Beale have hosted receptions for numerous groups and individuals including the first European Route 66 Tour as well as Marian Pavel of Touch Media, the company that has developed the Route 66 Navigation app and the Mother Road Route 66 Passport. Public arts programs such as murals have fueled the historic district renaissance. Meetings with project developers and tour company owners have enhanced Kingman’s reputation as a destination rather than just a stop. Few of these projects received any support or participation from the tourism office.

Route 66 Association Japan reception at Calico’s restaurant in Kingman, Arizona

Sadly, as happens often, this has not fostered a better working relationship with the tourism office. However, this too can be overcome through the success of grassroots initiatives and cooperative partnerships within the community and along the Route 66 corridor. The Route 66 centennial and the potential this represents should be given consideration as well as incentive for launching an effective grassroots initiative in your community.

Curious? Do you have interest in seeing your community transformed? Perhaps my presentation is just what the doctor ordered. After all, Route 66 is paved with gold.



Selling Everything On The Hog Including The Squeal

Selling Everything On The Hog Including The Squeal

I admit it. A great deal of my time is spent giving thought to the lives of long dead people and then meditating on what lessons can be learned from their mistakes, and successes. As an example, can you imagine what it must have been like to sell automobiles in 1905? “Sir, this is a fine automobile that will most likely provide several hundred miles of trouble free service, especially if you drive within the city limits as there really aren’t any passable roads beyond that point. It operates on gasoline that can be ordered from most any drug store. Yes, I realize that price is a bit steep. Yes, I know that you can buy one or two houses for that price but think of the prestige.” If selling a new car was a challenge, can you imagine what obstacles had to be overcome by a used car salesman?

Now imagine what it must have been like to be an automobile manufacturer. Henry Ford pulled it off, on his third attempt and with the help of Horace and John Dodge. David Buick, failed time and time again. To a lesser degree, so did Louis Chevrolet. Walter Chrysler and Charles Nash were the mirror image of Buick, all that they turned their hand to succeeded. Nash started by stuffing cushions for the Durant Dort Wagon Company and within a relatively short period of time, was the head honcho at Buick and GM before launching his own company.

When faced with a promotional challenge I often turn to the infancy of the American auto industry for ideas or solutions. Recently I hit a wall in regards to Jim Hinckley’s America, and as I have a new book due for release in a few weeks, this seemed an ideal time to step back and contemplate how best to market the entire package – me, the book and Jim HInckley’s America as a multifaceted travel network. What have I been doing right? More importantly, what have I been doing wrong?

Often the first course of action when faced with a challenge such as this is to take a very long walk, or two, to clear the head, process thoughts (turning off the cell phone) and come back to the problem refreshed. The process minus the cell phone seemed to have worked well for John Adams. Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison were also famous for taking time away from projects to escape to the north woods of Michigan. All three men seem to have been relatively successful. Wouldn’t you agree?

The Cerbat foothills north of Kingman Arizona are laced with an extensive trail system, and vestiges from the areas rich history.

So this morning I met up with a very old friend who just happens to be an ex-brother-in-law, and we set out for a morning walkabout on the Camp Beale Loop Trail. The Cerbat Foothills in the area of historic Fort Beale, Beale Springs, Johnson Canyon Springs, and Red Ghost Canyon are a scenic wonder. The sense of history here is palpable. The springs here were of tremendous importance to the Cerbat Clan of the Hualapai people. Father Garces purportedly camped at Beale Springs during his expedition in 1776. Lt. Beale and his now famous camel caravan also camped at the springs. Fort Beale was an important outpost on the Beale Wagon Road as well as territorial era Hardyville-Prescott Toll Road. This was also the site of the first internment camp for the Hualapai Tribe.

The loop trail is also another example of the many treasures that abound in the Kingman area. And as a result, they are also a source of frustration as they remind me of what could be if the city had an aggressive tourism office with vision, with passion, and with an interest in building cooperative partnerships within the community as well as in the international Route 66 community.

As is often the case when friends that have more than a forty year history get together, it was also a stroll down memory lane. The scenic wonders of the desert, deeply shadowed canyons, tracking deer into the mountains, easy conversation, and a cool morning breeze was just what the doctor ordered. Now, let’s see if I am going to be a Charles Nash or a David Buick.