Well, Turn Left At The Bridge That Used To Be Painted Yellow

Well, Turn Left At The Bridge That Used To Be Painted Yellow

It was in the era of maps instead of GPS, and payphones over cell phones. I was lost as a goose in the fog somewhere in the vast corn field and forest country of northern Ohio. It was pretty country, and with the exception of my passengers, my dearest friend, son, pa and his wife, I had the road all to myself.

To be honest I seldom mind getting lost. After all I have made some pretty amazing discoveries while lost on some back road. But we had somewhere to be at a set time. And I had pa in the car giving directions, when he woke up.

At the crossroads of a county highway and a farm road, with fields and wood lots on both sides, there was an ancient garage and gas station that most likely hadn’t seen much in the way of upgrades or more than the bare minimum repairs since Henry Ford replaced the Model T with the Model A. I used the excuse of purchasing gas to ask for directions, even though pa said it wasn’t necessary.

A mechanic that seemed to be as old and weathered as the garage working on an ancient John Deere tractor that was more rust than faded green, wiped his gnarled hands on a grease rag and came to pump gas. We talked a bit, and I asked for directions to the main highway.

He had a big chew of tobacco in his cheek and after spitting in the dirt, he squatted and began drawing a map in the dirt with a screwdriver. And that was when my pa joined into the conversation. And that was when the mechanic called to his boy in the garage who was most likely a WWII veteran like my pa.

So, there were were, four fellows kneeling in the dirt. Two of them were giving contradictory directions. And two of us were complicating things by asking questions. It was a sort of a, “Well you go down this here road to Struther’s barn and at the bridge that used to be painted yeller’ you turn right.” Then the son would say something like, ” That’s the long way ’round and it ain’t a purty drive. It it were me, I would follow the county road to the cemetery, hang a left and drive along the crick for about eight miles. But if the crick is running high, you will need to turn left at the old Hanford church and follow the dog leg to the county road.”

Well, my pa heard something about a wrecking yard, and asked for details. And that led to more directions, a round of cold bottled soda pop, and a move to the office where directions were scrawled on scraps of paper. After close to an hour of this, we set out on our adventure, not sure if we were still lost or if we were on the right road.

We missed our five o’clock dinner. And we later found out that we drove one hundred miles further than needed. We arrived back at my pa’s house in Michigan just after midnight. And we had the time of our lives.

There was dinner at a restaurant that had been opened after WWII by a returning army cook that couldn’t find work. His grandson and family managed the place. We found the wrecking yard, and parts for my pa’s truck. And we found a covered bridge, discovered a section of Toledo that, we later learned, people avoided like the plague when the sun went down, and almost hit deer, twice. We also made memories, mended some fences, and now that pa has passed, I reflect on that wayward adventure often.

The older I get the more I realize how much was learned from my pa. I learned to work hard. I learned the importance of flexibility and adaptation. I learned that to expect the world to bend to my needs was the pathway to sorrow, headaches, and disappointment. I learned to listen to people, especially with differing opinions, if it was knowledge that I wanted. And I learned a whole bunch about what not to do.

Bob Waldmire, The Green Book & A Mystery or Two

Bob Waldmire, The Green Book & A Mystery or Two

The mural by the iconic artist Bob Waldmire, a pioneer in the Route 66 renaissance movement, on the side of the old Tavern at TNT Auto Center is one of Kingman’s treasures. Given the popularity of Waldmire’s work the lack of official promotion for this gem has long long puzzled me.

So, an opportunity to rectify this shortcoming, and to pay homage to an old friend, made the writing of the kiosk descriptor, and recording the audio for this point of interest on the narrated self guided historic district walking tour being developed by Kingman Main Street relatively easy and extremely rewarding. Every point of interest completed is rewarding but few have been this easy.

Confusing information, conflicting information, or a near complete lack of information has made it quite a challenge to separate fact from fiction, and urban legend from accurate information. Central Bank, now the Kingman ArtHub, was it built in 1907, 1909 or 1911? The Ramblin’ Rose Motel, a former Travel Lodge, was it opened in 1959 or 1961?

But overall the project has been quite fascinating. I have uncovered stories of the most fascinating people. And I know that when completed the tour will enhance tourism, and bring history to life for residents old and new.

The clock is really ticking on this endeavor. Legacy Signs needs a minimum 30 days to complete the kiosks. And the plan is to debut phase one, thirty points of interest on National Road Trip Day, May 27. To date I have twelve sites completed.

This isn’t the only Jim Hinckley’s America project that is rewarding as well as vexing. I am currently working to transform a derelict 1951 Chevy panel truck, AKA The Beast, into a rolling Route 66 information center. As envisioned it will also serve as a mobile studio so we can take programs such as One The Road With Jim, Coffee With Jim and Wake Up With Jim on the road. Putting the truck on the road, and making it a dependable on cross country excursions is time consuming as well as expensive.

Photo Bob Waldmire family

The goal is to have it ready in time for a trial run, a drive along Route 66 from Kingman to Seligman, Arizona and back again, during the annual Route 66 Fun Run. That event takes place on the first weekend in May. So, I am under the gun for this endeavor as well.

As this is also a Route 66 centennial project, I will be selling advertising space on the sides. But first I need to get on the road. And for that I am leaning heavily on our crowdfunding initiative to offset the costs. My tight schedule and, even though I am hesitant to admit it, age are making it necessary to have some of the heavy work such as a clutch completed by a garage.

It is shaping up to be quite a year. Aside from these endeavors I have two new books being published this year. And that will add promotion and appearances to a crowded schedule.

But this all part of the fun. This is what takes place behind the scenes at Jim Hinckley’s America.



Hard Times, Good Times & Odd Times

Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in about 1943

The family has graciously offered to share their story, a true tale of inspiration and of a family of immigrants that built a small empire along Route 66 in the desert southwest. I eagerly await their email as this should make for some interesting reading.

I stumbled on the story while deciphering the history of iconic Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, formerly the Kimo Cafe, in Kingman, Arizona. This is to be another point of interest on the self guided historic district walking tour being developed by Kingman Main Street.

This restaurant was just one chapter in a story that started with a young Swedish boy who had gone to sea and then got caught up in the Mexican revolution. Within a few decades he and brothers, John, Albert, Albin, and Ivar, that followed him to America had established a gas station along Route 66 in Peach Springs, Arizona, a Dodge and Plymouth dealership in Kingman, Arizona during the height of the Great Depression, managed the Shell Oil franchise in northwestern Arizona and built a motel in Newberry Springs, California along U.S. 66.

One of the enterprises was the service station know today as Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, a Route 66 icon in the era of renaissance.

With certification of U.S. 466 that had its eastern terminus at Route 66 in Kingman near First Street in 1935, and construction work to realign Route 66 west along Front Street, now Andy Devine Avenue in 1937, business shifted from the historic commercial district that centered on Fourth Street.

In June 1937 it was announced that Roy Walker was to begin building a modern auto court at the corner of First and Beale Streets. In 1939, Oscar Osterman, the local Shell Oil distributor, purchased adjoining property and built a service station and café. Osterman had used the name Kimo for a station he had opened on Beale Street in the early 1930s. The Ki was for Kingman, and Mo was for Mohave County. He used the name for his new station.

An advertisement in the Kingman Miner dated January 1940 reads, “Kingman Café No. 2 formerly located at 224 Beale Street has moved into the new café building of the Kimo Shell Service. The same excellent food and service in a new and beautiful location.”

A few years after opening it was renamed the Kimo Café and Oscar Osterman’s wife Clara took over management. Clara was a cook of local renown that had managed the Casa Linda Café on Route 66 In Kingman, and a former Harvey girl.

Generations of Kingman residents had fond memories of the Kimo Café. Located just a few blocks from the high school, it was a popular lunch stop and after school hangout. And for many young men, the station was a first job as the flow of traffic along Route 66 provided an endless supply of customers.

In the mid-1950s, E.J. “Charlie” McCarthy leased the service station and garage. In addition to managing the Kimo service station McCarthy had established a Texaco station along Route 66, Canada Mart today. In 1959 he opened McCarthy Motors, a Studebaker dealership that also sold International Harvester trucks, next door. In 1967 he acquired the Ford dealership that is now TNT Engineering.

In 1991, Scott and Roy Dunton, owners of Dunton Motors next door, purchased the café and station. In an interview Scott Dunton said, “At the old Kimo the only part that was a restaurant was the narrow section when you walked in the front door. The kitchen was in the back. Everything from there to the east was gas station and garage. We did a full remodel and enclosed the pump island. We changed the name to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Of course, the “D” in the name was a reference to Roy Dunton. The idea was to create a ‘50s style diner. A lot of my mom’s recipes ended up on the menu.”

In 2006, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King put the diner, and its signature root beer, in the national spotlight during a segment of Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure. They stopped in for lunch and so enjoyed the root beer several cases were purchased for the studio audience on a future program.

Scott Dunton said, “The idea for the root beer came from my family’s trip to the World’s Fair. That was in 1962. I was twelve and every day I walked all the way across the fair to get XXX Root Beer. I always remembered how it tasted like it was filled with cream. My dad said it was the Rutherford family root beer, a tradition in Spokane. So, when we bought the Kimo and decided to build the diner, I remembered the taste of that root beer and tracked down the Rutherford’s. As it turned out they had sold the business with the formula to A & W. Then I talked with the franchise department but decided that being linked with A & W would limit our plans. I looked for other options and found Mutual Flavors. In our initial conversation I asked if they could make a creamy flavored root beer. They kept sending samples, and my family and I kept tasting it, but it just wasn’t right. Then I suggested adding caramel and Mr. D’z Old Fashioned Creamy Caramel Root Beer was created.”

It is fitting that the Dunton family were pioneers in the Route 66 renaissance as they had been providing service to travelers along that highway corridor since it was signed as the National Old Trails Road. N.R. Dunton had begun managing a garage and service station in Goldroad about twenty miles west of Kingman since about 1925. That was the year he built Cool Springs on the east side of Sitgreaves Pass.

On June 13, 1946, the Kingman Miner published a picture of a new dealership at the west end of Front Street between the Kimo Shell and Café on First Street and noted that, “The new building built by A.L. Owen now houses the N.R. Dunton Motor Company. One of Kingman’s finest new business houses, it has a modern display room for cars, an automotive parts section, and an up to date maintenance department.” Roy Dunton, with Herb Biddulph, Kingman’s first mayor, purchased that dealership in 1950. Today it is Dunton Motors Dream Machines managed by Roy’s son, Scott.

In the late 1990s Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner was leased to Armando and Michelle Jimenez, Las Vegas restaurant owners. Today the colorful old diner with its signature sign and world-famous root beer has become a landmark and a destination for legions of Route 66 enthusiasts.

This venerable old diner has survived hard times, good times, and odd times such as the years of the apocalypse better known as the COVID 19 pandemic. And the story of the Osterman family is that of America as the land of opportunity. These are the stories of inspiration that are shared with pride through Jim Hinckley’s America.

Windows On The Past

Windows On The Past

This photo of the Mohave County Courthouse in Kingman, Arizona from an event in 1928 is just one piece of the puzzle.

Historic photos are fractions of time frozen forever. They are windows on the past. And they are puzzle pieces that when put with together with newspaper articles from that period, old letters, diaries and similar materials bring the picture into focus.

As an example consider this photo of the Mohave County Courthouse and dedication of a WWI memorial in 1928. Before working on development of the narrated, historic district walking tour being spearheaded by Kingman Main Street, I knew that the monument with plaque that read, “IN MEMORY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF MOHAVE COUNTY WHO SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR 1917 – 1918” was erected in front of the courthouse that year.

But that understanding was as one dimensional as the photo. As it turns out this is a very rare WWI memorial. The “Spirit of the American Doughboy” was created by sculptor Earnest Moore Viquesney. It is one of the most popular WWI statues produced for monuments. It is estimated that a full ten percent of WWI memorials used this distinctive sculpture.

But what makes this statue unique is that it is one of three that were dedicated to a Native American. The dedication ceremony for the monument honored Sam Swaskegame of the Hualapai tribe who was killed in action in the Marne campaign battle of Blanc Mont, France on October 7, 1918. This simple photo with the word patriot was published to promote the ceremony.

The second statue on the monument is also a rarity. Created by the same sculptor, “The SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN NAVY” was not as popular as the doughboy. Only seven of these statues are known to exist.

Local volunteers started construction of the stone base for the WWI monument and the pond that would surround at the end of April 1928. Ora Gruninger, a Kingman contractor, supervised the work and spearheaded the collection of donations. The base cost $150. The $2,650 for the monument included $1,000 apiece for the statues with the remainder being used for the machine gun, and bronze plaque.

The statues were shipped from Chicago on May 1, 1928. The dedication ceremony on May 30, 1928, started at 9:30 a.m. with a parade from the firehouse near Fifth and Beale Streets. The parade made its way to the Mohave County Courthouse by 9:45. The parade was led by Ed Wishon, the commander of the local American Legion No. 14, Swaskegame Post. At 10 a.m., Mr. Wishon performed as master of ceremonies for the dedication. Judge Ross H. Blakely invoked the dedication.

At some point around the turn of the century the machine gun was stolen. On June 29, 2019, a rededication ceremony was held in commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the battle of Belleau Wood. The ceremony included replacement of the Colt 1895 machine gun with a bronze replica created by artist/sculptor Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona, Arizona.

The courthouse itself is a link to some very interesting Arizona history. The Arizona Territory was established in 1862. Two years later Mohave, Pima, Yavapai, and Yuma counties were carved from the vast wilderness.

Of the four original counties Mohave has the most intriguing history. Named for the tribe that lived along the Colorado River near present day Bullhead City, it remains a sort of political oddity. Almost one third of the county is north of the Colorado River. Known regionally as the strip country, aside from using an airplane or boat, that section of the county can only be accessed from Nevada or Utah.

In 1865 the territorial legislature carved several new counties from the original four. One of these was Pah-Ute County that was split from Mohave County. This new county included the strip country and the southern tip of present-day Nevada with Las Vegas, Nelson, Nipton and Laughlin. Another adjustment was made in 1871 and the strip country was folded back into Mohave County, and the remainder of Pah Ute County became part of Clark County in the newly designated state of Nevada.

Mohave City on the Colorado River was selected as the first Mohave County seat. Then in 1867 it was moved upriver to the port of Hardyville near present day Davis Dam. In 1873 it was relocated to the mining boom town of Cerbat in the Cerbat Mountains, and then in 1877 to neighboring Mineral Park.

In January 1887, as Mineral Park entered a period of decline when mines played out, the territorial legislature held hearings to consider new sites. Greenwood, a mining town on the south side of the Hualapai Mountains, and Hackberry along the railroad at the eastern edge of the Hualapai Valley were considered.

Territorial newspapers in February noted outrage in Mineral Park when it was declared that Kingman would serve as the Mohave County seat. Rampant rumors claimed that the vote to move the county seat was fraudulent. Interestingly those rumors spawned a legend that is still repeated as fact today. A quick Google search will find several stories that Mineral Park officials refused to give up the county records and that outraged Kingman citizens subsequently launched a riad and carried off county documents. Some of these stories claim that the courthouse in Mineral Park was burned during the attack.

The Mohave County Miner newspaper followed removal of the county seat to Kingman. It remains in publication as the Kingman Miner.

Before completion of the first courthouse in Kingman in 1890, a two-story wood frame structure on Spring Street built by Orvin Peasley and W.H. Taggart, the temporary county offices and courts were housed in the Taggart Building on Front Street. The second courthouse was constructed in Neoclassical style designed by the architectural firm Lescher & Kibbey based in Phoenix between 1914 to 1915 at a cost of $62,372.

The construction contract was awarded to J. M. Wheeler of Kingman, and Collamore & Sons from Arkansas. Stone used in the project was hauled into Kingman from the Metcalfe Quarry in the Cerbat Mountains. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Jim Hinckley’s America is more than just telling people where to go. It is also about bringing history to life and ensuring that history is viewed as something as dead and dry as an insurance seminar.