As the Route 66 centennial approaches, the torch passes to a new generation. Many of the leaders in the preservation, the promotion and the development of Route 66 as an attraction for future generations were born after the highway was fully bypassed in October 1984.
As these passionate young visionaries take the stage, many of the pioneers of the Route 66 renaissance movement quietly step out of the spotlight. The recent death of Ramona Lehman, owner of the Munger Moss Motel for more than fifty years marked the end of an era.
But the legacy of Ramona, and her husband Bob that passed away in 2019, lives on. They were not mere motel owners. The Lehman’s were friends to every traveler that they met. They were a source of inspiration and insight for a new generation of Route 66 business owners, preservationists, and community leaders.
Passing The Torch
Few things better illustrate the passing of the torch than the renaissance of the Shamrock Court in Sullivan, Missouri. Restoration of this stunning old auto court is being undertaken by Rich Dinkela, known to an international legion of fans as Roamin’ Rich, and his wife Christina. Not yet fifty years old, Roamin’ Rich has taken the helm of the Route 66 Association of Missouri and transformed the organization. He has also spearheaded efforts to preserve the Gasconade River Bridge. And he has developed a series of videos and programs that promote Route 66, provide inspiration for preservationists and encourage road trips on iconic Route 66.
In Oklahoma, Rhys and Sam Martin are carrying the torch into the centennial and beyond. President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, and owner of Cloudless Lens Photography, Rhys is a passionate spokesman for the Route 66 community. His wife Samantha has contributed greatly to projects developed to revitalize the Route 66 corridor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she creates educational programs that will ensure when the time comes, the torch can be pased to the next generation.
Certified in November 1926, U.S. 66 has evolved into a multifaceted living time capsule. More than a century of history and American societal evolution are preserved along this highway that connects Chicago with Santa Monica. But this highway is also a stage for the telling of America’s story.
President Harry Truman had a connection with Miami, Oklahoma. Sites associated with President Abraham Lincoln are found all along the Route 66 coridor in Illinois. Pivotal moments in the labor movement are linked with Galena, Kansas, andMt. Oilve and Verdun, Illinois.
There are German, Italian and British military cemeteries in Oklahoma. In Tulsa there is a somber monument to a massacre when a community of prosperous African Americans was destroyed. In Kingman, Arizona stands a WWI monument dedicated to a Native American killed in the Battle of the Marne.
The Falcon restaurant in Winslow, Arizona, and the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois were established by Greek immigrants. The Wild Hare Cafe, a landmark in the era of renaissance in Elkhart, Illinois, was founded by a Dutch immigrant. The historic El Trovatore Motel is being renovated by an immigrant from Israel.
At Jim Hinckley’s America, we share America’s story. On Route 66 that story is brought to life, framed in neon, and preserved for future generations.