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.
Reflection is what you do after an afternoon spent sipping a pint of house brewed Bearded Bagpipe at Rickety Cricket in Kingman, Arizona, and enjoying some hearty conversation, and a few laughs, with acclaimed photographer KC Keefer of Denver and Rosie Ramos manger of Fender’s River Road Resort & Motel in Needles, California. This morning after recording another episode of Ten Minutes With Jim, our audio podcast that is published on the Podbean platform on Sunday mornings, I sat down with a cup of coffee and gave thought to friendships, good beer, what a grand adventure life is and the twisted road that has taken me to this point.
It takes very little to put me in a contemplative mood, especially on a beautiful summers morning that kicks off with an awe inspiring sunrise after almost a week of being sicker than a moonshine sipping dog. I have always been a bit of a deep thinker. Ma always said that I was born ninety. Brad, an old cowhand I worked with on the Sierra Mesa spread out of Faywood, New Mexico used to tell me that I over thought things. Dries Bessels, a dear friend in Amsterdam, has often introduced me as an intellectual redneck, a title that I carry with pride. I must admit that even though I hear it often, the redneck reference baffles me.
Dale Butel of Australia based Route 66 Tours, author Jim Hinckley, and photographer Efren Lopez. Photo Judy Hinckley
Conservation with old friends that centers on neon, Route 66 and the amazing generosity of the international Route 66 community is bound to inspire a bit of contemplation. Of course the events of the past week or two have also provided ample fodder for deep reflections. My step mother passed away a couple of weeks ago and this adds to concerns about my 91-year old pa that has become increasingly frail over the course of the past year or so. And there are concerns about my dearest friend as we aren’t exactly kids anymore, a point driven home after her recent doctors evaluation. Acceptance of the CEO position at Route 66 Crossroads, a nonprofit organization established to develop community education programs that foster increased understanding of tourism and its potential for economic development as well as community revitalization. And yesterday, after months of postponement and editorial adjustments, I received the initial galley proofs of the new book. So, it looks like I will have a new book to be promoting during the fall tour.
Still, at the heart of this mornings reflections were yesterdays conversation with Rosie and KC. They were in town to pick up the historic signage for Fender’s, the only motel that sits on an alignment of Route 66 as well as the Colorado River. With the generous support of the Route 66 community the sign had been restored at Legacy Signs & Iron. Plans are underway for a big party when the sign is re-lit on Saturday evening. The song Under The Neon by the Road Crew sums it all up rather nicely.
And, of course, as most major events in my life since 1959 have a Route 66 connection, anything having to do with that old highway sparks a memory or two. It also leads me to a bit of contemplation about the future. After all, the Route 66 centennial is fast approaching. How many pioneers of the highways renaissance will be with us to celebrate? How many landmarks will be lost between then and now? How may landmarks will be given a new lease on life? Who will be the new stewards of the Route 66 legacy? And that my friends is reason enough to sip on a cold beer and do a bit of reflection.
Less than ten years from now Route 66, the Main Street of
America will turn 100 years of age. Arguably the old road, a highway that officially no longer exists, is more popular than at any time in its history and as a result, there is ample evidence that the iconic highway is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Still, Route 66, surprisingly, as a living time capsule faces an uncertain future.
The White Rock Court in Kingman is counted among the rarest of historic buildings with a direct Route 66 connection.If a list were to be composed of endangered relics, the bridges that are crucial to maintaining the historic integrity and context of the Route 66 experience are near the top of the list. Another leading contender are the motels with an emphasis on the auto court. Almost as rare as leprechauns riding unicorns are the motels, auto courts, and properties that were featured in editions of the Negro Motorist Green Book. (more…)