Showing posts from September, 2013

Research Visits to the Litchfield Museum and DeCamp Junction

What started last Saturday as a photo-choosing and -culling session for our new book turned into a very pleasant afternoon in Litchfield and DeCamp Junction instead. We probably already have more than enough images at this point to turn "Route 66 in Illinois" into a two-volume project. But the mere thought of more vintage images waiting somewhere is always enough to cause us to jump in the car and head out after them.  We took 66 up to Litchfield - there's construction on I-55 right now, as if we needed an excuse. First stop, the  Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center . Inside we ran into Nick Adam of the Ariston Cafe and Martha Jackson, driving force behind the museum. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the exhibits since Joe had not been there since they opened, and I had not been there since opening day, which was so packed - plus I kept getting into conversations with hometown friends - that I really hadn't taken a good look. This was special for me

Williamsville and Atlanta, Illinois

Yesterday and today I spent in Williamsville and Atlanta, Illinois. Although still tired from the whirlwind Carthage MO trip over the weekend, I took off yesterday morning from Edwardsville. This trip, it was just me and my Prius. In Sherman, I met up with Josh and Wendy Friedrich at a newer restaurant, Fire and Ale , for an excellent lunch and good conversation. Then it was on up the road a few more miles to the Williamsville Historical Museum - the "Box Car Museum." Josh grew up in Williamsville plus earlier this year he researched and wrote the nomination for the Fawns family's service stations for the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame. Between Josh and the helpful staff at the museum, I acquired more information and photos for our (Joe Sonderman and me) upcoming "Route 66 in Illinois" book. Josh took me on both a walking and a driving tour. Here are a few scenes from small but charming Williamsville.     This morning I actually slept in. In fact,

The road home from Carthage

On Sunday morning Steve and I had a leisurely breakfast and visited some more with Debye and Debbie Dee at the Boots. Here we are in our Boots Court t-shirts. We took a few more photos in the Central/Garrison "Crossroads of America" neighborhood, where Route 66 and the Jefferson Highway both once rolled through. Here are daylight shots of the Boots Court and, across the street, a credit union which was once the Boots Drive-In.  We stopped at the Conoco Station to put gas in the Prius and also to take photos of local artist Lowell Davis' "Crap Duster" (made from a manure spreader, among other things). From there, we drove to Red Oak II to check out Lowell Davis' recreated village. Everything is here - from metal sculpture to chickens (real) to a musical instrument garden to a church service (occurring during our visit) to a steampunk-style water fountain, all scattered here and there among houses, store buildings, barns, automobiles,

Saturday in Carthage

When the alarm rang at 7:00 am, I was thinking more "relaxation" than "research." However, I had an appointment with Michele Hansford in the archives of the Powers Museum and I was looking forward to it. At the Pancake Hut, breakfast and coffee fortified us for some work. The  Powers Museum is located at the west edge of Carthage on West Oak Street. The museum was a gift to the city from Marian Powers Winchester in honor of her parents, and the institution just celebrated its 25th anniversary in June of this year. Director Michele really knows Carthage history and was of tremendous assistance. I listened, read, and scanned while Steve wrote on his projects for awhile before jumping in to assist with  my work so we wouldn't end up camping out in Michele's archives for another week or two. We finally packed up and left a little while before closing time, with lots of information, souvenirs, and a copy of each of Michele's Arcadia books on Carthage.

Carthage, Missouri trip - Friday

Armed with laptops, cameras, scanner, and coffee, Steve Rensberry and I set off Friday afternoon for Carthage, Missouri. Last April, when the two of us had stayed there both en route to and returning home from New Mexico, we had been charmed by the town and hoped to get back there for a long weekend. Now, with some research and an article or two to produce on my agenda, and a weekend with nothing else scheduled, away we went. Since we couldn't leave until the middle of the afternoon, we knew we'd have to drive I-44 most of the way. We did, however, plan for one excursion away from the interstate - Devil's Elbow. This scenic area and important piece of Missouri highway history is about a half-hour's drive south of Rolla. The beautiful old steel truss bridge carried the earliest alignment of Route 66.  During the WWII era, the winding highway and small, narrow bridge were insufficient to handle army trucks and other heavier traffic. A four-lane section of highway

Looking back at Joplin

I had been looking forward to the International Route 66 Festival in Joplin MO for months, and I wasn't disappointed. The big event was held August 1-3 in Joplin and neighboring 66 communities Carthage MO and Galena KS. Since I didn't have my blog started at that time, I'm going to make up for lost time and post some photos from that weekend. The kickoff on Thursday evening was a showing of the hugely popular movie "Cars" at the Route 66 Drive In at Carthage MO. Michael Wallis, voice of the Sheriff, was there to sign autographs. There was a long wait along the road to even enter the drive in and it was packed to capacity. Excitement was contagious as one person after another snapped photos from cars or darted from them to get a special shot. My evening was even more fun as good friends Josh and Wendy Friedrich from Springfield IL graciously invited me along. It was especially fun sharing the movie and good times with their little Route 66 fans, Charlie and Lizz

How many authors does it take to answer a question?

We'll find out Saturday! A Marine, IL author, Charles Schwend, and the Troy public library have teamed up to organize a Local Author Fair from 10 am - 2 pm Saturday at the Tri-Township Public Library at 209 S. Main Street in Troy, IL. The event is being billed as a chance for aspiring writers and/or writers aspiring to be published to get their questions answered from the approximately two dozen of us authors signed up. Of course, we'll all be ready and willing to sell you a book and sign it as well. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood!

Murder isn't just a story

Crime and murder stories can be fascinating and intriguing but the shocking memories such events leave behind are with the victims' families forever. They endure loss, shock, and often the public airing of their grief. They deal with police, investigators, reporters...and writers who keep coming back many years after the crimes were committed. This summer I've been researching the local (Litchfield-Troy-Edwardsville-Mitchell, IL) angle of a vicious, senseless crime spree across the country in 1961. The story of two GIs in their late teens gone AWOL and gone murder-crazy made the national news and kept making it as their story unfolded. The very brief version: Ronald York and George Latham went AWOL in Texas in May 1961 and headed into Louisiana, beginning a two-week orgy of crime that took them east to Florida and then west across the country. They killed seven people, stealing their vehicles and money. Two of their victims were here in the Metro East. Their names we

Have a little potato with your catsup

It was a momentous day in Collinsville this past week when the giant Idaho baked potato stopped to visit the World's Largest Catsup Bottle. On Wednesday afternoon, the potato and the catsup bottle met up – or at least were in view of each other – when the Big Idaho Potato Tour and the Tater Team rolled into town on a 72-foot-long truck and trailer. Cameras rolled and kids posed as the potato crew handed out souvenir postcards with facts about the giant sprayed-concrete potato. The cross-country road tour is celebrating the Idaho Potato Commission's 75 th anniversary. Some hard facts about this potato: (1) If it were a real potato, it would take two years and nine months to bake, or it could make over 1,500,00 french fries. (2) This potato weighs 12,130 pounds and is 28 feet long. (3) It took almost a full year to build the spud in Weiser, Idaho. If anyone just can't get enough, there's a Facebook page and a website: Famous Idaho Potato Tour I