Palms Grill Cafe, a Harvey Girl, and the Skylark Motel

Friday afternoon found me headed north for Atlanta, Illinois, to give a program for the "Dinner Programs at the Palms Grill Cafe" winter series. I almost never mind driving, and it was an easy cruise up the interstate to Atlanta. (Well, as I usually do, I headed out of Edwardsville on Route 66 up to Hamel - doesn't that count?) I arrived in Atlanta just at dusk, parked across the street from the Palms Grill Cafe, and snapped a couple photos. 

Many people had already arrived and settled in for dinner. The lovely Mrs. Rachel Neisler of the Atlanta Museum welcomed me warmly and helped me get set up. I was seated for dinner with three delightful people who had grown grandchildren, stories to tell, and great conversation to share. And my right, the lady's story came out! I was sitting next to a former Harvey Girl! She was one of a group of four that had traveled from Illinois to Santa Fe in the 1940s. Oh, yes! I'm headed back to Atlanta soon for an interview and to scan her photos.

My "Route 66 in Illinois" program went well and all 54 attendees seemed to enjoy it and laughed at my same old lame jokes. I sold out of Illinois books afterwards and enjoyed comments and stories from a number of people. Rachel helped me pack things back in the car and I was off after a few more photos. I love night shots. Maybe I'll break down and buy a really good camera and learn how to use it one of these days. 

It rained for all 125 miles back home. Before I left Atlanta, several mentioned freezing rain in the forecast, so I kept an eye on the outside temperature all the way home. It didn't dip below 34. And the Prius only needed to dip below 60 a few times for some heavy downpours.

Now in its fourth year, the Atlanta Public Library and Museum hosts this popular series of programs highlighting Central Illinois history. The back room of the historic and beautifully-restored Palms Grill Cafe serves as a banquet room. A nice variety of intriguing topics are coming up. Check out the details at Atlanta Public Library and Museum Dinner.

Saturday presented another opportunity for a little Route 66 adventure. In the afternoon, co-author Joe Sonderman and I headed out for St. Clair, Missouri, to attend a neon relighting, hoping for the best as far as the weather was concerned. It was chilly and drizzling in St. Clair, but could have been worse.

A large crowd assembled and hung out in the log VFW building right next door to the historic Skylark Motel. Missouri still being a smoking state and me still being asthmatic, I waited outside. The ceremony was actually held inside due to the weather.

About 5:15 pm everyone tumbled out of the VFW and we all assembled in front of the motel. Someone flipped the switch and first a sleek line of red neon appeared outlining the roof.  Then on came the lighting within the glass block structure and the neon "S-K-Y-L-A-R-K" sign. Beautiful! 

The Skylark Motel was established at St. Clair in the 1950s and closed after I-44 was built. The neon restoration was the result of a National Park Service Route 66 Heritage Corridor Program grant.

Next Saturday Joe and I have another adventure - a group book signing of Arcadia authors at the Gravois Bluffs Walgreens in Fenton, Missouri. It should be a great time, with an Arcadia authors holiday lunch afterward. No neon, though. And probably no Harvey girls.


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