The Lope: November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life at the Coleman

The classic Christmas film, "It's a Wonderful Life" will be showing at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful in Miami, Oklahoma this weekend, It's first showing is tonight at 7PM. For times Saturday and Sunday, Check their website for details, or call the Coleman at 918-540-2425.

Although I've loved touring the Coleman, I won't be able to make it, but I'd hate for anyone in the that area to miss out for lack of hearing about it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random Christmas Pictures

You know what I like about the Christmas season? People turn up the color in their environment the way I wish it were the year-round. This festive but rather non-functional windmill is in southeast Joplin, Missouri.

And here's someone in Joplin who got their lights up before Thanksgiving, well in time for the first dusting of snow. We, who drive the streets of our cities looking for the first glimmers of that dot-to-dot incandescent glow, love people like this.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Little Jack Horner...

...sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I

The grave of Jack Horner in the corner of Joplin, Missouri's Forest Park Cemetery, 3rd Street and Range Line Road, is one of the lesser known odd sights in the area. In fact, I can't find that anyone has previously noted it.

Note the dates on the stone: 1931-1945. He was about 14 at the time of his death, making him - by age, anyway - little Jack Horner.

And Jack really is buried in the corner of the cemetery. That's Range Line Road (Hwy 71) in front of him. According to Stefan Joppich's Route 66 Web and Atlas, this stretch of Range Line was Route 66 from 1956 to 1972, which makes Jack a Mother Road attraction.

I had assumed that Jack's placement might have been deliberate - perhaps the result of an ill 14 year-old's defiant sense of humor.

But, no. The randomness of it is weirder than that, because Jack may not always have been always on the corner.

According to the Joplin Cemeteries office, Forest Park Cemetery once extended farther to the south, all the way to 4th street. Decades ago, a cemetery employee said, some graves were moved from the corner area and local businesses soon occupied the land. He did not know the exact date of the grave relocations as the city didn't take over the cemetery until 1988, after it was abandoned by the previous owner. I found a 1978 city directory which shows a a Texaco station at the corner; Subway and a Mazio's Pizza are two of the businesses that now occupy former cemetery land.

So, depending on if the grave relocations were before 1945, it may be that Jack Horner sits on the corner by design - if he was buried after the relocations - or that a matter of coincidence if he was buried before and the grave relocations stopped with his eternal resting place. It is also possible that Jack himself was relocated to the corner, deliberately gaining him his nursery rhyme status.

Jack's grave (center, facing street) is the southern-most one in the farthest row east. This eastern row faces Route66/highway 71/Range Line, which was enlarged many years ago, but after the burials, thus leaving not too much space between those who rest in peace and the bustle of the busiest road in Joplin.

And what does that nursery rhyme mean, anyway?

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I

According to Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins, the first publication date of "Little Jack Horner" is 1725.

The website identifies Jack Horner as John Horner, steward to Richard Whiting (1461 - 1539) the Bishop of Glastonbury during a time when King Henry VIII was attempting to seize Glastonbury Abbey for its treasure and lands after Henry's split from the Roman Catholic Church.

Replica head of Henry VIII from the Tower of London

The story goes that the Bishop of Glastonbury tried to bribe the king with a pie containing deeds to twelve valuable estates. Pie was apparently used at this time as a way to hide valuable from thieves. This sounds dubious to me - a bit too much like a plot device in the old Batman TV series - but I suppose giant pies could have been their equivalent of the fake rocks in which we hide our emergency house keys.

Of course, were I a thief, I'd steal the pie.

Anyway, Horner is said to have robbed the pie of its "plum" - the deeds to the manor of Mells, the most valuable of the twelve. I should note that Mells contained profitable lead mines and "plumbum" is Latin for "lead."

The bribe did not work, and the Bishop of Glastonbury came to an unfortunate end. He was drawn and quartered by Henry's order for the crime of staying loyal to the Catholic church. Horner is reputed to be one of those who testified against him.

Other versions of the legend, such as one at the BBC website, have it that Horner somehow obtained the deeds to Mells through political subterfuge and presented them to Henry, who was so pleased that he gave Horner the manor.

Whether Horner was guilty of stealing the deeds or not, it is a fact that the Horner family owned Mells from that time until the early 20th century, though they, and subsequent owners, deny the validity of the connection between the nursery rhyme and any events of Horner's life.

I can find no speculation online as to the Christmas reference ("Christmas pie") in the nursery rhyme. The Bishop of Glastonbury was drawn and quartered on November 15, and though modern retailers view that date as was well within the Christmas season, I very much doubt the English of 1539 did so.

One possibility for the Yuletide connection is that Glastonbury Abby, itself steeped in the Arthurian legends for supposedly containing the remains of Arthur and Guinevere, was also the home of the Glastonbury Thorn, a specimen of the common Hawthorn tree that was rather uncommon as it flowered just a few days past midwinter - Christmas. This flowering was considered miraculous, and the Glastonbury Thorn brought additional fame to the abbey as cuttings of it were sent far and wide.

The Glastonbury Thorn was first mentioned for its connection to British Christian legends in the early 16th century writing, "Lyfe of Joseph of Arimathea" in which the miraculous tree is said to be the result of Joseph planting his staff (from the holy land) at Glastonbury during a trip to England which he took after Christ's crucifixian. The publication date is usually listed as 1502, so the tree might well have existed by the 1539 death of the Bishop of Glastonbury and Horner's possession of Mells manor.

The miraculous Christmas-blooming tree was well-known and documented by the earliest publication date of "Little Jack Horner" in 1725.

If you want an example of just how many variations on a legend one can find on the Internet, try googling "Glastonbury Thorn."

Without a time machine or some supernatural connection, we'll probably never know the true origins of the "Little Jack Horner" rhyme.

Perhaps we should ask the Jack Horner buried in Joplin. After all, he is facing Bed Bath & Beyond.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

As I enjoy the view outside my mom's dining room window, the words of a stuffing recipe debate between my mom and my girlfriend waft from the kitchen, carried on tendrils of turkey aroma.

I am thankful.

Not only for them and the rest of my family and friends, but for you, reader. I enjoy this blog as my personal continuing education program and I learn all the more when some of you come along with me, via your emails and comments. Thank You!

I hope that on this day, as well as all others, that you are no stranger to love.

Whew. Now that that moment is over, I bring you something irreverent.

Thanksgiving Rerun

Networks have reruns; I have reruns. I'm watching Miracle on 34th Street for the...oh, probably 60th time now. Santa just sang to the little Dutch girl, so in order to fight off a tear, I'm calling up an old favorite, with apologies to turkeys everywhere.

Though to be honest, my apology isn't earnest; I'd as soon eat a turkey as look at it. And I intend to do so, right now. Happy Thanksgiving!

post-tyrptophan addenda:

During dinner, mom's cat, "Weaselhead", (I named her) checks out the pie selection. (Always wear your camera at the dinner table.)

While being unpacked, Santa Torso watches TV.

And where will I be tomorrow?

Yeah. Like last year, I'll be in front of Office Max or Office Depot with a stop at Best Buy afterward. Gigs don't grow on trees, ya know.

Parade of Neon

I'm sitting here at my Mom's house, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and enjoying a view of one of her trees out the window. Of course, the Hutchinson, Kansas, Holiday Parade was this past Saturday. Granted, we don't have the huge balloons and such, but I can guarantee that nobody in our parade lip-synced and we beat NYC by five days. Take that, Big Apple.

While I watch the NYC parade, I thought I'd let Ace Jackalope and Clarence the Dinosaur show you some of the older cool neon signs along the section of Main Street that is Hutchinson's parade route.

Although Hutchinson's parade was a morning event, I'm sprinkling in a few night shots. I don't think the neon for the Sleep Shoppe, 11 North Main, is very old. Its luminosity gets lost in the new bright downtown lights; I think they need to be dialed down a bit.

The blue neon line above the red cursive neon of Long's, 110 North Main, may be indicating a stylized needle; Long's is a clothing store. Company president William Long says the sign was moved here from a previous location in 1972, and dates from about 1965.

Pegues clothing store, near 3rd and Main, has been out of business for a few years, and the building has yet to find another semi-permanent use. The neon sign is still there, but is never lit. Russell Crump's Photo Archive shows a vintage postcard of the building.

Pegues windows are being used for thematic Christmas displays at the moment. I loaned a couple of older snowmen for a display promoting the Reno County Mental Health Association's Christmas at Home Tour. The one at far left was made by either the Harold Gale Display company (spelling of "Gale" is speculative) of Kansas City, or its successor, the Superior Display Company. Superior Display Company definitely made the 7-Up snowman on the right. I posed his arms so as to hide the 7-Up can in his hands.

I didn't shoot the parade passing the Flag Theater this year, but I have touched on it before. Here it is in motion on a recent October evening.

Clarence passed Johnson Music Center at 420 North Main. The sign was placed there in 1953, according to owner Craig Johnson.

It is a giant 8th note. Not that I knew that; I had to ask someone.

I shot it at night a few weeks ago. In all my travels, I've never seen a neon music note this big. It's one of the treasures of our area; I know that other neon sign aficionados will understand. As a matter of fact, I just nominated it for the 8 Wonders of Reno County.

And here is a short video clip. The green rim of the note flashes.

Why do I shoot admittedly low-res video clips of these things and display them? Because, as far as I know, there are few tapes or records of the way these things worked. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find out later on how a defunct sign worked, as far as its flashing, motion, etc.

Mind you, as far as I know all of the signs I am portraying are in safe, stable hands, but if you ever have any doubts that the commercial architecture and signage of a city needs to be recorded, archived and placed online, I have one name for you: Greensburg.

I tossed in this shot because the car looks cool. I have no idea what it is, but it's passing the 500 block of North Main Street.

Added November 26: reader Jim Terrell of La Center, Kentucky, tells me this is a Studebaker. Thanks, Jim!

The building that is now Reger Rental was built as a Marland Oil gas station back in the 1920's, according to owner, Perry Reger.

Now this is a beautiful story of owner-motivated restoration. The sign was placed on the building when it became Reger in 1949. The cost at that time was about $500. In the 1970s, the sign was removed in favor of the flat-against-the-building signs so popular at that time. In 2000, Reger had the old sign restored at a cost of $5000 and placed it back where it had been.

I asked Reger why he had the sign restored and replaced. "Wanted to" was his response in tone of voice that was justly proud, like that of a man who had restored an old hot rod. I wish his attitude would catch on.

Here are short clips of the sign in action; the lower parts are temporarily not working:

Just north of Reger's is this anomalous little lantern-topped building that I've always wondered about. It has hosted a travel agent specializing in cruises and now it contains a hair and nail salon. Perry Reger told me it was built as Malt Village, part of a a small chain of malt shops back in the 1960s. I wish I had a picture of that.

There is more cool Main Street neon both north and south of the parade route, which ran from Avenue B to 11th Street. I think I'll show that another time.

On the way back to his residence, Clarence cast a fine shadow on one of Hutchinson's brick streets.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a wondrous Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Countryside Illinois on Route 66

Last July (2006), my lovely significant other and I voyaged down almost all of Illinois Route 66, including most of the variant routes. This created such a massive influx of photos that I more-or-less choked on them as far as doing a linear set of posts like I did for Route 66 in California, and have only been cherry-picking from them ever since.

We did make some nice finds, though.

50 Years of The Flame

I tend to judge restaurants - especially steakhouses - on the degree to which they look like the swankier places my parents might have visited back in the day before Sirloin Stockade was the steak place in most towns. I've been lucky enough to enjoy a few places that live up to my quasi-rat pack standard, including the Cattleman's Cafe in Oklahoma City, Zeno's in Rolla, Missouri, and Rod's in Williams, Arizona.

I have dim memories of Keller's Barbecue and Lee's Steakhouse on Route 66 in Joplin and I long for a night out in their mid-century splendor - never mind that my nostalgia conveniently forgets that such places would almost certainly be too smoky for me to enjoy.

One place I've visited that I'd really like to investigate further is The Flame restaurant in Countryside, Illinois, which will be 50 years old next year.

I should note that although The Flame's website lists it as being in Countryside, the United States Post Office lists its zip code as belonging to La Grange. La Grange is best known to railfans as the home of General Motors' Electro-Motive Division, the birthplace of so many classic diesel locomotives.

Back to The Flame - I'm coming to regard custom front door handles on a restaurant as a good sign. The Cattleman's Cafe in OKC, and Bali Hai in San Diego also have distinct door handles, particular to their specialities.

I should state right off that we did not eat at The Flame, we merely stopped for photos and sodas as we'd eaten so many places that day by the time we ran across it. Too bad, really.

But that's Illinois 66 for you. Indeed, I think of all the Route 66 states, Illinois seems to me to be the one you eat your away across to the greatest degree. The day we stopped at the Flame, we'd already eaten at Lou Mitchell's, Snowflake Drive-In and Snuffy's Grill. Truly, that day we ate no mediocre meals.

The Flame's decor is a mix of original features dating from 1949, and additions from the late 1960s and 1970s, according to several managers with whom I spoke. If I obtain more detailed information, I'll add it here.

General Manager Lauri Galanti was happy to allow us to roam with a camera. Here she is with Ace Jackalope and frequent customer Ray Hanzelin.

The bar lighting is subdued with lots of light-strew vine-like stuff.

This huge end of a keg dominates a wall over the bar.

This banquet room is one of the additions. It looks very 1970s to me.

I was fascinated by the big metallic sunburst.

The restaurant has a definite mid-20th century feel.

There are nice little touches here and there.

Across Brainard Avenue from The Flame, you can see the sign for the Wishing Well Motel, another Route 66 institution.

No More Wishes at the Well

Yesterday via phone, I asked two Flame managers about the much-beloved but recently plagued motel across the street, and was told that demolition of it had begun in earnest last week. One literally looked outside and told me "they're tearing it down even as we speak."

This was no surprise; the place was for sale when we were there in July of 2006, and Flame employees had told me that since Wishing Well owner Zora Vidas had passed away, there had been no parties interested in running the place as a motel. Part of it had even caught fire since then. Route 66 news has carried periodic updates on the story of the motel's demise.

I believe this sign is a replacement for an earlier one. Read a bit about the history of the 1941-vintage former motor court at Kathleen J. Miller's website.

As of the afternoon of November 20, the wishing well itself was intact, according to Flame employees.

Now this is funny. I pointed the camera through a wire grid and down the well that day last July, and shot a flash picture into the inky darkness of the well. Why? Because sometimes it's fun to photograph stuff you can't even see.

Anyway, months later I was looking at these photos and noticed what looked initially like the lower half of some unfortunate person, still clad in their jeans. More likely, it's the remains of a Halloween dummy, posed coming out of the well but doomed to reside in it. I should note that I didn't smell anything odd.

Who knows? - it might stay in there long after the well is filled (if it ever is) - a fun little find for some future archaeologist probing the cultural engine that was, and is, Route 66.

This geodesic house has nothing to do with The Flame or the Wishing Well, but I'm throwing it in anyway, as I'm a sucker for geodesic structures and I see few of them along Route 66 outside of Arizona. There were several of them just to the East of the Wishing Well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmas Parade Tomorrow

The annual Hutchinson, Kansas, Holiday Parade will start tomorrow at 10 AM. We'll be there, driving Clarence the dinosaur down Main Street and handing out the best candy canes you're likely to find. Full-size candy canes, mind you - not wussy wanna-be candy canes like peppermint losanges or the mini-canes that mall Santae dole out.

Here's our coverage of the parade in 2005 and 2006.

Ace will be there again, probably watching the crowd from atop the van. Santalope might go in his stead. You know, I never see the two of them in the same place at at the same time. You don't suppose...?

Ace and Clarence participate in the parade to support the Reno County Mental Health Association and help them promote their annual Christmas at Home Tour, which will be December 2.

Why? Because we love Christmas.

And because humans need more mental health, said the man whose agenda today must include finding a festive outfit for a jackalope and running a brontosaurus through a car wash.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Leafy Goodness

Often I find that things are at their most interesting when in periods of transition. This is certainly true in the case of the leaves in my mom's backyard.

Funny how I never get tired of autumn leaves. Yeah, I know that wasn't a sentence.

Here's some Fall foliage from past posts for your potential enjoyment:

In Reverence to Autumn

Last Leaves of Autumn

This photo, part of Autumnal Twilight on Route 66, has my URL edited discretely (I hope) onto it because it is stolen often. At least I get some advertising that way.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

While touring scenic Ohio this past July, we chanced upon this pattern of marble crosses in the WWII veterans' section of Middletown's Woodside Cemetery. Most of the 167 crosses are memorials, not grave markers, as most of the honored are not actually buried here.

Woodside's chapel was dedicated in 1950 to WWII veterans.

It was the chapel's cool art deco-like top that initially drew my attention.

For another veterans' cemetery, see A Sacred Grove on Route 66.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Autumnal Bits of Route 66

What a difference staying away from the interstate can make. We had a busy weekend on the road, plagued by unreliable Internet access, but we did manage to shoot a few photos Sunday morning on a 13-mile stretch of Route 66 between Springfield and Halltown, Missouri. This barn belongs to a farm across from Agape Life Fellowship Church, 6185 West State Highway 266.

This house was just four minutes west of there. Check out the sunrise pattern in the siding.

Rainey's Tow Service is just west of the intersection of Missouri Highway AB with West State Highway 266. I'm thinking that's an old DX sign.

Route 66 is hilly and curvy in this area. This is further to the west, just past Hillside Baptist Church. There are so many churches along this part of the route that I find myself using them as landmarks.

Yeakley Cemetery was established in 1852. The road from which I shot this photo would be designated Route 66 over 60 years later. Now the road is called Missouri State Highway 266. That's Farm Road 65 stretching off to the south. The church wall seen to the right belongs to United Methodist Church, established in 1887. I shot this from the car. It is so much much less of a hassle to pull over on a typical old road than it is on an interstate - no buffeting of the car by gusts from passing trucks, you know.

This long-abandoned stone structure is at Plano, Missouri, on the northwest corner of Missouri Highway 166 and South Farm Road 45. I shot a picture of it back in 1978 or so, and it was just a shell then. Man, what a nice little ruin this is for flights of fancy.

This ribbon of road leading west out of Halltown is a background without a subject. I had a subject for it back in 2005, but the camera I had then wasn't nearly as good. I'd have loved to have waited for another horse and rider, but after this shot we had to switch over to I-44 due to a time constraint. However, even part of an hour on a beautiful old road furnished relaxation that lasted the day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Do We Really Want to Lose This?

(Updated February 10, 2008)

At least every few days, I check Route 66 News to see what's happening on ye ole Mother Road. The news is usually quite interesting. Once in awhile, though, it's alarming. Such is the case with the latest on El Vado, a pretty little Albuquerque motel with an uncertain fate.

Please read this.

I shot this is in about 2004. Even as pixels on a screen, it's a glorious bit of neon. Bask in it.

It's the kind of sign you often see referred to in books in the past tense and wish it were still in place.

It can be in place, along with the classic motel to which it belongs, if people speak out now - and you're one of them.

There will be a public hearing conducted by the Albuquerque Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission on Wednesday, November 14 - a hearing that may save or seal the fate of El Vado by ruling on two questions.

(From a letter by Ed Boles, Historic Preservation Planner, City of Albuquerque, to Route 66 News):

1. Should the El Vado be designated a City Landmark?

2. Should the owner’s request for a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish it be approved?

Yes, "demolish." The owner wants to tear the place down.

This was taken on my last pass through Albuquerque on March 22 of this year. Even behind an ugly fence, the place conveys charm.

The motel, actually a motor court, dates from 1937 and according to Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was declared a Historical Landmark in 1993.

I emailed Ed Boles and asked if that status gained El Vado any protection; he replied:

"Listing in the National Register is one of the City's criteria for designating landmarks locally. That helps get the City Landmark designation but NR listing offers no inherent protection when a private owner proposes demolition with his own funds."

So how does such a property end up in this dilemma?

I asked Ron Warnick of Route 66 News, who has followed every twist and turn in this tale, for a summary of how things got to this point in 2007. He responded:

"El Vado Motel was purchased in late 2005 by Richard L. Gonzales, who stated to Albuquerque media that he wished to tear it down and built luxury townhouses there.

City officials, preservationists and Route 66ers opposed the development because El Vado remains one of the oldest and most distinctive motels on the Mother Road.

The city designated El Vado a city landmark in 2006, thus giving it more protection. However, the designation was overturned on appeal because of a technicality. So El Vado's application for city landmark status has been resubmitted, which the Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission will decide on Nov. 14.

It's been reported that the city has been negotiating with Gonzales about a possible buyout of the property. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez has said, as a last resort, the city will seize the property to prevent its destruction.

It's been a long and sometimes frustrating process to keep this old motel standing. But the Route 66 community has played a vital role in preventing El Vado's destruction so far, and it may yet again. With luck, El Vado will be operating as a business again in the future

So, November 14, we should see a decision on whether to restore the buildings city-landmark status, as well as a decision on a demolition permit.

Remember, when Gonzales purchased the property, it was already an official Historical Landmark. He should not be someone who purchased a property and was blind-sided by opposition to the idea of destroying it. He knew what he was getting.

Reliable reports indicate the place is in decent shape, so demolition is not logical.

So what can we do?

We can voice our concerns.

E-mail or write to Charles Price, Chairman, and Members, Albuquerque Landmarks and Urban Commission, c/o Maryellen Hennessy, City Planning Department, P.O. Box 1293, Albuquerque NM 87103.

I spoke with Ed Boles via telephone Monday, and he said that although earlier emails are preferable, that emails and letters could be accepted up to 48 hours before the hearing, so that's sometime on November 12 in the afternoon. There is really no reason to wait, though.

The email address for Maryellen Hennessy is

Please support the efforts of preservationists. Remind the commission that short-sighted mistakes lead to long regrets. Many of our cherished motels (all three wigwams, for example) once had a state of decay and were brought back. Every town has tales of what was once great and is now lost - and in most cases the loss was avoidable.

Remember that we lose our cultural character not so much in big chunks but by erosion here and there - by letting go of puzzle pieces like the El Vado that fill in the details of who we once were.

And if you've spent your tourist dollars to sleep and sup in Albuquerque in order to see all that Route 66 neon, of which the El Vado is part, it wouldn't hurt to remind them of that, too.

November 15 update - I heard from Ed Boles this morning; he sent the following:

"Agenda Item 4: The Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission voted 7-0 to recommend that the City Council designate the El Vado Auto Court/Motel as a City Landmark.

Agenda Item 5: The Commission deferred the El Vado owner's request for a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish the El Vado until after the City Council's decision in the matter is final

The Albuquerque City Council has to approve the designation. I'll update this post when I know more.

Update: the council approved the designation, but not by much.

But now, it may be time to send emails again; and by noon on February 11, 2008, at that. See Route 66 News.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dias De Los Muertos

Today is the first of the two traditional Mexican Days of the Dead. We last touched on this delightfully resilient holiday in 2005.

Like all the best holidays, Day of the Dead is an ancient event morphed - but not lost - by the Catholic church's attempts to cover a pagan holiday with a Christian glaze. It still survives though, as seen in these decorations sold in Mazatlan, Mexico.

Though not attired, these skeletons in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, were also sold as Dias De Los Muertos decor. Read more about Day of the Dead at, wikipedia and Palomar College.