Wherever I go on my travels, I’m always on the lookout for great remnants from our roadside past to paint – be they great old signs, businesses that have survived or been revitalized, and of course the wonder of old cars and trucks! A few years back, while visiting Richard’s family in Sun Valley, Idaho, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Key and his 1960 Studebaker. Now that’s when cars and trucks had real personalities! I was smitten by the worn-out blue, the friendly nose and grill work – and considering the climate and road conditions in the mountains, its excellent condition.
So where would be the best place to take a few snapshots for a painting? He recommended an old road that’s only passable in the summertime as a quiet spot with a great view of Mt. Baldy in the background. We headed out on a sunny, brisk Idaho day and the rest is history. I painted this in oils and it’s been part of the collection at Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery in Little Rock, Arkansas for the last few years.
I wrote down a few important details about Chris’ prize: this was a very special four-wheel drive, line-built vehicle. They only made 66 of these small half-ton trucks in 1960 and Chris owns #33. He said they were sold to the Navy on a military contract.
I went online to see what I could dig up about the history of this model and had to search long and hard to find much of anything. Now I’m beginning to think that what Chris has here is truly legendary! These few paragraphs are all I could find of note and this is definitely the same model (from Wikipedia):
Transtar was the model name given to the line of trucks produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, from 1956-1958 and 1960-1963. The Transtar name was first introduced for the 1956 (2E series) model year in 1/2-ton, 3/4-ton, 1-ton, 2-ton, and 2-ton heavy-duty capacities. The three smaller models were available with factory-built pick-up bodies. The basic styling of these trucks dated back to the 1949 models, though they had received some styling and engineering changes in 1954 and 55. The Transtar name continued to be used on most of the 1957-58 3E series trucks, though a stripped-down Studebaker Scotsman model without the Transtar name was introduced in the 1958 model year. The 57-58 Transtars received an aggressive new fiberglass grille that attempted (largely successfully) to make Studebaker’s outdated cab design look fresh and new. For now-unknown reasons, the Transtar name was dropped for the 1959 4E series Studebaker trucks and changed to Deluxe.
For 1960, Studebaker introduced a new line of 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton trucks under the name Studebaker Champ. The Champs used front-end and cab sheet metal from the 1959-60 Lark passenger cars, mated to their existing light-duty truck chassis and drive trains. The Champs were created in response to the Ford Ranchero (introduced in 1957) and Chevrolet El Camino (introduced in 1959), which used passenger car styling and features in a light-duty pickup truck. The Transtar name reappeared on Studebaker’s medium and heavy-duty trucks (1- and 2-ton) for 1960, and continued to be used on these trucks up through its 1964 models. Studebaker suspended production of all of its truck models when it closed its United States factory in December 1963.
Posted in Americana, Travel diaries, Vintage trucks | Tagged Arkansas, Chris Key, Idaho, Little Rock, Mt. Baldy, oil painting, Stephano Fine Art Gallery, Studebaker 1960 Transtar pick up truck, Sun Valley | 2 Comments »
We had to make the final pilgrimage to the “actual” end of Route 66 – although we weren’t able to traverse the entire California section, we were visiting old friends in LA and knew that our trip would not be complete unless we saw the actual sign (or signs) at the “end of the road”. How many travelers have braved the dusty miles to finally see the glorious Pacific Ocean? We wanted to be a part of that group! So the morning we were heading all the way back to the desert, we drove down the beeline and hunted for the official plaque marking the end of the road. And there it was!
God Bless America!
We traveled a bit further, as it was a beautiful Saturday in Santa Monica and there were oh so many amazing things going on at the beach and the Santa Monica Pier beckoned. I thought I had heard there was a sign at the end of the pier, so we had to venture down there and see what adventures awaited! But amazingly – we came to another sign just ahead – Richard snapped my picture – to commemorate this magical moment!
Welcome to the circus that’s LA! Huge activities going on on the beach – some sort of tournaments between teams in the sand, Cirque de Solelei had its huge tents set up on the beach – performances nightly (wish we could have gone!), street performers abounded as we worked our way through the crowds teaming onto the pier on this balmy southern California day. And there it was – another road sign on the final push to the sea!
When we got to the end of the pier – amidst the various musical acts, belly dancers, and street musicians – vendors selling every kind of food imaginable – behold! the last chance to purchase all the Route 66 goodies you’ve missed if the stores were closed (which many of them were in Arizona in January!) Hooray! Talk about positioning! This store is called The Last Stop Shop, and is owned by Route 66 enthusiast, Mannie Mendelson. (from their promo: “The store provides a unique Route 66 experience as well as a fantastic collection of souvenirs to commemorate your journey along all 2480 miles of it.”) Thank you to Mannie and I can’t imagine how much rent he pays to be the last shop on the pier and the route, but it was well worth it! I got some great cards there including this one – which sums up the whole experience for me.
Dear Route 66 – you ain’t seen the end of me! I have now committed myself to driving every inch of your pavement in my lifetime! And sharing what I find with others. What a blessed commitment! Yahoo and Happy Trails!
Posted in Americana, Route 66, Travel diaries, vintage postcards | Tagged California, end of Route 66, end of the pier, Mannie Mendelson, Santa Monica, santa monica pier, The Last Stop Shop, Will Rogers Highway end | 3 Comments »
When you pull out of Seligman, Route 66 becomes truly “historic Route 66″! From here to Kingman Highway 40 is a beeline passing by the towns of Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs, Truxton,Valentine, Hackberry, and Valle Vista. And sadly, many of these towns weren’t as enterprising as Seligman and have lost a lot of their luster. Traveling on a Sunday in January, most of the shops were closed – so we beat feet realizing we still had a long way to go before we got to our final destination of Palm Desert, California! (They said it couldn’t be done in one day!!)
Somewhere along the road (I’m kicking myself now for not making note at least of a mile marker on the road) we came upon this desolate and apparently abandoned rest stop called Kozy Corner Trailer Park. (I’m guessing it’s not too far out of Kingman). The car pulled to a dusty stop as I jumped out snapping pics – but Richard felt very uneasy about the place and prodded me to hurry up. I, again, could have done a much more detailed photo essay here as I found it fascinating. I’m left with a big question mark, and I’m hoping someone with more Arizona Route 66 knowledge will come forward to fill in some details. What was it? What happened to it? When I showed the pictures to a friend from Arizona they said “Oh that used to be a chain of restaurants called ‘Nickerson Farms’”!
A bit of research yields this result from Wikipedia:
“Nickerson Farms was an American roadside restaurant franchise that existed between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. It was started by a former Stuckey’s franchisee who did not agree with that chain’s rules and regulations. Nickerson Farms had as many as sixty restaurants located along Interstate highways, mainly in the Midwestern United States. Each Nickerson Farms location had a full-room restaurant, with a gift shop. Honey, collected from on-site beehives, could also be purchased at Nickerson Farms stores. 
The majority of Nickerson Farms locations sold Skelly gasoline and other petroleum products.”
And a Google search yielded some other pictures, and a listing for several RV parks in other parts of the country, so I’m assuming this one just didn’t make it – kind of desolate out there! But I did find this entertaining video clip of the place from 1973 and it appeared to be in good shape back then. Courtesy of Giganticus Productions.
Meanwhile, enjoy my pics of this mysterious place!
This one’s my personal favorite! Never seen a phone booth like this before!
Posted in Americana, Diners, Motels, Route 66, vintage signs | Tagged Arizona, grand canyon caverns, Historic Route 66, Kingman, Kozy Corners, Nickerson Farms, peach springs | Leave a Comment »
Little did we know (us Route 66 newbies) as we pulled out of Williams to continue our journey on Arizona’s famed Route 66 – that we were headed for #66 Gold!!! But we knew something was up as we slowly approached Seligman. “OMG – stop the car”! There was no reason to drive through this little town – “let’s get out and walk”! One of the first things we saw as we entered the town is the very historic and wonderful Delgadillos Snow Cap Drive-in. Sadly it was closed, (January must be an off month on #66) but there was so much going on visually with this shop that I could have done a large photo essay here! A brief bit of research reveals that Juan Delgadillo built this place in 1953 from scrap lumber and operated it for fifty plus years. You can see that he was a guy who loved to have a good time. Enjoy a few of the pics I took – and played around with in Photoshop!
I’m not sure of their relationship, but can only imagine that they were related, Juan and Angel Delgadillo – I mentioned him in an earlier blog as one of the real Route 66 heroes. He was the barber in Seligman when Interstate 40 came along and passed the town by. He could see the handwriting on the wall and decided to do something about it: he helped form the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, which brought attention to the plight of all the small towns that were now being left out. He also helped create The Route 66 Fun Run which is an annual event that takes place over a three-day weekend: anyone can come out in their vehicle, cruise the scenic by-way and enjoy multitudes of events celebrating the glory of Route 66. Brilliant! This year’s event begins on Friday May 4th! Gosh – I wish I could go! I’ll have to put this on my bucket list for sure!
As you can see from the photos, this town is rich in #66 history! So many fun shops to visit and you could even stay in the beautiful Supai Motel (I’m guessing the name is taken from the nearby Havasupai Falls, another interesting destination). It looks like the 57-year-old motel was recently purchased and refurbished to provide lodging for all fans of the dear Mother Road. (Note to self – next time around stay at the Supai!)
Next up: the road to Kingman!
Posted in Americana, Motels, Route 66, vintage signs | Tagged Angel Delgadillo, Arizona, Delgadillos Snow Cap, Havasupai Falls, Juan Delgadillo, Lemon Cab Company, Rusty Bolt, Seligman, Supai Motel | 2 Comments »
As much as we loved Holbrook, we knew we had a lot of ground to cover in one day if we intended to cross the whole state – so we opted to take the Freeway (#40) from Holbrook to Flagstaff, and figured THEN we would drive only on Route 66. Sadly, we were cruising at such a high speed on this very desolate stretch of road and must have been gabbing – we missed the turnoff to Winslow, Arizona (“such a fine sight to see” – of The Eagles fame!!). But we pressed on and decided to have lunch in Flagstaff at a funky diner in the Howard Johnsons called “The Crown Railroad Cafe”. Not surprisingly titled, as the railroad tracks ran flat along next to us the whole way over and sure enough – there they were directly across the street (er, Route 66) from lunch! Which was delicious by the way – a green chile stew! Love green chiles! Oh yes, they also had a miniature railroad that ran along a rail above our heads and around the entire restaurant! Fun!
Heading out of town, we passed this gem – The Western Hills Motel! and much as we were anxious to be a part of the old Route 66, this section appeared to be fairly closely merged with #40 till we got to Williams.
We had been warned that the main street in Williams was actually two one way streets, so as usual we were driving very slowly so I could jump out and take pictures. The first thing we came to was Rod’s Steak House (I have a brother-in-law named Rod, so you can imagine how excited I was to see this place)! I got some great snaps, but had no idea of the jackpot waiting on the uphill side of the street! Right now I’m working on a 48″ x 48″ oil painting of the neon Rod’s Steak House sign. Will be posting when I’m finished! I wish I could tell you more about the history of Rod’s, but their site appears to be down right now – all I know for sure is that it’s been open since 1946 – a real success story for any restaurant!
We enjoyed strolling around the Route 66 – themed town of Williams, which is just one hour south of the Grand Canyon.The town was named for Bill Williams who was a trapper, pathfinder and guide in the 1820′s, 30′s and 40′s, and whose contemporaries were other famous mountain men including Jim Bridger, Mariano Medina, James Beckworth, and Kit Carson.
Williams roots go back to 1882 when the town was brand new, having been created for the construction of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. It was set to be next in the western push from New Mexico through northern Arizona and then on to California. The rails would connect Arizona’s last frontier with national markets for beef and wool.
Today, you can catch a train ride to the Grand Canyon from Williams, but it looks to me like the main attraction is our dear ol’ Mother Road!
Posted in Americana, Hotels, Motels, Route 66, vintage signs | Tagged Arizona, Atlantic Pacific Railroad, Canyon Club, Crown Railroad Cafe, Cuisers Cafe Bar and Grill, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon Hotel, Rod's Steak House, Sultana Bar, Western Hills Motel, Williams, winslow arizona | Leave a Comment »
We started our journey on Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona at the Wigwam Motel there – and ended it at the Wigwam Motel in San Bernadino. Earlier that day we went to the true end of #66 by walking to the end of the Santa Monica Pier! Fabulous! Then we had planned to drive the length of Route 66 from Los Angeles to San Bernadino to really appreciate anything that was left from the “good ole days” – however – time got away from us – too much fun hangin’ on the pier! And by that time it was mid-afternoon and I could see we were losing our light! I assumed it would take us an hour or so to get there on the freeway, however we naive northeasterners did not take into account that it was Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and evidently LOTS of people were going places! Freeway #10 going east was a slowly moving parking lot the better part of the way. We might have made better time on The Mother Road!
Anyway, I was cursing as we watched the most gorgeous sunset behind us in the rear view mirror – all I could think about was how great that sky would have looked as a backdrop for the wigwams! With the light fading fast, we got off at the proper exit and found the western-most version of the remaining Wigwam Motels in short order. I jumped out of the car, camera in hand, ready to dash around the place and get as many images as I could before the light was totally gone. And we were met by the most delightful gentleman, Kumar Patel, the proprietor! Inquiring about us and what we were up to – in the most inviting way! We told him of our roadside quests and he smiled and asked if we’d like a tour of the place! What a hospitable fellow!
He strolled with us around the place, opening the door of one of the wigwams so we could inspect the impeccable, clean interior! This place had the look of a very well run operation, indeed. The grounds were groomed, the wigwams freshly painted, there were palm trees swaying and an inviting swimming pool in the center of the teepees. I would definitely stay here on my next trip out west. He told us all about the history of the place and how his family had owned it for many years and brought it back from the brink of being torn down! Again kudos to these dear souls intent on preserving these beacons of roadside America! He said that his business is thriving thanks to folks just like us that are fans of The Mother Road, and make similar pilgrimages to appreciate what’s left of our great culture of the past. Before we left he took us into his office and showed us all the great Route 66 stuff he had for sale. We got some postcards and I promised that one day in the not too distant future – I would be painting one of his wigwams and make some prints for him to sell in his office too!
If you’re going out to LA – be sure to stop in and say hello to Kumar and spend a night at his wonderful Wigwam Motel!
From the Wigwam’s website:
“The California Wigwam Motel was built within the city limits of San Bernardino in 1949, a period when citrus groves flourished. … This location would mark the final of 7 Wigwam Motels that were constructed. The motel’s village-style arrangement of nineteen 30-foot-tall tepees made from wood framing, concrete and stucco draws much admiration from all generations.
Frank Redford turned his interest in Native American history into a business in 1933 when he built a teepee-shaped building near Horse City, Kentucky, to display his collection of relics. The following year he added a group of teepee-shaped cabins to entice visitors to stay the night and named it “Wigwam Village.” Redford obtained a patent for his innovative building design in 1937, and that same year he constructed a second village in the northern outskirts of Cave City, Kentucky, near Mammoth Cave National Park. By the early 1950s, seven wigwam villages had been built in the south and southwestern United States.
The typical wigwam village consisted of individual teepee cabins placed around a larger teepee which served as an office and lobby. The 18 steel-and-concrete tepees of Cave City’s Wigwam Village No. 2 vary only in size and number of windows. At 52 feet tall and approximately 35 feet in diameter, the gift shop and office is the largest. Each of the 15 sleeping units is approximately 25 feet in diameter and has two windows. The exterior walls are painted white accented with a bright red jagged lower edge at the top of the cone, a bold zig-zag band encircling the building halfway up the wall, and a narrow zig-zag band with small triangles along the inner edge of the window openings and marks similar to exclamation points at the corners. In the narrow bathrooms created by a partition at the rear of the sleeping units, the floor is covered with red-and-white tiles and the walls and stall shower repeat the zig-zag motif. Four slender metal poles project from the top in imitation of branches of wood.”
Posted in Motels, Route 66, vintage signs | Tagged California, Frank Redford, get your kicks on route 66, holbrook arizona, rear view mirror, Rialto, Route 66, San Bernadino, santa monica pier, Wigwam Motel, wigwams | 1 Comment »
The sign says “Have you Slept in a Wigwam Lately?”
What a great question!! We drove waaaay out of our way to make a pilgrimage to the famed Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona and were not disappointed! There was snow on the ground, but the sun was out and it had melted much of it away. The shadows of the vintage cars parked neatly along in front of each wigwam still had snow – “snow shadows” – I called them! Some of the cars had obviously not been moved in some time, and with open windows – lots of snow had settled inside as well. My heart was pounding as I strolled around the parking lot snapping pictures of each wigwam and various angles of the fabulous old cars and their accompanying teepee! There were a few “modern” cars here too, and I saw a door open on one of the wigwams with the maid’s cart outside – so there were actual guests staying at the inn!
THEY were sleeping in a wigwam!!! I peaked my head inside and heard the vacuum going in the small bathroom. A modest sight with a bed, a tv, and a window air conditioner – the Hilton it’s not – but I think next time we make this trip, we’ll have to treat ourselves to the real experience and sleep in a wigwam!
This motel is actually part of what was a chain of wigwams and is technically called “Wigwam #6″. Here’s a bit of it’s history from Wikipedia:
“Built in 1950 by Arizona motel owner Chester E. Lewis, the plans were based on the original of Frank A. Redford. Lewis first became aware of the distinctive wigwam designs when he was passing through Cave City in 1938. He purchased the rights to Redford’s design, as well as the right to use the name “Wigwam Village” in a novel royalty agreement: coin operated radios would be installed in Lewis’ Wigwam Village, and every dime inserted for 30 minutes of play would be sent to Redford as payment.
Lewis operated the motel successfully until closing it in 1974 when Interstate 40 bypassed downtown Holbrook. Two years after his death in 1986, sons Clifton, Paul Lewis and daughter Elinor renovated the motel, finally reopening it in 1988.
Fifteen concrete and steel teepees are arranged as a square with one edge missing where the main office is located. They are numbered from 1 to 16 (there is no teepee 13). The diameter of the base of each teepee is 14 feet (4.3 m), with each unit 32 feet (9.8 m) in height. Behind the main room of each unit is a small bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower. Current rooms contain the original restored hickory furniture, two double beds, cable TV and a window mounted air conditioner; there are no telephones or Internet access. Vintage restored automobiles from the 1960‘s and earlier are located throughout the parking area. Small green metal benches etched with the words “Wigwam Village #6″ are scattered throughout the complex as well.
The Lewis family continues to run and maintain Wigwam Village #6. Elinor often shows up at 4:00 pm to open the office, and if requested, will fill a small ice bucket (there is no ice machine in keeping with the authenticity of the restoration) for customers. Near the registration desk is a small room which contains many of Chester Lewis’ memorabilia (including a necklace of human teeth of unknown origin).”
Posted in Americana, Motels, Route 66, vintage signs | Tagged Arizona, Holbrook, Route 66, vintage cars, Wigwam Motel | Leave a Comment »