Needles, Calif. – Many folks simply slow down and stare. Some even honk their horns and wave. They are waving to a man, 25′ off the ground painting a sign. And yet this is not your ordinary run of the mill sign. It just happens to be one of Needle’s most famous signs.
Ed Klein came to Needles in January 2011 on a request. The request came from Linda Fitzpatrick, a resident of Needles who was trying to figure out ideas on how to grab the estimated 40,000 travelers who make Route 66 their annual pilgrimage. Her plan was to restore the old abandoned gas station on the corner of Dobson and Broadway – or famously known as ‘Carty’s Camp’.
When Ed and Linda met, the ideas started to flow about how to get travelers to stop and enjoy the history Needles had to offer its Route 66 travelers. After a few hours of brain-storming and several return visits back to the gas station, Ed asked Linda what the plans were for the old 66 Motel sign, as he put it, ‘had seen better days’.
“I looked at the sign and felt it was a shame such a classic and iconic sign as this one on the route was looking as beat down as it did. I had to figure something out,” said Klein. “The restoration of the gas station would be a very large project over a few years, but the sign could be done in a few months.”
Klein is the owner of a website dedicated to the preservation and travel information on Route 66 (route66world.com) and has had his hands in several restoration projects along the route.
After a few weeks of preparation, several phone calls to the 66 Motel owner as well as Linda Fitzpatrick, Klein and his wife set on their 5 hour drive to Needles.
Starting off the weekend was figuring out the old neon and wiring which at one time pumped vibrant life into the glowing sign. Most of it was disconnected, broken, or simply cut.
“We spent a good few hours trying to figure out the wiring and removal of the neon. I need to keep as many pieces intact to have them recreated.” Klein said.
The one factor Klein did not consider was the wind this weekend. Wind gusts of up to 35 MPH hit late in the afternoon and proceeded to continue through Sunday. The wind blew hard throughout the southern part of California and Needles would not the exception. It blew hard enough Klein had to stop the painting early due to fears he might be blown of his 32′ ladder which was leaning up against the sign.
The historic sign will go through a total restoration. Klein told me he will do this in three phases. The first two phases will be painting and getting the neon ready and the third phase will be installing and lighting the neon, which will be the first time it has been on in over 15 years.
This total restoration is not costing the owner of the motel or the town of Needles a dime. Klein said he was paying for the paint out of his pocket as a ‘donation’ to the route and the town, and there will be a fundraising event via his website to raise money to pay for the neon, electronics, and installation.
“You would not believe the wave of support when I mentioned what I wanted to do to this sign. I have heard from travelers all around the world who want to help out with this restoration and there are so many historic businesses along the route who are donating their items for donors. They are all giving back to what we all care about so much, and that is the preservation of a true American icon. You will not meet the nicest, passionate people than those who live on, work on and drive Route 66″ Klein added.