Route 66 Icon in Needles Gets a Makeover

April 3, 2012
66 Motel Sign in Needles, CA

66 Motel Sign in Needles, CA

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.


Ron Hart Speaks Out About the Boots Motel

April 19, 2011

Growing-up in Joplin, MO., I had many opportunities to visit the town of Carthage, about 20 miles to our north-east. At that time, Carthage was known as “the Crossroads of America” because of the two major highways that intersected it, Highway 71 running north and south, and Route 66, east to west.

My high school basketball and football teams often traveled to compete with the Carthage High School, and afterwards, we would all pay a visit to the Boots Drive-In on Garrison Street. The Route 66 Drive-In theater was a bit of a drive for us Joplin kids, as we already had the Tri-State, the Crest and the Webb City Drive-In movies, and sadly they are all gone today.

Many years later, I began to learn about Joplin’s Route 66 history, and about all the places that fed, fueled and lodged the travelers that passed through our communities, and today, precious few remain as reminders of times gone by. And this story is also being told in nearly every community that once claimed a Route 66 heritage.

In Carthage, the once popular and famous Boots Motel has become a low-rent weekly rooming house. Purchased a few years ago, and intended to be “flipped” for more money by a local contractor, the economy has kept the property in limbo.

I my opinion, the property has been sitting used and abused for too long now. Word is that the owner is now anxious to be rid of the Motel, as is his bank that holds the note. This could be a good thing if someone jumps in and makes an offer, or it could be a bad thing if another non-preservation minded developer scoops it up first.

I believe that Jim Hunter, the Pro 100 realtor who represents the seller, is a preservation minded person who would personally like to see the motel restored and re-opened to the public, and has expressed his willingness to help with any effort to acquire and preserve the Motel property. At my request, he will be talking to the bank holding the mortgage, local civic groups and possible benefactors, and others whose support will be needed. He will also arrange for an inspector to look at the buildings and report on any potential big problems. Next comes an appraisal that I have been told could lower the value by nearly half of the selling price. With some support behind me, I hope that the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce could possibly be able to get the property for around $150 thousand. This includes the “owner’s” house.

I am probably the least likely person to be doing this. My wife and I are surviving on our Social Security and a little side work, and I have spent a lot of time and money on building the Chamber in the process, but I do have a passion for saving this Route 66 icon because I know how quickly it can disappear if no one steps-up to get the ball rolling.

My background work has been in tourism marketing, sales, public relations, advertising and promotions….all no longer in much demand due to the economy, but sorely needed by businesses on the Mother Road. I also attended O.S.U. majoring in Construction Technology. Best of all, my wife and I have been full-time RV’ing for the past 9 years, so we could move onto the property and get to work right away on preventive maintenance and grant applications. Since I was born and raised in Joplin and have a strong family history in the area, that should help keep me from being labeled an “outsider”.

Back to the big gorilla sitting in the room, the economy. Times have been hard for Route 66 businesses these past few years, so I don’t plan on tapping them for donations. I believe the Carthage community will participate as they stand to reap the benefits, and they certainly need to learn more about the diamond-in-the-rough they have in the Boots Motel and in the Route 66 corridor that kept their town alive during the great depression.

What I could use from 66′rs will be cards, letters and e-mails of support for the preservation of the Boots Motel, no matter who purchases it. My proposal will be the very first to be submitted since the property went on the market several years ago. I hope that it will make a statement that the friends of Route 66 care for it’s history, and will do anything they can to preserve it.

An outline on the Boots Project may be found at the Chamber’s website, www.visit66.com, with a link on the Homepage. There is also a “Save the Boots Motel” Facebook page for progress updates. Thanks.

Ron Hart -Director
Route 66 Chamber of Commerce
417-385-6966 or visit66@yahoo.com


Route 66 Association of Missouri Welcomes New Business Members

January 7, 2010

We welcome the following new business members and thank them for their support:

Connie’s Shoppe at Wagon Wheel – Cuba

Main Street Bakery & Cafe – Cuba

Florissant Old Town Partners, Inc – Florissant

Sandie’s Interiors – Florissant

Joplin Transmission & Auto Center – Joplin

Forest Manor Hotel – Lebanon

Historic Route 66 Motel – Lebanon

Route 66 Stop – Lebanon

Value Tire Center – Lebanon

Big Chief Holdings, LLC – Wildwood

Pacific Plaza, LLC – Pleasanton, California

Please patronize the business members that support what we do. Here is a link to the complete list: Route 66 Association of Missouri Business Members


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