Vintage Neon Everywhere

Old Mojo Gas Sign - Rock Springs, Wyoming
Old Mojo Gas Sign – Rock Springs, Wyoming

Everywhere I go I see old neon.  These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled.  Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place.  But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots.  Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs.  There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs.  And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names.  Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.

OLD MOTELS

Chinook Hotel - Chinook, Montana
Chinook Hotel – Chinook, Montana

Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories.  My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968.  At the time I was only 12.  It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch.  We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Log Cabin Motel - Ashton, Idaho
Log Cabin Motel – Ashton, Idaho
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone, Montana
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
D-K Motel - Arco, Idaho
D-K Motel – Arco, Idaho
Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, South Dakota
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, South Dakota
4 Winds Motel - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
4 Winds Motel – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana  The sign is all that remains
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana The sign is all that remains
Generic Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Generic Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri.  Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri. Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Motel in Havre, Montana
Motel in Havre, Montana
Palace Hotel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Palace Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Antler Motel - Kemmerer, Wyoming
Antler Motel – Kemmerer, Wyoming
Texan Motel - Raton, New Mexico
Texan Motel – Raton, New Mexico

And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….

Sleep in a Wigwam - Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Village Motel in Cave City, Kentucky

CAFES AND RESTAURANTS

Goody Goody - St. Louis, Missouri
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint.  Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)

Donut Whole - Wichita, Kansas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas They have a giant rooster on the roof there too!
Voodoo Doughnut - Portland, Oregon
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon
Royal Donut - Danville, Illinois
Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois
Crystal Cafe - Raton, NM
Crystal Cafe – Raton, NM
Golden Burro Cafe - Leadville, CO
Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, CO
Presti's Bakery - Cleveland, OH
Presti’s Bakery – Cleveland, OH
Lil' Cafe - Commerce, Oklahoma
Lil’ Cafe – Commerce, Oklahoma
Irma Restaurant and Grill - Cody, Wyoming
Irma Restaurant and Grill – Cody, Wyoming
Pickle's Place - Arco, Idaho
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Sport Bowl Cafe - Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe – Tripp, South Dakota

How about some burgers for lunch?

Wimpy's Hamburgers - Dallas, Texas - I'll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today....
Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….
Paul's Hamburgers - Kansas City, Kansas
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Waylan's Hamburgers - Home of the Ku-Ku - Commerce, Oklahoma
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Miami, Oklahoma
Scotty's Hamburgers - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Hutch's on the Beach - Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Frostop Root Beer - Ashton, Idaho
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Schroeder's Drive-In - Danville, Illinois
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed.  This one deserves two photos

Cozy Drive-In - Home of the Cozy Dog - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In – Home of the Cozy Dog – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In - Springfield, Illinois  The sign says it all
Cozy Drive-In – Springfield, Illinois The sign says it all

Don’t want a burger or a corn dog?  How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?

Maid-Rite Sandwiches - Lexington, Missouri
Maid-Rite Sandwiches – Lexington, Missouri

Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?

Bryant's Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….

Zesto - near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Zesto – near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Jimmy's Ice Cream - Waldo, Arkansas
Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Stamps, Arkansas

Okay.  So this next one is not neon.  But it is certainly Vintage.  And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?

M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, Illinois
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, Illinois

There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant.   And many have unique signs.  Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.

Manhattan Bar - Leadville, Colorado
Manhattan Bar – Leadville, Colorado
Mint Bar and Lounge - Chinook, Montana
Mint Bar and Lounge – Chinook, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge - Butte, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge – Butte, Montana
Atomic City Bar - Atomic City, Idaho - no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Atomic City Bar – Atomic City, Idaho – no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Elk Bar and Good Food - Chinook, Montana
Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana
Steaks - what more needs to be said? - near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Steaks – what more needs to be said? – near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Riscky's Steakhouse - Fort Worth, Texas
Riscky’s Steakhouse – Fort Worth, Texas
Lariat Saloon - Buena Vista, Colorado
Lariat Saloon – Buena Vista, Colorado

And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….

Cowboy Bar - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Big Texan Steak House - home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) - Amarillo, Texas
Big Texan Steak Ranch – home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) – Amarillo, Texas

Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….

Joe Mama's Italian - Time for Fine Eats - Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
Joe Mama’s Italian – Time for Fine Eats – Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
El Fenix Restaurant - Best Tex-Mex in Texas - downtown Dallas, Texas
El Fenix Restaurant – Best Tex-Mex in Texas – downtown Dallas, Texas
Hung Far Low - Famous Chop Suey and Famous name - Portland, Oregon
Hung Far Low – Famous Chop Suey and Famous name – Portland, Oregon

Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak?  How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)

Geno's Cheese Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Geno’s Cheese Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
Pat's King of Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, PA

Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls

Teton Drive-In - Rexburg, Idaho
Teton Drive-In – Rexburg, Idaho

Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV.  A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.

Too cold outside?  Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.

Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.

 

Plaza Theatre - Glasgow, Kentucky
Plaza Theatre – Glasgow, Kentucky
Lund Theatre - Viborg, South Dakota
Lund Theatre – Viborg, South Dakota
Liberty Theatre - Vandalia, Illinois
Liberty Theatre – Vandalia, Illinois
Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
The Blue Room - Kansas City, Missouri
The Blue Room – Kansas City, Missouri
Pix Theatre - Winner, South Dakota
Pix Theatre – Winner, South Dakota
Westside Theatre - Newman, California
West Side Theatre – Newman, California
Kentucky Theatre - Lexington, Kentucky
Kentucky Theatre – Lexington, Kentucky
Fox Theatre - Detroit, Michigan
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Skyline Theatre - Rudyard, Montana
Hi-Line Theatre – Rudyard, Montana
El Raton Theatre - Raton, NM
El Raton Theatre – Raton, NM
Fischer Theatre - Danville, Illinois
Fischer Theatre – Danville, Illinois
Orpheum Theatre - Wichita, Kansas
Orpheum Theatre – Wichita, Kansas
Leeds Theatre - Winchester, Kentucky
Leeds Theatre – Winchester, Kentucky
Bing Crosby Theatre - Spokane, Washington
Bing Crosby Theatre – Spokane, Washington

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES

Pelo's Sundries - LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)

Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section.  That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items.  There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”

I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I  want to include in this section.

The famous Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
The famous Pike Place Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas.  They also do shoe repairs
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas. They also do shoe repairs
Arco City Hall - Arco, Idaho - First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Arco City Hall – Arco, Idaho – First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Boring Rexall Drugs - Warsaw, Missouri
Boring Rexall Drugs – Warsaw, Missouri
The Old Drugs Store - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
The Old Drugs Store – Cumberland Gap, Tennessee

Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?

Yummy House - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Yummy House – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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Henry’s Ra66it Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Historic Route 66 in Illinois
Historic Route 66 in Illinois

This Post is actually a continuation of my Post on a bigger road trip in the Midwest.  But, due to the nature and value of this place in Americana, I have created a separate post.

Henry’s Ra66it Ranch (the 66 instead of “bb” is intentional) celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell’s “Humpin’ to Please” trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station.

Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Official Route 66 Roadside Attraction
Official Route 66 Roadside Attraction

This is one of those vintage Americana places, even though it has not been around for much more than 10-15 years. Rich Henry and his wife Linda have built up a shop chock full of Route 66 memorabilia, a collection of old VW Rabbits outside, a version of “Cadillac Ranch” (thus Rabbit Ranch….) and even a pen full of live rabbits.

Rich Henry and Sumoflam with their rabbit at Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Rich Henry and Sumoflam with the Henrys’ rabbit at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL

Rich Henry has also adopted the famous Jack Rabbit logo that can be found at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Arizona. I recall even as a young kid seeing these signs on Route 66 in Arizona and New Mexico.

Henry's Ra66it Ranch with the famous Route 66 Jack Rabbit
Henry’s Ra66it Ranch with the famous Route 66 Jack Rabbit
Route 66 "Here It Is" Rabbit sign near Joseph City, AZ
Route 66 “Here It Is” Rabbit sign near Joseph City, AZ
Rabbit Yield Sign in Henry's Ra66it Ranch
Rabbit Yield Sign in Henry’s Ra66it Ranch

Of course, you gotta have the old cars stacked together. Unlike the famed Cadillac Ranch (see my post) and its colorfully spray painted Cadillacs, Henry has 7 half-buried cars in the ground (and only one of them is a VW Rabbit I believe) and none are spray painted.

Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Sumoflam with buried cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Seven Buried Cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Seven Buried Cars at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL

Of course, he does have a few “Rabbits” around the place:

VW Rabbit with US 66 License Plate
VW Rabbit with US 66 License Plate
Big Rabbit for kids to climb on
Big Rabbit for kids to climb on
VW Hare at Ra66it Ranch
VW Hare at Ra66it Ranch
Rich Henry's Rabbit
One of Rich Henry’s LIVE Rabbits

Then there are Rich Henry’s dedications to the “Cars” movie by Disney Pictures:

"Radiator Springs" dedication to the Disney Movie "Cars"
Radiator Springs” dedication to the Disney Movie “Cars” built by Rich Henry

There is a cute Pixar Wiki Page about Radiator Springs here. According to the Wiki,  Radiator Springs is located in between Gallup, New Mexico, and Kingman, Arizona (which both can be heard in the end credits song). Since Gallup is on the far west side of New Mexico, Radiator Springs is most likely in Arizona.

Hour "Mater"
Hour “Mater” – dedicated to the old pickup “Tow Mater” in the movie “Cars

“Tow Mater” is the name of the fictional truck in the “Cars” movies. Mater is a friendly old Checy tow truck with buckteeth. He speaks with a thick Southern accent with a dash of hillbilly twang and frequently uses incorrect syntax.

Front of Ra66it Ranch
Front of Ra66it Ranch
Vintage Gas Pumps at Ra66it Ranch
Vintage Gas Pumps at Ra66it Ranch

Lots of goodies inside the store as well….

US Route 66 Sign
US Route 66 Sign
Plenty of Route 66 Maps and Guides at Ra66it Ranch
Plenty of Route 66 Maps and Guides at Ra66it Ranch
Keep On Truckin' Poster at Ra66it Ranch
Keep On Truckin’ Poster at Ra66it Ranch
Route Beer 66 - don't forget to get some at Ra66it Ranch
Route Beer 66 – don’t forget to get some at Ra66it Ranch

While stopped at Ra66it Ranch, make sure to get an ice cold, caffeine free, made with can sugar “Route Beer 66.” This is one of a line of the Route 66 Sodas out of Lebanon, MO.

Vintage Toy Trucks and Things
Vintage Toy Trucks and Things
More Vintage Trucks and Toys at Ra66it Ranch
More Vintage Trucks and Toys at Ra66it Ranch

Outdoors there are more Americana-esque pieces including an old Neon Sign and some truck trailers with “Humpin’ to Please” on them.

Stanley Cour-Tel Old Neon sign, originally from St. Louis, MO
Stanley Cour-Tel Old Neon sign, originally from St. Louis, MO

The sign from the former Stanley Cour-Tel was moved to Ra66it Ranch in 2004.  Originally located on Route 66 near the Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, the hotel was slated for demolition for airport expansion.  Also saved was the sign for the Lin-Air Motel, but I didn’t see that at Ra66it Ranch.

Campbell 66 Humpin' to Please Trailers
Campbell 66 Humpin’ to Please Trailers with “Snortin Norton” the camel logo

Campbell 66 Express was a freight company that was headquartered in Springfield, MO for many years.  It eventually went bankrupt in 1986. Campbell’s Trucking became Campbell’s “66” Express with the purchase of 66 Rapid Express in the early 1930’s. The original routes were from Springfield to St. Louis, Missouri on Highway 66. For more than 65 years “Snortin’ Nortin,” the Hand Painted Camel on the trailers, epitomized Route 66 in the heartland.

Illinois 66 - Where the Mother Road Begins
Illinois 66 – Where the Mother Road Begins

If you plan on a Route 66 trip in Illinois, then Henry’s Ra66it Ranch is a must stop!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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