Archive for May, 2008

Nebraska governor views Kearney damage

May 31, 2008

The Kearney Hub has produced a video showing the governor’s visit to view damage from the recent tornadoes. Click the screen shot below to go to the Hub‘s page:

Twisters hit hard around Kearney, Nebraska

May 30, 2008

As many as six tornadoes touched down near Kearney, Nebraska, Thursday evening, including some in the city limits, according to the Kearney Hub. The city will host the LHA’s Centennial Conference, July 1-5, 2013.

The tornadoes first touched down near the Lincoln Highway communities of Elm Creek (with hail as large as baseballs) and Overton before moving east to Kearney, uprooting trees, tearing away roofs, and derailing 90 train cars on the Union Pacific Railroad. The Buffalo County Fairgrounds’ large Exposition Center, home to rodeos and large farm shows, collapsed, and damage was reported at the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus. This photo is a screen capture from the Hub’s photo section – click it to browse photos, video, and stories on the storm from the Hub:

Last night, 12,000 customers were without power in Kearney (pop 30,000). The storm continued eastward along the LH/US 30 to Shelton, doing similar damage. A tornado was also spotted 3 miles west of Grand Island. The number of US tornadoes so far in 2008 – 1,191 – is nearly double what it was for the same period last year.

The governor declared a state of emergency Thursday night, and Interstate 80 was closed from Aurora to York due to downed power lines. The National Weather Service issued several advisories for Nebraska and Kansas into Friday morning, including flood warnings for areas already struggling from heavy rains earlier in the week. A weather alert in the Kearney Hub included this advice for anyone ever caught in such a storm:


McDonald's, Rohrer's survive & adapt to roadside

May 29, 2008

My trip last week along the Lincoln Highway near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, took me past many old businesses including a McDonald’s that retains its 1960s arch, and an old family business in a new location. Here’s the McDonald’s on the west end of Lancaster. Few of these single-arch sign survive; a similar one was just removed in Huntsville, Alabama, but was saved by the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

And here’s the new location in Mountville of Rohrer’s Hardware, a decades-old family business that was profiled recently at Lancaster Online. The story contains interesting insights for anyone interested in preserving non-chain businesses and roadscapes.

Following is an excerpt from the news story:

Jim Rohrer is a die-hard hardware guy — a survivor in an age when big-box retailers are driving family-owned hardware stores to the brink of extinction.

He’s been in the business since 1975, when he and his father, Harry, opened Rohrer’s Hardware off Columbia Avenue between Centerville and Mountville.

Harry, 85, still comes into the store for a couple of hours nearly every day, Jim Rohrer said.

The Rohrers survived a fire in 1992, moving the store down the road to Woods Edge Plaza just in time to see Lowe’s open a home improvement center on nearby Rohrerstown Road.

Now, they have moved Rohrer’s Hardware again, a half-mile away to 2734 Columbia Ave., where the traffic is less congested and the overhead less expensive, but where Lowe’s still looms as the store’s biggest competitor.

“I could look at my sales figures and tell you exactly” when Lowe’s opened six years ago, Rohrer said.

Yet, despite that drastic drop in sales, Rohrer has been able to keep going — move and all — by catering to longtime customers, and by providing some of the services and supplies that big-box stores don’t find profitable….

What they don’t realize, he said, is that very often his prices are actually lower.

“If people shop around, they’re going to find out [the big boxes] cannot sell every product cheaper than everybody else,” Rohrer said. It’s just the “they spend millions to build that perception.”…

“People have to realize if they want stores like us to be here they need to use us as more than just the store of last resort,” he said. [my emphasis]

Here’s an image from the article:

Ace Drive-In remains a roadside gem

May 28, 2008

The Ace Drive-In along the Lincoln Highway in Joliet, Illinois, is a welcome site in warm weather—classic food at a place little changed from a half century ago. It is one of the many brief profiles in my next book, Lincoln Highway Companion, but here with a great story about the place are impressions by John Weiss, who visits regularly with his wife Lenore:

We promote historic highways because they are a link to the past, a time not so long ago where mom, pop and apple pie culture was in abundance. Radios would sing out, “See the USA in your Chevrolet, America is asking you to call!”

Nothing makes your mind drift back to those glory years than one word: CARHOP. How cool it was to pull into the drive-in, flash your lights, and a pretty young girl would come to your car. Watching her come back balancing a full tray of frosted root beer, burgers, and fries was remarkable. “Please raise your window” she would say, then proceed to hook that mysterious tray onto your car door window.

Compare that with pulling up and talking to a machine. Then drive to a window to pay and pick up your order. Then you hear the mundane line, “Have a nice day.” That is not cool!

Not many original drive-ins with real car hops still exist. But there is one in Joliet, Illinois. If you are looking for nostalgia and a slice of Americana, then you have to visit the ACE DRIVE-IN. The Ace has been here since 1949. This fantastic icon is located on historic Lincoln Highway (Route 30) in Joliet. For you Route 66ers, Ace is only a short distance west of Ottawa Street, Route 66.

Homemade frosty root beer by the glass or by the gallon is available. All those great food treats that you would expect along with their famous car hops makes this a blast from the past. Family minivans and regular cars make up the majority of the customers, but all heads turn when the inevitable classic car pulls in with a Fonzie wannabe at the wheel. Even picnic tables under the trees are available with car hop service.

In spring, summer, and fall, this is the place to find good food, good prices, and those remarkable vanishing symbols of nostalgia, carhops.

That’s John researching this story in his 1966 Mustang!

Ace Drive-In
1207 Plainfield Rd/Lincoln Hwy/US 30
Joliet, Illinois
(815) 726-7741

Photos © by John and Lenore Weiss.

Vintage motels hang on near York, Pennsylvania

May 27, 2008

My drive last week along the Lincoln Highway in central Pennsylvania took me past many mid-century motels. Here are three east of York along Market Street/PA 462: Barnhart’s, the Modernaire, and the Flamingo.

I’ll briefly profile a few motels like these in every LH state in my forthcoming book, Lincoln Highway Companion.

Highway 30 Barn Tour and Picnic, June 7-8

May 26, 2008

Twenty five barns will be featured on the Iowa Barn Foundation’s Highway 30 Barn Tour and Picnic, Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8, 2008. This tour stretches from river-to-river across Iowa along US 30, the Lincoln Highway. Barns on this free, self-guided tour will be open both days 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The tour is dedicated to educating people about the importance of barn history and preservation.

Above is one wing of the Iowa State University Horse Barn, Ames (from the Iowa Barn Foundation web site).

The Highway 30 picnic and barn dance, featuring the Barn Owls, will be held Saturday evening in the Community Center at the Story County Fairgrounds in Nevada, Iowa, from 5:30 to 9 pm. To reach the fairgrounds, turn off old Highway 30 at First Avenue in Nevada, and travel south to I Avenue. Cost of the picnic and dance is $10 per person, children $5. Learn more about the Iowa tour and all the barns at the Iowa Barn Foundation.

Lee Hwy, Willys-Overland, & 1919 Motor Convoy

May 23, 2008

Craig Harmon continues researching the 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy, which followed the Lincoln Highway for much its course across the U.S. Some of his work lately has focused on the Reverend Samuel Myrtle Johnson, a preacher who combined religion and patriotism, especially when it came to support for Good Roads. Along with being the official speaker for the convoy, Johnson conceived the Zero Milestone in Washington D.C. and was director of the Lee Highway Association (which, like the Lincoln Highway, also connected New York to San Francisco).

The image above shows Johnson’s invitation (on Lee Highway letterhead) to U.S. Bureau of Public Roads Chief T.H. MacDonald to attend the dedication of the Zero Milestone, the launching point for the convoy. He was also being reminded that he would talk for 3 minutes about the routes that radiated from the marker.

Much of the new info came from an 8-page article in the October 6, 1919 issue of The Willys-Overland Starter. On the cover, you can see three cars donated by the Willys Overland Company for use with the convoy: Dr. Johnson traveled in the covered sedan followed by two open-top Willys-Overland 4s used by Army Publicity Officer Lt. William B. Doron and official photographer Sergeant George Lacey. A fourth car was an 88-4 Willys-Knight that was used as the pilot car by LHA vice-president H.C. Osterman, who traveled several days ahead. The article includes the only known photo (below) of Osterman, Doron, Train Commander Captain Bernard S. McMahan, and Expeditionary Commander Lt. Col. Charles W. McClure.

Click Here to download the 5 mb article at 150 dpi. And see my previous post on Harmon’s convoy research here.

Another Lincoln Highway diner in PA reopens

May 22, 2008

Lancaster Online reported last week on the reopening of a popular Lincoln Highway eatery. The Prospect Diner is along the Lincoln Highway (Columbia Ave/Rt 462) between Mountville and Columbia in the east-central part of the state. It had previously been known as Benji’s, the 3-D, and Keri’s, its name as it sat closed for the past year. New owners Michael and April Conroy have completely renovated the kitchen and and revivied seating area with lots of red vinyl along the counter, stools, and booths. The 1955 Kullman-brand diner, with a classic overhanging “outer space style” eave, features homestyle food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Open 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon–Sat; 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sun.

Here it is on my trip last week – CLICK for a larger view.

Rock Cafe on Route 66 destroyed by fire

May 22, 2008

It’s not often we report on Route 66 here at Lincoln Highway News, but an icon of that two-lane road has been destroyed in a fire. The Rock Cafe of Stroud, Oklahoma, was not only a popular stop along Route 66 since the 1930s, but had gained fame a couple years ago when owner Dawn Welch served inspiration for Sally the Porsche in the Disney/Pixar film Cars.

As you can see in my photo above, they celebrated the connection with little cutouts of the car characters. Read all about the fire, and plans to rebuild, on Ron Warnick’s Route 66 News. To see this image larger, CLICK on my photo below to go to my Flickr post – to see it even bigger, once there you can click “ALL SIZES” above the image.

Retro diner to be less retro

May 21, 2008

I’ve just returned from a trip along the Lincoln Highway in mid-Pennsylvania, bringing back hundreds of photos and some updates. Here’s one from just outside York.

The Starlite Diner is only 8 years old yet is already being redone inside. What was a cutting-edge retro diner in 2000 looks a bit old as the revival has faded. New owners are changing everything from the name to menu. Work is underway on what will become the Nautilus Diner, according to Steve C. Efstathiou, who just purchased the eatery. He already owns three diners in New York and Maryland.

Indications are that the new owner is trying for a “step above a diner” with new booths, tables, floor, and wall coverings; Efstathiou said, “The diner is only 8 years old…. The diner doesn’t have to be changed. I just want people to know that its under new ownership.”

The 215-seat diner is in West Manchester Twp. at Kenneth Road along US 30, a Lincoln Highway bypass. It was previously known for its crab cakes and made-to-order sautés; it will remain open 24/7. Check the 4/13 York Daily Record for a report on the sale and a slight delay in the work.