The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 9, 2008

Small Tales from Route 66

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 9:16 pm

For those of you who have seen the post I made on abandoned Route 66 gas stations a few months ago (which seems to consistiently be among the most popular posts on this site, mostly from people searching for abandoned gas station photos,) I thought I’d call attention to a very interesting comment that was posted to it earlier today by Don Christiano, a former resident of Truxton Arizona in the early Seventies before I-40 bypassed this particular stretch of the old Route 66:

The two gas stations in Truxton are different stations. I lived at both of them in the early 70’s. The Texaco at that time was owned by Ralph and Emily Hunter. They lived in a doublewide behind the station. Ralph caught himself on fire while smoking a cigarette and standing in gas. Burned badly. Not sure what happened to them after that. The other station was part of the Truxton Cafe. Went out of business when I-40 went through. Most of those cars have been there since the 60’s. People would break-down, have no way to pay and hitch a ride to california. Most of them never reclaimed the vehicles later. Belive it or not, before I-40 went through the town had tons of life. There was a bar across the street where the Indians from Peach Springs would walk over to drink at and tons of traffic. We moved a few months before I-40 went through and I haven’t been back since.

When most people think of Route 66, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one of the images that comes to mind, with its Depression-era tale of people fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma for a new life in California.  With the recent surge in nostalgia for the glory days of Route 66, with its images of sparkling roadside diners and motels with gaudy neon signs, we should keep in mind that for a lot of people, their trip on the Mother Road was a one-way journey, and with cars generally being a lot less reliable and hitchhiking being generally more socially acceptable than it is today, I could see where someone might have just decided to ditch their car and thumb it the rest of the way to their new life.  There are some cars parked at the Texaco that are clearly newer than that (the link goes to the full-size version of that photo,) which leads me to wonder what the story behind those might be.  It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in some cases, that same picture just might have a thousand stories behind it as well, and it’s fortunate that we get to hear a couple of them.

 Oh, and just in case anyone here hasn’t figured it out yet, don’t smoke cigarettes while you’re standing in a puddle of gas, OK?

July 20, 2007

Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations

Filed under: Culture, History, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:34 am

Over at buzz.mn today, James Lileks made an interesting little post about old gas stations.  He makes an interesting point:

 …in the old days you could get a comb and a soda, nothing more. Maybe the plague, if you used the restroom. But the modern stations lack pizzazz. With a few exceptions they’re bland utilitarian structures smothered with ads for lotteries and smokes. The fifties and sixties saw the finest gas station architecture – and much of it is still around.

This post also called for the readers to submit their own photos of old gas stations.  Gas stations in general tend not to be built to last, and tend to also be built in cookie-cutter designs that face the wrecking ball swiftly and unlamented when their usefulness has waned.  Oddly enough, it’s that relative fragility that gives us this scene from the 1963 comedy epic It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which is almost as notable for it’s depiction of a contemporary gas station as it is for the manner in which said station is systematically demolished:

Around here, one of the few surviving 60s gas stations (for the time being, at least) can be found in downtown Bellevue, on Northeast 8th Street.  The station has slanted windows and a triangular canopy over the former location of the pumps, which are the hallmarks of a former Phillips 66 station (although I can’t recall ever seeing a Phillips 66 station in the time I’ve lived here.) This former station has most recently hosted a toy store, but now sits vacant, serving as an impromptu parking lot.  Given the rapid growth in Bellevue, chances are the station will probably be bulldozed as soon as someone decides to put up another hi-rise on the land.  An aerial photo of the station can be found here (you can switch to the birds-eye view for a better look,) which shows the encroaching construction which will probably eventually seal this old station’s fate.  Maybe if I have some time in the next few days I’ll go take some better photos.

Although there aren’t a lot of interesting old gas stations to be found around here, a roadtrip I took through the Southwestern United States back in April took me to one of the longest remaining stretches of the old Route 66 in Arizona, between Seligman and Kingman, a route lined with a number of ghost towns.  After the jump, a few photos of some gas stations I took along the route. (more…)

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