2012 Hall of Fame Nominations Announced
We proudly announce those who will be inducted into the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame at our Annual Hall of Fame Banquet. This year's banquet and induction ceremony will be held on June 9 at Lincoln College, in Lincoln, IL.
The Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame recognizes "those people and places along Route 66 whose blend of hardy individualism and grassroots community spirit gave the road such special character."
To qualify for election to the Hall of Fame, nominees must have made significant contributions to the character or history of the Illinois portion of Route 66 from 1926 to 1977 while it was an official United States highway in the State of Illinois.
Samuel L. Reichert, Sr., Plainfield, Illinois
U. S. Route 66 Service Station Operator
Nominated by Michael A. Lambert and Sam Reichert, Jr.
For nearly 25 years, Sam Reichert, Sr., relied on U. S. Route 66 as much as its travelers relied on him. First, Sam Reichert, Sr. worked as a Greyhound Lines bus driver along the historic route between Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri. Secondly, he operated service stations along the legendary route for 20+ years.
No other individual service station operator maintained a service station presence along Route 66 in the vicinity of Plainfield, Illinois, longer than Sam Reichert, Sr. Sam was “the face of Plainfield” to thousands of motorists during the heyday of the historic route.
Although many individuals contributed to the friendly character and aid found along the Illinois stretch of U. S. Route 66, the most enduring personalities along the route were those of the operators of local service stations.
In addition to pumping gas, changing oil, repairing tires, and attaching new wiper blades, gasoline station operators along U.S. Route 66 dispensed “full service.” In that era, “service” included more than “checking the oil” or washing windows and headlights. “Service” meant greeting customers with a friendly smile, giving directions, and providing travel tips along the route, all while wearing a tidy uniform. Sam also provided towing service, aiding disabled travelers along Route 66 and other roadways in the vicinity of Plainfield.
Quinn Service Station / Quinn Family
Elmo A., Eldon A., Elmo C., and Eula Quinn, Bloomington, Illinois
Nominated by Larry and Sheryl Brown, Fran Turgeon, Dave Sullivan and Melodee Bielfeldt
The Quinn family has operated a gas station in downtown Bloomington for over 70 years. October 15, 2011, marked the 70th anniversary of the business. Service to customers has always been the trademark of the Quinn Station. This station has been on the original alignment of SBI 4 and Route 66 and served the traveling public for parts of eight decades.
Historic Route 66 has always passed the door of this service station. When the station was first opened it was operated as a Texaco station from 1941 to 1985. It opened for business run by brothers Elmo A. Quinn and Eldon A. Quinn. In 1976 Elmo C. and Eldon A. retired, and Elmo and Eula Quinn took it over. In 1985 it became a Shell Station as it continues today with Elmo and Eula Quinn still providing full service pumps for the many loyal customers of this family business. The”full service” continues today with washing windows and checking engine fluids, as well as stories and directions for travelers and locals alike. Their business was so strong that this establishment even survived being closed for several months in the late 1980s for State required fuel tank replacements and pump upgrades that caused many other service stations to close permanently.
The Quinn’s customer base continues steady as many children who grew up going to the gas station with their parents continue to patronize Quinn’s station as adults. Time has passed and Elmo no longer operates the two mechanic bays but still spends 80 hours a week greeting his customers, washing windshields, catching up on customer’s families and news, and taking care of business. Elmo works a 6 day workweek, at least 13 hours a day.
His wife, Eula, assists him with his business. Eula and Elmo have known each other since 5th grade but didn’t start dating until after high school. Elmo lovingly calls her his “meals on wheels.” They have been married 48 years.
Roger Gray, Gray’s Garage, Inc., Pontiac
Nominated by Kathleen Ann (Gray) Schumacher, Anthony Arrigo and Marty Blitstein and Cathie Stevanovich
Roger Gray was born just steps off Route 66 in Pontiac. He grew up in Pontiac and quit high school and went into the service with his brother. With their mother’s permission they went into the Air Force. While being tested in the service, Roger’s talent for mechanics was noted and encouraged. Roger ended up teaching engine repair and air plane engine skills at Chanute Air Force base. While in the service, he married Betty Thompson, a Pontiac girl, and they started a family.
In 1963 Roger opened Gray’s Garage for business at the junction of Route 66 and 116. His business because an icon along the Route 66 corridor between Chicago and Springfield due to his excellent reputation. When Roger Gray opened his business he had a 24 hour wrecker service, an auto body repair and he would repair anything and everything from a VW Beetle to an 18 wheeled semi. With the impending arrival of I-55, Roger moved his garage out to I-55 and Route 23 but continued to assist the State Troopers with wrecking service on Route 66.
This was a time before cell phones, pagers, and GPS when tow truck drivers were first responders and many times when Roger got a call to go out on a tow he wasn’t sure what he would find, or when he’d get home again. His wife, Betty, would pack up food, supplies and water and blankets because Roger wouldn’t know what he would find on a call. Roger would not only be the tow truck driver, but a repairman, and also he was the only witness to many scenes of horrible destruction, and he had to wait at the scene until the coroner got there. Back then there were no ambulences or paramedics. There were state policemen and the tow truck drivers. Weather would often play havoc with the road – especially in winter. When ambulance services and EMT’s came into being Roger was relieved that that part of his work day would be over. There would still be enough to do with jackknifed semi’s and car rollovers along Route 66.
Gray’s Garage is still in business, just celebrating 49 years. Their major work is now truck repair and customization, but he still has a few wreckers. Although Roger’s semi-retired, he keeps his business strong with family members working side by side maintaining the business that Roger and his wife Betty built.
The Ra66it Ranch, Staunton
Nominated by Josh Friedrich and Jerry Law
The Ra66it Ranch was the brainchild of Rich and Linda Henry. Both Rich and Linda are children of Hall of Fame members (Hubert Henry, Truck Drive, St. Louis, and Wilton Rinkel, Farmer & Businessman) and grew up with a close attachment to Route 66.
The Ra66it Ranch was built in 1992 to look like a 1930’s or 1940’s gas station. Rich and Linda Henry built this to be a visitor’s center and a gift shop when there was not much of either one along old Route 66. The station looks so genuinely old that the EPA stopped in one day to find out where the old gas tanks were buried. Rich had a tough time convincing them there never had been tanks – it had never been a real gas station at all!
Rich added a collection of the Campbell’s Tractor Trailers (The Humpin’ To Please on Route 66) who’s mascot was “Snortin Norton” the camel with the big “66” on its side. Cambell’s Trucking was such a big part of Route 66 that a lot of travelers would watch for them as they made their way down old Route 66.
Rich added to his whimsical collection the “Rabbit Ranch” a series of cars (VW Rabbits of course) set into the ground much the Cadillac Ranch out west in Texas. There is something for everyone: a hospitable host, great conversation, quirky roadside attractions, historic memorabilia, cold drinks, cool merchandise, fuzzy friends (real rabbits), and cars.
The Ra66it Ranch is also the resting place for the Stanley Cour-Tel sign as well as Bob Waldmire’s 1967 VW Hatchback. There is a giant Jack Rabbit next to the Tale of Ears Memorial Park. Speaking of photo opps there is a “Radiator Springs” display not to be missed. Also there are real rabbits! Some are outside, and currently Big Red greets visitors in Rich’s Old Route 66 Emporium and if you’re lucky will give you an autograph!
Thousands of visitors have visitors since 1995 have visited Henry’s Ra66it Ranch and gone on to spread the word about the amazing destination that is the Ra66it Ranch. Since the start of Route 66 there have been entrepreneurs with one of a kind businesses. This is one of them.
We welcome your Route 66 news, stories, photos and events for publication in our newsletter or on our web site!