Fall. It’s rainy, cool in the mornings, hot in the afternoons and that damn sun is setting earlier and earlier. Climate change is here to stay so I really don’t know how the Fall will be – though I am hoping for a true Indian summer. Cool mornings, sunny bright afternoons, and cooler evenings. On weekends returning from Pontiac there are communities that allow leaves to be burnt – and that’s a wonderful memory for me. I grew up on brick streets in Maywood and we would rake leaves for blocks to have the biggest bonfires we could. We’d wrap up baking potatoes and apples with cinnamon candy hearts in foil and bury them in the leaves so when we were done there was food as a reward for our hard work. Brick streets gave way to asphalt and that ended our street roasts…but it was oh so much easier to skateboard on asphalt! Now it’s all about controlling our walkers!
Starting with Harvest Days in Dwight, and then going down 66 – there are so many festivals and Halloween events. Atlanta this year is having a month of Halloween events! Although the car shows are slowing down there’s still time to get out and enjoy the fall season – the Mother Road Festival in Springfield is a must see if you’ve never been there! Check out our website for info on activities – Dwight Cannon does a great job filling in our calendar. The Association calendar will post any event along the road for free! Just let us know. If you know of an event on or near 66 – share it with us!
The next few years will be busier as we build toward the Centennial. Our Association looks forward to having special monthly events when the road turns 100 to combine fun cruises, educational sites, and history.
We’ve got a new Preservation project on the horizon. The Texaco station in Dwight needs scraping and painting and the pumps need a little elbow grease. As the heat dies down, John Weiss will be organizing the “We work for food” Gang once again. I went down and toured the station, took pictures, and talked with some of Dwight’s volunteers. I am hoping to have a meeting with the new City Manager soon to get permission to assist them with the beloved Ambler Becker Station.
The Association Board is made up of volunteers who are quick to help, know how to work in any kind of weather, and eager to talk about the road. Emmy Bates has done a great job making sure our Saturdays at the museum are well attended. Board members are asked to volunteer 3 Saturdays a year at the museum to assist visitors to have a great time at the museum, in the city hall complex exhibits, the War Museum, the Gilder’s Museum, and the Pontiac-Oakland Museum. This year the new trolley driver “Leon” has taken over the reins from Don and continues the great tradition of Saturday trolley rides around Pontiac.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it has taken an entire community of 66ers to help me over the past 16 years be a good president for our Association. Sometimes its easy to answer an email or call, sometimes its difficult because there are some requests beyond our means. I have been asked to book hotel rooms and cars and set up tours for people who will “pay” me when they get here. That’s an easy one to say no to. Other requests are outside our realm as an Association, but those requests are those that I am happy to assist doing the research for the best answer, and to connect those people with the best sources. We could help and we all learned something.
This summer went by so fast. The great 2023 Motor Tour – the only big disappointment being we couldn’t cross the Chain of Rocks Bridge. They are putting a million dollars into the St. Louis side of the Bridge, however the Bridge itself may be off limits to cars in the coming years due to age and condition. We were lucky to have crossed it and double-crossed it in the last 10 years. We have that memory forever. I have some of Marty Blitstein’s ashes to be spread on that Bridge, and until we cross it again, he’s riding shotgun in my Kia Soul!
I have been told how the southern counties are growing as more young people return to their communities and are re-engaging and becoming involved. Some towns that couldn’t fill a chamber of commerce or Kiwanis group have told me they are in an upswing. Everything goes in cycles – including volunteers.
Rose and Mary Ann who are city workers and docents for us do an amazing job greeting visitors and sharing Pontiac’s story daily. I have always enjoyed my days in Pontiac and especially love it when I have repeat visitors! Not only do they return to Pontiac for their vacations, they return as friends and share their stories of what’s happened to them on the Mother Road. It’s refreshing to learn from a worldwide traveler what they feel when they are doing 66, and why they return time and time again.
We are working on finalizing getting a new membership program. Marty Blitstein had it down to a “t” and no one, and no computer program, will ever do the job like Marty did. He loved doing membership and all it entailed. We need to think future, however, so we are looking at a program that will give us options for renewal online or with a reminder. We appreciate your patience. Our new Treasurer, Dave Johnson, will be running our financials starting in October.
I appreciate all the help and guidance I’ve received from my Board of Directors, all the help from the City of Pontiac and Liz Vincent, and the cast of thousands it takes to be part of Route 66. I learned so much from people who have passed on – Lenore Weiss, Betty Estes, Tom Perkins, Glaida and Steve Funk, Martha Jackson, Dawn Patterson, Lucille Pech, Ernie Edwards, Bob Waldmire, Adelle Hodges, and Tom Armbruster. I have been coached by Marilyn and Durelle Pritchard, Jim Jones, Rich Henry, Jerry Law, Dave Tucker, Anne Jackson, John Weiss, Ellie Alexander, Bob Karls, Bill Kelly, Bill Thomas, Elaine Stonich, Jim Bush, and the amazing Dave Sullivan, all who took the time and energy to help me get a well rounded education in the Mother Road and its intricacies. I have had the privilege of working with years of dedicated Association members who made the Association a great place to be a part of. I am forever indebted to them for their kindness, their honesty, their mercy, and for increasing my sense of humor. Laughter is good. Working together is great. Everyone has an opinion to be respected. My appreciation for the entire Association Board is endless.
I am thankful to Lincoln Printers (Bob and Rachel) who for years were our printing source and good friends. We switched to Perma Graphic in New Lenox when Bob retired and Marlene and Russ Gorman have been amazing with our printing needs, passports, and the newsletter. Marlene is our editor. It’s not just a print job to them – they are 66ers as well.
Here’s to a splendid golden autumn, a mild and predictable Winter, and a Spring that brings back our beloved Illinois green.
See you on the Road
President, Route 66 Association of Illinois