Today’s big adventure took place in Barstow, California, where we visited the Route 66 Museum supervised by Deborah Hodkin in the basement of a historic Harvey Hotel at 681 N. First Avenue. You approach the museum across a bridge not unlike the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in that it has a turn in it, and you can see the entire railway below. The museum is open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with the hours being 10 to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
In the old days, people alighted from the trains and stayed in the Harvey House Hotels. There was even a 1946 movie starring Judy Garland that romanticized the Harvey House female employees, who had to take a vow not to marry while employed by the Harvey House and had certain other morals clauses in their work agreements.
We watched a movie, hosted by Marty Milner of “Route 66” television fame, that tracked the Mother Road (so named by John Steinbeck in “The Grapes of Wrath”) all the way from Chicago to California, with Milner at the wheel of a classic Chevrolet Corvette.
Completed in 1911, the Casa del Desierto boasted a rail depot, restaurant and hotel complex and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The original alignment of Route 66 was in front of this building, between the railroad tracks. Route 66, itself, was made from the National Old Trails Road, which crossed the Mojave Desert.
This Museum was founded in 2000 and charges no admission, but accepts donations. Volunteers staff the Historic Harvey House and the museum hosts special exhibits and upcoming events, including a Miss Route 66 pageant, a Route 66 Quilt Show, Artists & Authors and Desert Writers’ Day and group tours of the facility. Students attending Barstow Community College may also apply for the Barstow Route 66 Mother Road Museum scholarship, designed to bring more awareness to Main Street, USA. For more information on the scholarship, check www.route66 museum.org.