Sunday, July 19, 2015

Illinois RT 66 - Litchfield, Gillespie & Mt. Olive

Route 66 stretched from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA and was roughly 2448 miles long.  At first RT 66 used existing roads and designated them as RT 66.  There are three different routes taken in the area around Litchfield and Gillespie, IL depending on the year the road came through there.

RT 66 through Litchfield, IL

RT 66 through Gillespie, IL
The mural below was painted on the side of the old Dippold Drug Store recently.  It commemorates the route that passed through Gillespie during the 1926-1930 era.

 The 1930-1940 section has always been called "old 66" around this area.  They still have a drive-in movie on old 66 and it shows recent movies on the weekend in the summer.  I snuck into that drive-in many times 60 years ago along with 2-3 others in a trunk of a car.   Funds were tight during the mid-1950s.  Later when I had sufficient funds, Gerry and I watched a few movies there.  Cars of that era had bench seats (no console in the way) in the front and it was possible to sit next to your girlfriend.  Of course that caused the windows to steam up a lot.  I won't say anymore than the above, but old timers remember those days fondly.

One of only 20 drive-in theaters in Illinois

 The Ariston Cafe in Litchfield has been owned and run by one family for over 90 years and sits between the old and new RT 66.  Location, location.  They make a great bowl of chili among many other great selections.  Try it, you will like it.  You need to do it in a hurry since it's for sale now at $1.2 million.  The Ariston is on the Historical Register and there is a very nice Museum across the street from the restaurant.  

Ariston Cafe 

This is what "new 66" looks like south of Litchfield, IL.  When I-55 was opened in 1977 they started work on closing one lane of Rt 66.  In some places the road is still there and others they have removed the pavement.  This is what a highway looks like after being closed to traffic for 38 years.  The southbound lane is still being used and connects Litchfield and Mt. Olive, IL

 Rt 66 approaching Litchfield from the south with both north and south sections still being in use.

The Soulsby Shell Station in Mt. Olive is closed now, but for years it was operated by one family. The Soulsby Service Station is a historic service station in Mt Olive, IL. The station is located along historic US Rt 66 and is the oldest usable service station on the highway in Illinois. It serves as an example of the house and canopy gas station design.

Henry Soulsby built the station in 1926 after an injury forced him to leave the mining industry and operated it along with his children Russell and Ola Soulsby.  His son Russell, a WWII naval communications technician, operated a radio and TV repair business out of the station as I-55 diverted highway traffic away from the site in the late 1950s.  

A few years ago we stopped by and chatted with Russell and he showed us his stock of vacuum tubes to radios and tvs.  His collection would have rivaled any big repair shop of it's day.  The room was full of tubes of all sizes and shape.  Hopefully they were saved for posterity so the younger generation can actually see a vacuum tube.  

The station stopped pumping gas in 1991 and closed in 1993.  The old oil change ramp was outside and standing during our visit.

That is my little trip down memory lane.  I should also include Jubelt's Bakery in Litchfield where they have the best pastries in the U.S.  We always stop by and I like the vanilla covered Long Johns and Gerry picks up the cheese Danish.  They are fantastic when you get one that just came out of the oven.

1 comment:

  1. We've driven parts of Rt 66 and it's always fun to see the places that have survived somewhat from their heydays.