Route 66 in the News
Debra Hodkin: Barstow's Museum Matriarch
Debra Hodkin's love for people and Route 66 helped create the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow five years ago.
Hodkin, a 35-year resident of Barstow, saw an advertisement in a newspaper that Barstow wanted to open a Route 66 museum and needed someone to help start it. She applied for the job and has been the curator and manager of the museum since it opened five years ago on July 4.
"I've gained so many friends and learned so much," Hodkin said. "It is very rewarding."
Hodkin said she decided to apply because she felt able to contribute as her youngest of two daughters had finished high school.
Hodkin said she had always been interested in the Harvey House, which is where the museum is located.
Harvey Houses were started by an English man called Fred Harvey who wanted to provide decent meals and lodging for railroad travelers.
The Harvey House in Barstow was called Casa Del Desierto which means "house of the desert."
Hodkin said travelers would eat in 25 minutes and be back on the train.
"It was one of the first fast-food places," Hodkin said.
Harvey Girls were waitresses who were hired to come out west and work in the Harvey restaurants along the railroads.
The section where people used to eat was torn down long ago because it was not being used.
The museum is now housed where the workers used to stay.
Route 66 covers 2,448 miles of road between Los Angeles and Chicago and goes through eight states.
The museum has maps, photographs, memorabilia, cars, a slide show, and a gift show highlighting what Route 66 has to offer.
Hodkin said the museum has one of the best gift shops along Route 66.
"We have some books and maps that even large bookstores don't have," Hodkin said.
"It is the biggest tourist attraction in Barstow," Bill Cadenhead, a volunteer said.
Cadenhead lives in Hesperia and drives here several times a month to help out.
Cadenhead initially started volunteering because he wanted to learn more about Route 66 before he traveled it in 2001. Cadenhead enjoyed volunteering so much he is still doing it.
"We have a good time," Cadenhead said. "I consider her (Hodkin) my friend."
Cadenhead said the museum brings a different type of tourist to Barstow.
"It attracts people from all over the world who stay here and support the hotels not just race down the freeway," Cadenhead said.
Visitor Ron Thomas from Chatsworth who traveled Route 66 with his wife for two weeks, stopped at the museum on Saturday said: "It is like reliving history."
Everybody who works at the museum is a volunteer. Hodkin said they are always looking for more volunteers.
"I think she (Hodkin) is crazy," Cadenhead said. "The lady spends most of her life here."
Hodkin said she enjoys working at the museum.
"I love everything about it," Hodkin said. "The historic value, the preservation and the tourists."
The museum is non-profit and relies on donations and gift shop sales. The museum is at 681 North First Avenue and admission is free. The museum is open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Call (760) 255-1890 or go to route66museum.org.
~Karen Stapley, Desert Dispatch