Route 66 in the News

A Part of Many Lives

2010-02-25 21:20:35

RIALTO, Calif. - Whether it be difficult times, such as getting stuck on washed-out portions of the road, or milestone experiences like spending a wedding night in a wig-wam, memories of Route 66 remain with many people today, long after their journey ended.

"You would always carry a pick and shovel when traveling by car in those days," said Kenneth Pitzer, 88, who has resided in Arcadia since 1984.

He was only a year old when his folks brought the family from Kansas to Northern California on Route 66.

"My father was an adventurer, and headed west because he had visions of a land of opportunity. He took our family to live among the vineyards for a time," he said.

In 1930 his mom and dad loaded Kenneth and his five siblings into their 1928 Chevy and headed back to Oklahoma and Kansas, pulling a two-wheel trailer.

"When Route 66 was dedicated in 1926, they merely put up road signs on the highway just as it was. Much of the Route was grated dirt road and travelers had to fend for themselves in the case of a wash-out or other obstructions. On that trip more than once we had to get out and dig," he recalled.

There were times when the car couldn't make it over a hill with the weight of the trailer.

The trip took about a week with a short stay in Flagstaff where his mother could do laundry. When they reached Oklahoma, the cost of gas was about six cents a gallon.

"My father didn't like to stay in one place too long," he said.

As a young man, Pitzer returned to California and married Charlotte. They have recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary.

It was in January 1951 when Lonell Spencer of Arcadia and Marguerite Williams, born and raised in Monrovia, were married at the Church of The Good Shepherd in Arcadia.

Following the reception, the couple headed east on Route 66 for their honeymoon. Marguerite didn't know what to think when Lonell pulled up at the Wigwam Motel in Rialto and registered.

"I liked it because it was level and easy to carry her over the threshold," says Lonell, now 81. "When I told them in the office that we were just married, their response was "`Yes, we can tell."'

Lonell was no stranger to California's stretch of the Mother Road. His folks owned a cabin in Crestline so he would take the route often.

"It was a wide open highway back then and I remember speeding along at about 70 miles per hour with citrus orchards on both sides of the road," he said.

Things were a lot different, he said, recalling a time when he and his buddies were headed for the snow in his mother's Plymouth.

Suddenly there was a problem with the wheel and they could drive no further. Pulling over with little but country around them, they took off on foot, finding a house nearby. A man was in his garage working on his roadster and when they told him of their woes, he grabbed his tools and some parts and was able to fix their wheel.

He turned down the money they offered and said he'd be paid back if they would just help out someone else in need some day.

Lonell and Marguerite live in Arcadia. They recall exactly how much that night at the Wigwam cost them: a whopping $5.

"We know," Lonell said, "because she still has the receipt in her Bride's Book!"

~Claudia Heller,


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