Route 66 in the News

Peace Star, Route 66 Exhibit Dedicated

2010-05-14 21:21:12

CARTHAGE, Mo. - When Charlyn Hubbard was a high schooler, she began collecting post cards.

Hubbard was born less than half a mile from Route 66 when it was in its heyday, so she collected postcards from the cities on “The Mother Road” when she traveled it with her family.

Now, 65 years later, some of her postcards became the basis for a Route 66 historical display in the south lobby of the Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage.

“I had a postcard from every town in the song, ‘Get your kicks on Route 66,’” Hubbard said. “I have about 300 postcards from Route 66. I started collecting when I was in high school and I’ve been collecting for 65 years. I’ve got them from everywhere including at least seven different views of this courthouse. It’s nice to see this.”

Hubbard was one of about 100 people from the cities across Jasper County who gathered in the lobby of the historic courthouse to dedicate the Route 66 exhibit, built by the staff of the Joplin Museum Complex, and to dedicate the newly refurbished and re-lit Peace Star that caps the clock tower.

Among the people who were specially honored and thanked were former Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface, who wrote the more than $120,000 grant to build the Route 66 exhibit; Brad Belk and Chris Wiseman, with the Joplin Museum Complex, who researched and built the Route 66 display; and Ruth Kolpin-Rubison, who paid for the original Peace Star in 1964, paid for its upkeep over the years and paid an additional $10,000 to install the new LED lighting on the star last year.

Route 66 display

Wiseman, curator of collections at the Joplin museum, and designer of the exhibit in the Carthage Courthouse, said putting together the display was a two-year process that started two years after Surface wrote the original grant in 2005.

“To the person in the courthouse, it went up in a matter of two days,” Wiseman said. “But it’s been a process of years to actually get it here. It began in 2007 with preliminary talks with MoDOT. This is unique; this is a pilot program. They have never done anything like this and I have never worked with MoDOT before so we were both kind of feeling our way through this.”

Wiseman said the process included painstaking research of the Route and the buildings on it, visits to museums and libraries along the route to see what they have done with their museums, and more than 600 man-hours of construction work by a crew of five people.

He said he and Belk, who couldn’t attend the dedication because of a scheduling conflict, used Hubbard’s postcards for hints as to what to put in the museum and what to emphasize in the displays. Hubbard also provided a postcard with a color image of the old Boots Drive In, now the Great Plains Credit Union, and what the old eatery looked like in its heyday.

“We went through three different plans, we went through the Courthouse Preservation Committee to get their input and we finally ended up with the plan you see here which is the Boot’s Drive In from Carthage,” Wiseman said. “To me it’s one of the most iconic structures on Route 66. It kind of rolls that entire art-deco theme and the traveling and eating and mobility of Route 66.”

Wiseman stressed that he built the display so the installation wouldn’t damage the courthouse walls.

“One of the major points on the plan that I tried to keep to, because of the setting that this was going into, is that it would have to have minimal impact on the courthouse structure itself,” Wiseman said. “It’s literally held together by a series of about 12 bolts so if it ever needs to be removed, the only damage will be about 12 holes that can be patched. The integrity of this building was really paramount to me in this exhibit.”

Surface said the display will become part of a regional effort to promote Route 66 in Southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma.

“Route 66 is important to this area because it ran through it and you’ve got the Boot’s Motel and so many other attractions on it,” Surface said. “The Route 66 Drive-In Theater that we all remember as kids, those of us who are a little older. The whole area could be revitalized somewhat by emphasizing Route 66, so a couple of years ago, seven cities, Carthage, Webb City, Joplin, Baxter Springs, Commerce, Miami and Vinita, came together to promote regional tourism. You’ll see a new book coming out in January talking about the seven cities that are involved and what you can do in those cities. You’re talking about regional tourism.”

Peace Star

Jasper County Commissioner Jim Honey said prior to 1963, officials had mounted a star on the courthouse clock tower for Christmas, but that star was lit with incandescent bulbs and couldn’t stay on the building year round.

In 1963, the Carthage Chamber of Commerce decided to install a permanent star with fluorescent lighting that could stay up and lit throughout the year.

Ruth and George Kolpin, then owners of KDMO Radio in Carthage, paid to install the star and it was dedicated on Jan. 10, 1964 in a ceremony attended by the governors of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Honey said through the years, however, the fluorescent lights became hard to maintain and Ruth Kolpin helped pay to keep it lit.

~John Hacker, Carthage Press


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