Route 66 in the News
Getting Some Kicks
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Many artists from Nat King Cole to the Rolling Stones to Chuck Berry sang about getting your kicks on Route 66.
It's one of the most popular roads in the world.
This Points of Interest takes us to Springfield, Illinois for a stop on the Mother Road, some call it the Main Street of America, others just say Route 66. It stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles and was heavily traveled in its hey day. However, one could argue it's more popular now. One reason, people want to keep history alive. One of those people is Bill Shea of Springfield Illinois.
It's now referred to as Peoria Road, but decades ago it was a piece of Route 66. Along the side of the road, Shea's gas station. These days, 89 year old Bill Shea sits out front of the old gas station greeting people as they come in. Back in 1944, he came back from World War II, he was part of the D-Day invasion, and the owner of a local Texaco station offered him a job. He reluctantly took it. A few months later, the owner got sick and later died. Bill told the owner's widow he'd stay on to help until she got everything settled, but he never left. In 1955, he opened this station, which was much bigger. He closed his business in 1982, but still owns the property, and he still greets the customers. Now-a-days, they don't come in for gas or a tune up, they come in for a history lesson. In 1995, Bill and his son, also named Bill decided to open a Route 66 museum inside Shea's.
Bill Shea says, "It's hard to believe that we have people from all over the world. And we never spend a dime, not one dime, on advertising."
This museum is world famous. When I first pulled in, a family from Paris, France was taking a tour.
Bill is certainly no stranger to publicity. Check out this article, it's actually from People Magazine in 1999. This is just one of probably thousands and thousands of artifacts here at the museum. Each piece has a story of its own.
Victor Krueger says, "I think it's fantastic. It's memorabilia that brings back a lot of old memories. It's great."
Victor Krueger is from the Chicago suburbs and winters in Arizona. Just about every year since 1985, he and his wife drive Route 66.
Krueger says, "It's nostalgia. You go back, you're on the expressways and you pass history. It's gone. You get on old US 66 and they can cruise along 45 or 50 miles per hour, enjoy the countryside and enjoy all the sites."
One of those sites is Shea's gas station. This is Krueger's first stop at Shea's. He told me he planned to spend the entire day there looking though all the stuff.
Bill Shea says, "Some of the old buildings still stand like a tombstone, and people want to go see that. And when they go there, they don't know what the hell they went for."
That's one thing you'll get from Shea's. You stop, look around, and you get a true sense of what Route 66 was like in its hey day. You can't help but feel a little nostalgic, even if you were only eight years old when Route 66 fell off the map.
Shea says he's never actually driven Route 66 before, but spent a lot of time on his section of Route 66. He's also become somewhat of a poster child for Route 66. He told me there's not a state or city brochure that doesn't have his place listed. He's even been on the back of a cereal box...a legend of Route 66.
Shea's is open 10:00 to 4:00 Tuesdays through Fridays and 7:00 am to noon Saturdays.
It is closed the week of the Illinois State Fair.
~Chad Douglas, ConnectTriStates.com