Route 66 in the News

Couple Runs informal 66 Museum

2011-08-03 12:41:42

ATLANTA, Ill. - The greeting is a little unusual, but it's part of Mike Evans' style.

"I ain't buyin' nothin', and I ain't sellin' nothin', but come on in, take a look and be sure to sign the guest book," he says to visitors who walk into his building in downtown Atlanta.

What visitors see is a museum without a name. A great many items are specific to Route 66, but the material is more about memories from the 1920s to the l960s, and much of it was collected over the years by Evans and his wife, Judy.

"We love to travel and, sometimes, we pick up small little items that just appeal to us," Judy said. "We needed a place like this because our house was getting full. Now, I can do more shopping."

Mike bought the building at the corner of Arch and Vine about two years ago and refurbished it. Thousands of items are already on display and he estimates there are thousands more at home. The memorabilia includes antique bikes, toys, tools, a homemade horse, photographs and a few antique cars, such as a 1961 Rolls Royce.

"I'm going to get a mannequin of Elvis Presley and put him in the back seat," Mike said.

He isn't your typical museum owner. He doesn't even have a name for the place yet, and technically, it is open for business, although there is no charge to come in and browse.

"We just haven't found a great name yet," he said. "We have thought about something with the word 'memories' in it or something along those lines."

Mike said the Route 66 theme is important to his display, but there is more to it.

"It's about the lifestyle when Route 66 was popular," he said. "I'm trying to bring stuff here that reminds me of those days. It doesn't have to be about cars or the highway. It can be about stuff you had in your house or going on with your life. To me, it's about personal memories that these items bring."

That's why in one corner of the museum, there's a cigar area. In another, a toy area. There's a living area with antique furniture and home appliances such as an old-fashioned washing machine. The Evans have either bought or found almost everything.

"It's not that I don't appreciate items from others, but I want to keep that personal feel to this place," he said.

Judy understands.

"The great thing is that we have a sentimental attachment to all of these items and we can tell you where each thing came from and what it means to us," she said.

Mike doesn't ever plan to charge an admission fee or sell anything. His only plan is for more expansion.

"I would like to develop the upstairs a little bit, but it's going to take some work," he said. "But I'm happy with the way it has turned out so far and the great thing is that, already, I have met people from all over the world who have heard about this place. Route 66 is well-known throughout the world and the conversations I have already had with people have been fascinating. This is just fun."

~Kevin Barlow,


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