Route 66 in the News

When "Route 66" Came to Town

2013-01-11 08:55:27

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Although it was filmed more than 50 years ago, the circa-1960s television series “Route 66” still has a loyal fan base in Savannah, and those viewers have plenty of memories of the time the series came to town.

In 1964, Amanda McLaughlin Cannon was a junior at Savannah High School and a nominee for Miss Blue Jacket (the school’s beauty queen). As was the custom then, Miss Blue Jacket and her court were selected by a celebrity, who usually received the photographs of the girls by mail.

That year, however, the 12 finalists visited the DeSoto Hotel and were personally interviewed by Martin Milner, one of the stars of “Route 66.”

“It was very exciting and a change from the usual format of sending pictures off to some celebrity to be ‘judged,’” Amanda recalled. “As I remember, the selection of the ‘queen’ also was unusual in that the results were leaked a few days ahead of the official announcement by a yearbook staffer.”

Consequently, the queen and court were not presented as “royally” as they had been in the past, she added. Miss Blue Jacket 1964 was Celie Smith. Her court was Martha Haynes, Kathy Powell, Pat Yeargin and Amanda.

(Perhaps Amanda, who is co-owner of Two Smart Cookies, should ship a box of cookies to Milner to thank him for naming her to the Blue Jacket court.)

Angela Dearing has pictures of Milner and co-star Glenn Corbett sitting in a sporty Corvette.

“We were Dearing Chevrolet at the time and furnished the Corvettes for them,” she explained. “We entertained the crew with a Lowcountry boil down at Dearing Lodge on Talahi.”

“Route 66” was one of John Jurick’s “all-time favorite” TV shows. “I recently bought the complete four-year collection on DVD,” he said. “I will be very interested to see the episodes filmed in Savannah.”

Linn Burnsed and Steve Harris were extras in a couple of the episodes filmed here.

“I was a paid actor in the scenes filmed at Charles Ellis, and somewhere I still have the framed check stub as payment for my ‘acting,’” Linn said. “As a youngster, I was close to the age of the boy who was meeting (Corbett) at the street behind Charles Ellis. We filmed several scenes within the halls of the school, then were asked to go out the rear doors. ... Thanks for bringing back some fun memories.”

Steve Harris made a copy of his $6.59 check from Lancer Productions Inc., dated 12/2/1963, and mailed it to me.

“I was in high school and they needed some ‘stars’ to sit around the bar at Connie’s on Pennsylvania Avenue while Corbett and guest star Larry Blyden got into it and boxed each other’s brains out,” he recalled. “I didn’t get picked because they said I didn’t look old and rustic enough to claim a bar stool, but I did get paid for a day, and got to hang around in the bar and watch the fight.”

Fred Vernon Black watched Milner and Corbett drive by his father’s service station on President Street. “I think they were on the way to the old Connie’s Bar,” he said.

Lyndy Brannen recalls one of the Savannah episodes featuring a plane crash on the section of the old Tybee Road to the right of the Turner’s Creek Bridge on the way to Wilmington Island.

“I remember seeing the hunk of plane after the shoot was over,” he said. “The bar fight was staged in the bar on Pennsylvania Avenue that later became the original location of The Longbranch Saloon,” he added.

Jack Flanigan remembers “Route 66’s Savannah sojourn very well.” At that time, Jack owned the Park Lane Lounge on Abercorn Street, which was the “watering hole,” for the cast and crew, he said.

“I became friends with Marty Milner and Max Stein, the assistant director, as well as many others connected with the production,” he said. “I even had a speaking part in the ‘Poxies’ episode. ... Your article brought back a lot of memories of the good times we had ‘back in the day.’”

Jane Humphries and a friend took their children to try to catch a glimpse of the stars — the evening filming was scheduled in a Baldwin Park home.

“After quite a long wait, we were rewarded,” Jane said. “Glenn Corbett came out of his trailer, smiled and said ‘hello’ and went into the house. What a thrill for two 30-something housewives.”

Nancy Cunningham’s father, B.W. “Bill” Cunningham, was public relations director for Southern Bell, and was a founding member of the Advertising Club of Savannah, which hosted a dinner for the cast and crew.

“My mother and I were invited to the dinner,” Nancy recalled. “I had a terrible crush on George Maharis — those dark eyes — and until your column I always thought it was George that I sat next to. Is it possible that the cast and crew came to Savannah earlier, scouting locations, but by the time they actually filmed here, George had left the cast and Glenn was his replacement? If anyone can remember if there were two visits — one scouting and one filming — I would love to sort out my memories. Glenn resembled George, with lighter eyes and hair, but my crush was deep enough that I don’t think I would have mistaken one for the other.”

Richard Downing was working in the Castle Building at 220 E. Saint Julian St. when “Route 66” came to town.

“A couple of times a day we’d take a coffee break, usually to Levy’s, which is now the SCAD library,” he said. “There was a Goodyear store on the corner of Broughton and Lincoln, across from Levy’s, and as we were approaching the back of the Goodyear store, walking south on Lincoln, Martin Milner and Glenn Corbett pulled out of the Goodyear shop in the Corvette and drove south on Lincoln.

“Damn, I’m getting old,” Richard added. “Thanks for reminding me!”

~Polly Powers Stramm,


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