The Route 66 Place

Williams, Arizona

February 21, 1997

Ok, I am going to admit something here and now. I'm going to be honest -- not that I haven't been honest elsewhere in these Arizona essays, because I have. However, it may seem just a little incongruent for me to be writing about this little shop in Williams Arizona. It's a little souvenir shop that sells theme memorabilia relating to Route 66 and the 50s.

After all, I was sarcastic about the tourism in Sedona that made it into the merchandizing center it is, and in fact, Llewellyn and I totally avoided stopping the car. We didn't even like slowing down in Sedona. And, ironically most of the merchandise there seemed to appeal to the monied set: probably acceptable (or better) quality Native American jewelry and rugs, as well as better quality souvenir merchandise.

Sure, there is some kind of cheesiness that is evident in the Grand Canyon -- Ranger Jim's Fireside Chat turned me off. I wrote about it elsewhere on my site, talking about the grandeur of nature offset by the remarks of Jim. Reducing the Canyon, so it seemed, to a mere parody of itself.

So I might seem just a little bit arrogant, and perhaps I am. Which is why I wanted to write this, because everyone has their own foibles. There are those who probably (secretly) cook up a can of Spam for dinner now and then when no one else is home, or watch Matlock reruns, go bowling or even have a metal detector they stealthily use in remote places on weekends. Well nothing wrong with that, because we all have these slight variances to our usual façade of normality.

My own indiscretions take form of things - objects. I like "things" and there is really no sense or predictability as to what I like or dislike. Sometimes they are elegant and beautiful, other times they are gauche and tawdry. All I know is when I encounter something in a shop I really like, I know it. It almost calls out to me. This has manifested it self in a diversity of areas - from religious memorabilia to Nancy Drew books. Lots of times the things I like have some subconscious connection to my past, or perhaps another life even. I really should have stopped in Sedona for a past life regession analysis, it may have helped me understand.

Anyway, Llewellyn and I are in Williams and we see stores with the signs "Twisters" and "The Route 66 Place"; and are irresistibly drawn to them. Upon entering we realized it is actually 2 different store fronts that are connected inside by a huge open archway: "Twisters" being a 1950s reproduction of a typical soda fountain, while "The Route 66 Place" turned out to house a huge collection of Route 66 and 1950s related memorabillia, mostly reproductions.

I really can't explain why, but we were mezmorized by it. There were shelves and shelves of just about anything you can imagine with the Route 66 logo on it. Napkins, address books, hundreds of tee shirts, hats, leather and satin jackets, posters, shoes, magnets, drink shakers, license plates, coffee mugs (with Route 66 coffee beans available also), beer mugs, shot glasses, books, magazines, metal signs, radio reproductions and gas station memorabilia. It was pretty amazing.

Two women worked there wearing tee shirts with the store logo on it. They were perky and friendly to us, happy to stop and chat for a moment. Llewellyn and I spent a long time there just looking around, showing each other various items to reminisce and smile over. We mused about which mugs to buy and we each finally selected a different one. We selected a couple magents and piled them on the counter next to the mugs. Still browsing we found a back room where there were discount cowboy shirts for sale in gaudy colors and things like huge stars with points that extended down the arms. The cowboy shirts were easy to pass by. We both headed back toward the counter each having independently acquired copies of the Route 66 Magazine, which we place on our growing pile of purchases.

Llewellyn eyed a glass globe that one had adorned the top of a gas pump, but the women who worked there didn't know the price and we would have had a difficult time managing it on the plane anyway. Finally, about ready to leave, we looked at a set of plastic salt and pepper shakers. The salt and pepper shakers were in the form of gas pumps, sitting on a stand with the Route 66 sign. It took batteries and we learned the logo lit up! How could we pass this by?

Road Spice

We knew it was time to leave and at the counter the woman was tallying the final bill. We picked up a brochure and learned the Route 66 Place has a web site.

"Who manages your web site?," we asked her.

"Oh my father does that," she replied. "He is pretty amazing he really doesn't know much about computers but he has learned all about it and he does it himself."

At that moment from across the room in Twisters a huge cowboy, all dusty and dirty meandered toward us. He was wearing a large cowboy hat, chiseled leather cowboy boots, and chaps that were brown with dust. He must be taking a break from work I thought to myself.

He exchanged some cordial and brief familial remarks with the cashier and departed.

"Is that your father?," I asked her.

"Oh, no, that's my uncle," she responded. "He owns half this place, he is my father's business partner."

I imagined another cowboy, equally tall, rugged and dusty hunched in front of a computer tagging HTML files for the gift shop. I wondered if he had a vanity site for other personal interests, such as his ranch, cattle or horses.

We collected our purchases and left. Later, we saw some of the same Route 66 memorabilia for sale right in Williams, the same town, at the Grand Canyon Railway gift shop, for significantly less money. Briefly, we considered returning our purchases for a refund, but for some reason did not. Back in Tempe, we didn't bother to display our treasures to Llewellyn's family and laughed together about our high-priced Route 66 souvenirs. As cool as we think these items are, there is something also silghtly embarrassing about it too, I guess. At least for those of you who do not understand.

So, for those of you who secretly still have longings for an occasional Twinkie or Ding-Dong snack, who watch the WWF on television in private, who sometimes secretly desire to read the Enquirer or The Star, or who have all the Monkees albums -- don't be too embarrassed. We all have our temptations.

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