The Berwyn Route 66 Museum get its groove on

My colleague Joe Kubal and I were in Berwyn yesterday when we thought we’d stop by the Berwyn Route 66 Museum and see what’s up with Jon Fey and his staff. Glad we did.

WOW – what a difference inside from 10 months ago! Those folks have really made progress in organizing the materials and putting up displays. It really looks like a museum now. Someone’s been putting a lot of sweat equity into this and deserves credit.

Copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

The first thing that hits you eye as you walk in is the colorful display of ‘artistically enhanced’ and matted hubcaps that have been mounted all along the right wall, behind the reception counter. They’re just amazing artwork. Then you realize that there’s an entire regiment of hubcaps bordering the walls just below the ceiling, like a modern counterpart to crown molding. They’re all historic, of course. One remembers that this stretch of Ogden Avenue used to be known as Automobile Row – and that it saw its heyday even as Route 66 did, during the post-war years (that would be after WW II for you younger kiddies). Also to be expected when you recall that the museum’s collection – then much smaller and less varied – once had a home in a display case at the former Anderson Ford down the street. Anderson closed in 2009 and was recently rehabbed for a new business.

The next thing you notice are the huge framed aerial photos of Berwyn and Ogden Avenue taken over the decades. My colleague Keith is really into aerial shots, so it’s too bad he missed this. You can trace the history of the road as it passed through Berwyn just by looking at those photographs.

Copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

We also learned a bit of news during our visit. First off, the fiftyish glass-block Berwyn welcome sign on Ogden near Lombard Avenue (you know, the one that lights up inside at night with all those pretty colors) will be taken down soon. Oh, no!!! you say … but wait: it’ll find a new home at the museum. The docent tells us that the museum is raising funds for its restoration – the granite is cracked (see photo), and the sign is in danger of being hit again by vehicles if it remains where it is. Never fear, Route 66 fans. The endangered sign won’t vanish but really does need to be saved, given that its mate, which once stood near Ogden and Maple, was demolished during a two-car accident back in 1998 and was never replaced. It won’t go on the parkway at the museum, because that would just pose the same risk, but it will sit back a bit within view of the street, probably near the parking lot entrance where it’ll still be clearly seen from Ogden. At least this way it’ll be part of the museum’s collection and still there to be seen On The Route.

More news: Jon Fey acquired two of the several classic cars that once graced that doozy of a public sculpture known as The Spindle. It was created in 1989 by artist Dustin Shuler and was eight cars tall.  Those of you who remember this whimsical pop-art commentary on the automobile know that it once stood in the parking lot of Cermak Plaza shopping mall at Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road. Despite popular efforts to save it – even to sell it on eBay – it was disassembled in 2008 (the artist himself died two years later, nearly to the day, of pancreatic cancer).  However, the top two cars – a 1967 red VW bug and a 1976 silver Beemer – were saved at that time.  Just the like glass-block welcome sign, The Spindle became emblematic of Berwyn. Right up until the mall owner decided to dismantle it. Jon Fey has the two salvaged cars stored safely in a garage right now, but they need to be restored before they can be ‘remounted’ and displayed again.

Then there’s the question of where to display them. Not inside, of course, as the museum isn’t big enough for the cars and everything else, too. Next to the parking lot – popular spot, isn’t it? – is one alternative. The gutsier and more humorous alternative would be to put them on the museum’s roof, already ‘mounted’ onto another partial spindle. Highly appropriate! But that would require reinforcing the roof with steel beams, etc., and means raising a lot more money for the installation.

No surprise, then, that the museum will have a booth where it will be raising money at the Annual Route 66 Car Show on Ogden in just over a week.  The car show, which will offer the usual display of classic and custom cars, motorcycles and trucks plus special guests, will be held on September 8 and 9. Click the link above for further details. And when you show up there, 66 fans, be sure to drop a dollar in the museum’s jar! It’s a good cause. And don’t forget: the museum will be closed that weekend because they’ll all be at the car show. See you there!

Until next time,
Marie

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