Route 66 in the Mojave Desert

Musuem to breathe new life into old cars

Staff Writer

BARSTOW -- Here's an easy way to see how far technology has come since Route 66 received its numerical designation in 1926 -- lift up the hood of a car and compare what's inside to the inner workings of a 1926 Dodge touring sedan to be on display at Barstow's new Route 66 Museum.

Photo by Brett K. Snow, Staff Photographer

Four old cars and a pre-1947 Barstow Police Department motorcycle will be on display during the museum's Fourth of July opening.

The museum opens on the Fourth of July to breathe new life into the culture, cars, and collectibles of a bygone era. The car, donated by Barstow veterinarian Dr. B.V. Reddy, will be one of the first exhibits in what City Councilwoman Gloria Darling hopes will be a growing list.

"I took my granddaughter to the Mojave River Valley Museum and showed her an iron, and she asked me, `What's that, grandma?,'" Darling said. "We've got to preserve the history."

Other exhibits will include a vintage switchboard used by telephone operators during The Mother Road's heyday, a map showing the winding of The Way West, and a 1950s-era three-wheeled police motorcycle donated by the Barstow Police Department.

"We rescued the motorcycle from the L.A. County Sheriff's Museum," museum committee member Wayne Soppeland said.

The 20-member museum committee will operate the museum and admit visitors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends until more volunteers are added.

Opening ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday and will feature a scheduled appearance by First District Supervisor Kathy Davis, among others.

The opening will mean two museums for Route 66 fans in Barstow. The Mojave River Valley museum, built from 1964 to 1968, features a section dedicated to Route 66.

"Everyone in town bought a brick for $1 apiece," Mojave museum volunteer and 53-year Barstow resident Martha Burnau said.

The older museum is donating some items to the Route 66 museum, including copies of old newspaper articles and photos of America's Main Street.

Longtime Barstow residents expressed enthusiasm about the new museum.

"I'm glad to see it opening -- we need to preserve history," Barstow resident Mirl Orebaugh said.

Orebaugh will appear at the grand opening with approximately 50 vintage photographs of the area, including one framed picture of the 1938 flood that damaged the Desert Dispatch, then known as the Barstow Printer-Review.

Renowned Western artist and 48-year Helendale resident Bill Bender will attend the opening to display several canvas sketches he made of memorable people and places along Route 66.

One features a colorful character known as Sagebrush Annie, who used to own a combination bar and gas station on the border of Helendale and Oro Grande along Route 66.

"For people who are worried about their cholesterol, she ate two fried eggs and pancakes every morning and chain-smoked," Bender said of Annie. "She lived into her 90s."

The museum is located inside a room of the 89-year-old Harvey House, Barstow's historic railroad depot, hotel and restaurant.

The Harvey House was restored in 1996 at a cost of more than $8 million and is undergoing further renovations to accomodate museums and offices.

Admission to the museum will be free but a donation is appropriate.

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