Route 66 Caravan

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Route 66 Caravan Road Log:
June 16, 2003


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On the Trail of the Gangsters

Route 66 in Illinois is full of tales of prohibition, bootleg whiskey, speakeasies, rumrunners and gangsters. At every turn and every roadhouse there are stories of famous gangsters and daring escapades. This is the country of Al Capone and it seems he really got around too! Speaking of old Al, I've heard it said that he was one of the biggest supporters of old Route 66 and getting it paved. I believe he realized that it would be easier to move his booze and get away from the law if it was paved. Route 66 became the road of choice for Al Capone and many of the other famous Chicago gangsters in their pursuit of untold wealth. The stories are still being told of those wild old days, as I shall relate shortly. But first we'll take a detour to Roxana and the Wood River Refinery, another source of untold wealth for a select few - oil.

        

Wood River Refinery

Roxana Shell History Museum A few miles north of Mitchel off Route 66 is the town of Roxana home of the Wood River Refinery. This refinery began operation in 1918 by Shell Oil Company. Shell operated the refinery for 80 years. Phillips Petroleum operates the refinery today. What makes Wood River stand out is the superb Shell gasoline and refinery museum.
     

Ollie Schwallenstecker

Bill and Jaimie Hall

  

Ollie Schwallenstecker gave the Route 66 Caravan bunch the deluxe tour of the museum.

Bill and Jaimie Hall where quite impressed by the vintage gas pumps ~ as was I.

   
Though this museum may be a couple of miles off Route 66 proper, I think it is a must stop for any fan of the Mother Road. I know I got a new perspective on the history of the oil industry and the evolution of the gas station in general. There are lots of vintage maps, pumps, and filling station memorabilia on display too.
   

A Route 66 Roadhouse in Hamel

Scotty's Roadhouse

This fine old Roadhouse in Hamel, Illinois was built in the 1930s by the owner of Cassin's Transport for his daughter to give her something to do. Today it still continues operation as Scotty's Roadhouse.

     

The town of Hamel still celebrates its Route 66 heritage. Yes, Al Capone used to come through here quite often on his way to the Luna Cafe in Mitchell.

Hamel Banner

 

The Raid on DeCamp Junction

DeCamp Roadhouse Another roadhouse in another Route 66 town, DeCamp Junction has a fascinating and somewhat colorful history. It is located just outside of Staunton, Illinois in what used to be a small coal mining settlement. All that is left of the town is the roadhouse. Originally the building stood across the road and was built from a Montgomery Ward kit.
      
The building was purchased in 1931 by Alois and Elnora Duda and moved to its present location. A north wing, a south wing and upstairs living quarters were added. They removed the partitions in the original home to create a dance floor. The business was opened as a restaurant and roadhouse and has become a Route 66 icon.

DeCamp Fire Department

     
Perhaps one of the most exciting gangster events to happen in the area came about in the 1930s when a large black sedan rolled up out front of Duda's Restaurant. Several gangsters burst into the roadhouse with guns drawn and ordered everyone outside. Once outside they had everyone lay spread out on the ground. The thieves then ransacked Duda's Restaurant and took cash, slot machines, booze and the Duda's private gun collection. The story is told that one of the gangsters counted the people outside on the ground and came up with thirteen people. At that he remarked that thirteen was an unlucky number and he was going to shoot someone. Fortunately they didn't and no one was harmed. Five-year old Leroy Duda was there at the great raid but hid under a feather mattress upstairs. Leroy is still alive today and lives in Staunton. Boy has he seen a lot of changes on Route 66 along this stretch!
     
DeCamp Bar

DeCamp Decore

     
Loran Kovaly

Loran Kovaly now owns and operates the old Duda Restaurant. The DeCamp Junction has a new reputation in town ~ they serve the best pizza!

     

Jaimie, Jim, Loran and Kevin pose outside of the Route 66 Caravan RV at DeCamp Junction.

Route 66 Caravan at DeCamp Junction

 

Stay Tuned For Our Next Exciting Adventure ...

 

 

 

 

Staunton Rabbit Ranch

 


West 66
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East 66
Staunton Rabbit Ranch
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