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Route 66 Caravan Road Log:
June 17, 2003


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Henry's Rabbit Ranch

Henry's Rabbit Ranch

     
Henry's Station Rich and Linda Henry love Route 66! They have an inside track on the Mother Road too, having grown up in her celebrated shadow. In fact, both Rich and Linda's fathers are both inductees in the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame. Henry's Rabbit Ranch is their contribution to America's Main Street. Their visitor center in Staunton, Illinois is a replica filling station that can even fool the pros.
         
It is kind of a funny story too. Seems that last year the EPA came around to Henry's Rabbit Ranch and wanted to know where the buried tanks were! Rich had a heck of a time trying to convince these professional pollution monitors his structure never was a gas station, in fact it's less than ten years old! In all fairness to our government servants, I thought Henry's Rabbit Ranch had been an old filling station too. Rich did a pretty good job on simulating an old filling station wouldn't you agree?

About ten years ago Rich and Linda took a trip to California on Old Route 66 and noticed the lack of Route 66 visitor centers and souvenirs of the Mother Road. When he got back home to Staunton he decided to do something about that and built his visitor center. Times have changed and Route 66 is seeing a rebirth all along the highway, and Henry's Rabbit Ranch was at the forefront of this movement. Henry's Rabbit Ranch, though new in terms of the Mother Road, maintains the best traditions of Route 66. This is what it's all about. Now about those rabbits, seems Rich and Linda's daughter got a pair of rabbits and didn't account for the resulting population explosion. She lived in a single room apartment and things were getting a little out of hand. Rich stepped in and helped out and the next thing you know there was a new attraction on Route 66 - a rabbit ranch.

     

This original "Snortin Norton" tractor trailer is but one of the cool items to be found at Henry's Rabbit Ranch. The Snortin Norton 66 Camel was a familiar sight on Route 66 until the company closed in the 1980s.

Snortin Norton

      
Rich loves those rabbits and you know what? They love Rich too. When he walks by their pens they perk up and come out to meet him. Each rabbit has a name and a distinctive personality according to Rich. Rich has even trained some of the rabbits to do tricks for the visitors that stop in. Okay Route 66 road wanderers, make sure you put Henry's Rabbit Ranch on your list of places to visit. I know you'll enjoy your stop here!

 

Henry's Roadside Attraction

Jackrabbit Crossing

Linda and Rich proudly hold up a gift from Antonio, owner of the other "rabbit oriented" Route 66 icon ~ The Jackrabbit Trading Post in Arizona.

     

Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame inductee and Linda's father, Wilton Rinkle, grew up on Route 66 and has a wealth of tales about the way it used to be around here. People like Wilton are true treasures of the Mother Road. Their stories need to be recorded for future generations to enjoy.

Wilton Rinkler

     

Henry's Rabbit Ranch Roadside Attraction
"Hare It Is!"

 

Soulsby Shell Station

In 1926 Henry Soulsby and his son Russell built this Shell Station. Today it ranks as one of the oldest filling stations still standing on Route 66. The original 1926 station was a mere 13 by 20 feet wide and had just enough room for a desk, cash register, battery charger and a few supplies. The Soulsbys doubled the size of the station in the 1930s, but it was never big enough to be called a garage. There is a drive up ramp located outside of the station that was used for oil changes and minor repairs. After W.W.II it appears the station was enlarged enough to accommodate a TV repair business. Russell learned about radios and electronics in the Navy during the war and put that knowledge to use by starting the TV repair business in the 1950s.
Soulsby Shell

Historic Soulsby Station

     
After Henry died, Russell and his sister Ola ran the station until 1991. When it couldn't keep up with the new EPA regulations for gas stations Russell and Ola had to close the station. The Soulsby family had run this station for 65 years! They continued to greet visitors though until 1997 when Ola passed away and Russell finally sold the station. Russell passed away in 1999 heralding the end of an era on Route 66.

Soulsby Service Pumps

     

Model T Ramp

The old repair ramp at Soulsby Station hasn't been used in years. This oak tree can attest to that fact. It grew up between the ramps!

     

Soulsby Roadside Attraction

Soulsby Ceremony Mike Dragovich (Jim's right) is the new owner of Soulsby Station and has made the preservation of this Route 66 treasure a priority. He is working with the Soulsby Station Society and the Illinois Route 66 Association to achieve these goals. They have done one fantastic job too so far. Soulsby Station is certainly a site worth seeing!
 

George Dragavich (seated), Beth & Tom Teague, Jim, Mike Dragovich, Ollie & Judy Schwallenstecker get ready to unveil the roadside attraction sign.

 
       

Soulsby Roadside Attraction

Oh yes, I believe Al Capone stopped by this station for a fill-up too.

 


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