After my post about Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, Nebraska, off of I-80, one of my friends on Facebook said that if was doing Route 66 on my return trip, I should check out the Road Kill Cafe and bar in Seligman, Arizona, that I’d love it. But I’m afraid that after Ole’s it was HIGHLY unimpressive.
Located half way (1 hour in either direction) between the larger towns of Kingman and Flagstaff, Seligman Arizona takes its place on route 66 VERY seriously… it sort of has to, it’s really got not much else going for it. (even if you needed gas, odd are you filled up Kingman or Flagstaff). It’s initial claim to fame was as a stop on Beale’s Wagon Road, a trade route from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Los Angeles, California … and then as a stage-coach stop. When the railroads replaced the stage coaches, it was lucky enough to be chosen to be a railroad town, complete with a Harvey House (closed in 1955, demolished 2008), but in 1984 passenger trains discontinued service to the town entirely, and now just pass it by. Cars don’t really stop there much either, as while it had been on route 66 (obviously), when I-40 came through in 1978, it by-passed the town by a few miles — and like I said, most I-40 travelers are far more likely to pit stop at Flagstaff or Kingman, than they are Seligman. As such, all traffic in the town virtually disappeared on that day, according to Angel Delgadillo, a local businessman. To its credit however (you’ve got to work with what you’ve got) the town earned itself the name of “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” ten years later, when through their successful lobbying efforts they managed to convince the State of Arizona to make 66 a “Historic Highway” — and hence spend money on creating the signs that line the 66, and the big printed out 66 symbols in the middle of it.
From the outside, the Roadkill Cafe (above) is way more about shtick than Ole’s was.
While on the inside, the road kill cafe (above) comes in a sad second to the festival of death that could be found in Ole’s (below)… because Pretty much everything in the photos from Road Kill is in the gift store section of the restaurant, with the eating area looking just like your average diner — it was SO mundane looking that I didn’t even bother to photograph it …. while at Ole’s there’s way more of it and it is in every spare nook and cranny the restaurant had to offer
Located just off of Interstate-80, Ole’s big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, is a taxidermist’s heaven with over 200 big game trophies that has been Paxton, Nebraska institution since 1933, and one that almost gives Cabela’s a run for its money (in its attempt to be a monument to death). It is the endeavor of a local guy, Rosser “Ole” Herstedt, and stands as both a restaurant and a showroom for 35 years worth of his hunting expeditions to every continent. Any spot on its walls not taken up by a dead animals is covered with photographs and mementos brought home from his world-wide safaris. Ole is now retired, and the resturant is now under the ownership of some guy called Tim Holzfaster (according to their brochure); that said, the food is… meh.
The moment you walk into the restaurant the first thing you see is the Polar bear, which is posed as though it just killed a seal pup. And every one of the pieces comes with a little plaque telling you where and when it was killed (and what it is).
Along the right wall of the place (from where you enter) there’s a full bar, with a little gift shop selling branded items
I ordered the chopped buffalo steak, a sweet potato and cowboy beans (which I was told are like baked beans but with barbecue sauce)….and a sarsaparilla
Based on taste, chopped buffalo steak was mixed with beef, and had way more beef than bison…. and, on top of that it had the fat ground into it… so it was really really fatty (under the steak was actually a POOL of the crap)… thus utterly defeating the health benefit let alone the flavor value of Buffalo, so I don’t suggest it. The baked beans were tasty as was the roll… However, my server – who admittedly was towards the end of his first week of working there and as of yet hadn’t tasted most anything that was on the menu (which is kind of part of the job, but is on the heads of the ownership to make sure he was given the chance). When I tried to talk to them about that they clearly didn’t give a shit… so ‘customer service’ isn’t their priority.
All said and done, go for the circuses, but unless you’re getting food that really basic, and your expectations of that food aren’t very high… you might be disappointed if you eat there.
Located in Gothenburg Nebraska is a historic Pony Express Station (well, as it turned out… the walls are original, the roof is new) serving as a museum and gift store. Now granted, it’s not in its original location, historically, it was on the far side of town [they moved it to a park in the middle of town because that was better for business] …. and most of crucial importance, it has no bathroom… But, that said if what you’re looking for is a decent excuse to stretch your legs while road-tripping down I-80, this is it.
When I first arrived the exterior of the place met my expectations for a small museum dedicated to the historically important, if short-lived, Pony express
Most people don’t realize this but while it’s a favored features of Hollywood Westerns, the Pony express only was in service for about 18 months, partially because only the government or insanely rich people could really afford it…
“the cost to send a 1⁄2 ounce (14 g) letter was $5.00 at the beginning, (about $130.00 to today’s standards). By the end period of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1.00 per 1⁄2 ounce but even that was considered expensive (equivalent to $27 in 2017) just to mail one letter.”
— from Wikipedia, but also told to me by the docent… and the informational signs they had attached to the walls…
And as I already knew, about 18 month after it began working the first electrical telegraph wires had been set along the same distance, GREATLY reducing the transit time for a message from 10 days by pony express rider
Who had to ride the whole route on horse back…. albeit from station to station, each time switching to fresh horses
to the amount of time it took to send out all the dots and dashes of the message.
That said, on closer inspections, mostly what it is, is a gift shop — with over 50% of the space dedicated to sales, and just enough museum pieces thrown in to justify calling it a museum… that and the woman who works there knows just enough about the pony express to give you a short history of it. To be honest was expecting a bit more than this
Technically, it is still its own town (suburb — according to Wikipedia there are two families that live there, in addition to the six ‘households’ where the boys live… making up a total population of around 745 people, according to the 2010 census), but rather than being located near Omaha Nebraska, as it was when founded, it is now pretty much utterly engulfed by it. (Just below Green Meadows, and west of the Sheraton)
Like most Americans my age my knowledge of Boys Town Nebraska has till now been based ENTIRELY on the 1938 Hollywood biographical film. Apparently, the town had been called the “City of Little Men” before the movie came out — I vaguely remember it being described as such by the Flanagan character in the movie, but Hollywood had effectively ingrained the name Boys Town in the world’s consciousness, along with the sort of image branding money just can’t buy — so smartly, Flanagan changed its name.
That said, what I knew about Father Flanagan, was entirely based upon the movie. He was a catholic priest who had founded a different sort of orphanage; in effect he had pioneered and developed a completely different paradigm that emphasized teaching children to take care of themselves and each other, rather than the traditional model of adults taking care of children… and my image of the man was indelibly formed by the Spencer Tracy’s performance. That said, I have to admit that because of recent events regarding the catholic church, and some of what I’ve learned on my previous travels (please click the link), that is no longer the case…
My connection to the place, via my having seen the movie repeatedly while growing up [note: back before cable TV, when the TV world consisted of maybe 10 channels total, if you were lucky… it was one of popular movies that was in the public domain that local TV stations could run repeatedly, at very little cost to themselves], and as such, I was actually excited to see the place. In my mind’s eye it was going to be that same town from the movie, with a fire station and barber shop — all run by boys of varying ages… with very few adults to be seen… but no such luck.
A “campus” as described in the sign above, is for the most part what I found, indistinguishable from any other ‘campus’ educational or business. Now granted, on the day I arrived the weather was both blistering hot AND humid, of the sort the drains your energy and sours your mood, and that might have been part of it. But my expectations were SO dashed upon my arrival… I didn’t even find anything resembling a ‘downtown’ with any businesses run by the boys,
or even of them growing their own food (other than in the above historic photos, and these I found on line)… and the reality of what it had become kind of killed my excitement (well that and the heat).
When you arrive there’s a “visitor” center that you’re directed to. From its gift shop you can get the map of the property, if you want to try touring it yourself. I had timed it wrong to do the tour, arriving at around noon, and the next one wasn’t until 2 o’clock. The woman at the gift counter, where you sign up for it said “if you don’t do the tour they might not let you into all of the buildings. We don’t necessarily have a docent standing there ready” Not even for Flanagan’s home, which is listed as a tourist location of note, on every website I looked at before arriving. (I didn’t have enough time to hang around for an extra hour to wait for it— I was cross country driving and had to be San Francisco by a set date)
However, she told me that if I went right now into the cafeteria (also in the visitor’s center) — it’s open to staff and visitors and apparently is very popular with locals —
I had been lucky enough to arrive to witness the swearing-in for five new boys to become citizens of the town (this link is to a page with a video where you see a little video about what that means). During the event I learned that all of the boys being sworn in had already been here between a few weeks in a few months before taking the oath.
The priest began the event by sharing the history of the town with any visitors in the room (which included family members of the boys, as well locals who come here regularly… The boys then all got up, took an oath, and then each talked about three things about themselves they want to work on while they are here, the thing that had been hardest for them since they arrived, and one other thing I’m forgetting what it was.
That said, I have to admit that as this was happening some part of me was shocked to realize how many priests were involved in the this program (some part of my brain hadn’t really made the connection that this was in fact a Catholic charity), and I found myself wondering to what extent if any the recent sexual molestation of children (with boys from troubled homes being at the top of the victim list) had touched Boys Town… Only to find this, and then THIS …. which sort of soured my whole experience of what was happening…
I didn’t realize that the song, “he ain’t heavy he’s my brother” was actually inspired by a quote from here… that was also used in the movie,
Apparently, the one of the towns older boys was carrying around Howard, who was handicapped by polio, and abandoned by his mother (read the description in the picture above) … even though he wasn’t so small anymore and father Flanagan had asked him “isn’t he getting a bit heavy for you?” and the boy had answered, “He ain’t heavy, Father… he’s m’brother” and this image of what the town taught boys about their responsiblity to each other became the symbol for the town.
So, I wasn’t all that miffed about missing the tour or seeing Flanagan’s home, as the town wasn’t what I was expecting, and if it wasn’t going to be that, then the only other thing I wanted to see while there was THIS, which is located in the Visitor’s center right behind the gift store:
I got the docent/woman working the gift shop to repeat her spiel into my phone, and let speech to text do it’s thing for me: “OK Father Flanagan started boys town in 1917 and was a stamp collector… he died in 1948 so this was even after his death in ’51 … anyway to honor him the boys started wrapping used stamps around a golf ball… so if you cut this huge ball in half you’d see it’s all stamps to the golf ball center. It weighs 600 pounds and it’s made up of 4.6 million stamps and it’s 32 inches in diameter …. they did it in less than two years” The wall immediately behind the ball is also impressive, it’s a floor to ceiling mural also made up entirely of used stamps.
And then there’s a whole little museum area dedicated to the hobby of stamp collecting:
And possibly because of his fame, and the fact that he was stamp collector himself, this happened:
And apparently someone at boys town was collecting baseball cards, because there’s a room dedicated to that too
On the way out of the building to my car I noticed this, they have peppers as decorative plants, which I thought was kind of brilliant.