Book Review
Ghost Towns of Route 66
Jim Hinckley

Last week’s visit to Fort Recovery was triggered by a book. That book, a new one on the 1791 Battle of the Wabash, was available (pre-release) and its author, in addition to autographing copies, gave a presentation on the battle. As I wrote the blog entry about the visit, I was simultaneously struck by the idea of reviewing the book and the realization that book reviews might make good subjects for blog entries. I’ve recently picked up a few new books including some by people I know and to whom I’ve promised some feedback. Reviews, it seemed to me, would be a good way to feed the blog and focus the feedback. So here is the first book review entry. I promise there will be more.

Ghost Towns of Route 66The subject of this review is a book I picked up from the author, Jim Hinckley, when I passed through Kingman, Arizona, in June. Ghost Towns of Route 66, is the second Hinckley product I’ve read. The first was Route 66 Backroads where I was at least as impressed with the photography as with the writing. That is true of the newer book as well. …Backroads used photos from Kerrick James and Rick & Nora Bowers along with some from outside sources. James is the only photographer listed on the cover of Ghost Towns… although there are a few by others including Hinckley. My praise for the photos is not intended to diminish Hinckley’s writing but to recognize some wonderful images and acknowledge a huge reason that these books get a second look when spotted on a store shelf or counter.

Ghost towns is a subject where photos and words can truly complement each other. By definition, a ghost town is a place that was once thriving but is no longer. When you visit a ghost town, you look at what remains and try to imagine what once was. James’ pictures let you see what remains and Hinckley’s words help you imagine what was there once upon a time.

Hinkley’s words are the result of some serious research. The man definitely does his home work. Facts about a town’s beginning are usually given and the events and circumstances leading to its rise and fall are discussed. Some of the falls are complete while others are far from it.

A few towns on Sixty-Six do match the far west ghost town image of complete  desolation with nothing moving but tumble weeds. Those that do, like Allanreed in Texas, Endee in New Mexico, and Glen Rio on the state line between them, tend to be a bit to the west themselves. Other towns that Hinckley has included, such as Galena in Kansas and Afton in Oklahoma, ain’t dead yet.

In fact, Galena and Afton are current must-stops on any Route 66 trip through the area. In Galena, 4 Women on the Route has become a major roadside attraction in just a few
years and in Afton, Laurel Kane’s Afton Station, established a bit ahead of 4 Women…, is a true Route 66 icon. But Hinckley isn’t to be faulted for including these towns. Both are mere shadows of their boom time selves. The decline has currently ceased and maybe even reversed but there was sure a lot of it and there is no guarantee that it isn’t just paused.

This isn’t the first book one should acquire when planning a drive down Historic Route 66. In my opinion, that spot belongs to Jerry McClanahan’s EZ 66 Guide and there are other route related books offering a broader view of the road and the attractions at its side. But, if you are attracted to clusters of dilapidated buildings and often wonder what a wide spot in the road used to be, Ghost Towns of Route 66 could be just the book you want. You’ll get lots of history and some great photos of many un- and under-populated
settlements along the historic highway.

Ghost Towns of Route 66, Jim Hinckley and Kerrick James, Voyageur Press, June 2011, 10.25 x 8.75 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-0760338438

Viva la Mush or rebellion in the heartland. I like fried mush. It reminds me of my childhood. The fact that Bob Evans restaurants served this breakfast staple accounted for many — perhaps even most — of my visits there. Last month, when my local Bob Evans informed me that mush was no longer available, I was heartbroken. When this came up in a conversation with my sister, she told me that, although it was no longer on the menu, fried mush could still be had at the Bob Evans in Greenville, Ohio, if you asked. I stopped in to make sure she wasn’t just teasing me and found that, not only was it available, it had been returned to the menu. I told the cashier how I had been forced to come there because my own Bob Evans had dropped my favorite and she told me they had tried that, too, “but it didn’t go over very well.” After a week or two mush was returned and it reappeared on the menu at the next printing. Viva la mush and viva the small town restaurant manager who keeps her customers happy in spite of corporate directives.

12 thoughts on “Book Review
Ghost Towns of Route 66
Jim Hinckley

  1. Thanks for the plug for my “almost” ghost town. I was thrilled to be included in Jim’s wonderful book despite the iffy-ness (new word. . . probably won’t make the dictionaries for a couple of years) of Afton’s status as a true ghost town. It’s only commerce which has nearly come to a halt there. There are still several hundred loyal citizens in the town. Oh, and thanks also for mentioning mush, one of my favorites! How do you feel about scrapple? I love that, too.

    • I vaguely recall a sign or poster in Jerome, AZ, claiming it was once an “official” ghost town but got over it. I guess there could be someone in Jerome who knows the “official” rules but I sure can’t find any. If such rules really exist, I doubt Afton would qualify but so what? Publicity’s a good thing and the name is spelled right.

      By coincidence, a friend and I were discussing scrapple over football & beer just before I saw your post. It came up because of my mush story. Cincinnati is a goetta town; Maybe THE goetta town since it’s pretty much unknown anywhere else. Our conversation made me wonder if I’ve ever had scrapple. I don’t believe I have but I’m thinking I might have been served scrapple somewhere and thought it was goetta. So I don’t know how I feel about scrapple. I like goetta, though.

  2. Even as a born Ohioan, I’d never heard of goetta. I just looked it up, and it’s darn close to what I know as scrapple, but not quite. Scrapple is mostly a Pennsylvania thing,and it’s cornmeal mush mixed with sausage meat then, like goetta, chilled, sliced, and fried in a little sausage grease. Trruly delicious, in my opinion.

    And thanks for spelling Afotn correctly in your post.

  3. And while I’m here . . . Dirk Hamilton was right up the road from me (400 miles) Saturday and Sunday—but I didn’t know in time!! My loss!!!—j

    • You must be within 400 miles of Stockton, CA, in which case you’ll be “right down the road” from him more often than most. Although he now lives in Texas, he grew up around Stockton and seems to get there a couple of times a year or more. And I think he almost always does a night at the Blackwater Cafe.

  4. Right you are! I live in Santa Ana—just south of L.A. and yes, he was at the Blackwater for two shows on Saturday. And I just couldn’t get there in time.
    Because of your comments about him, I am keeping up with him and plan to see one of his shows soon.

  5. I thought that ‘spelling’ was great!!
    I passed thru Ohio at night last month but had no time to spare. Detroit to Nashville, on the way home. One of these days Denny . . .

    • Hmmmm… Not everyone goes through Nashville on the way from Detroit to Santa Ana but I can relate. If you have a minute next time through, give a shout. If we’re lucky it will be breakfast time and you can have a goetta omelet.

      Regarding Dirk, I hope you’ve done or will do some sampling through YouTube or some such before you go. I think the guy’s incredible but I’d hate for someone to drive 400 miles just on word of my mouth.

      • Friend with cancer 40 miles west of Nashville—then on to meet a new friend 50 miles south of Montgomery, Ala.—and we won’t talk about the 60 miles off the interstate east of Tucson, into a very, very small town called Pima, Az.
        Not unusual for me.
        As to the ‘goetta omelette’—I’m more a ham and eggs with red-eye gravy type guy. Not much of an ‘experimenter’ with food.
        When you first mentioned Dirk Hamilton, I did some “surfing” to see who he was. Yes, I will drive 400 miles to see him once—then decide if I will do it again. I love the smaller venues—would not drive across the street for a ‘pack, multi-concert’. Just not my kind of thing.
        I’m still trying to get the ‘knack’ of finding those great trips that you seem to always find. Always believed it was the ‘trip’, not the destination.

  6. Gazetter? Gazetter? Who ever uses one of those any more? You’re such an old fashioned boy! 🙂 Of course it’s spelled “Afton”, although it’s kind of hard to prove these days, since the town decided to take down the “Welcome to. . .” signs rather than fix them. Maybe they’re preparing for upcoming Ghost Town-dom”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *