On a beautiful, warm, April 9, 2016 in Carthage, Missouri, an estimated 200 people attended the grand relighting of the Boots architectural neon on the original-front 1939 building. Approximately one-third of those attendees were Route 66 roadies who came from several states for this special event, and the remainder were residents from the community, where it had been highly publicized. Fox News and representatives from the Carthage Press and Joplin Globe were also there.
The ceremony began with a beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful” by the Carthage Middle School Chorus, which also sang the National Anthem after the raising of the flag by members of the Carthage VFW.
That was followed by a recognition of several individuals and local retailers who helped to stage the event — and an expression of appreciation for the eight individuals who provided vintage cars on site to augment the setting and character of that Mother Road era in which the Boots Court flourished — including Ron Jones’ 1956 Chevy (Ron provided the financial support to restore the Boots Court neon sign just three years ago) and a classy 1949 two-tone green Hudson pickup owned by Jim Woestman, the previous Carthage mayor (2006-2010).
Current mayor Mike Harris led off the short list of speakers, followed by Michelle Hansford, the well-known, 30-year veteran curator of the Powers Museum in Carthage. She spoke on behalf of the Jefferson Highway Association, which will have its 6th annual convention in Carthage in just three weeks from now. Back in Route 66’s heyday, it and US Highway 71 (aka, the Jefferson Highway “from Pine to Palm”) crossed at the corner where the Boots Court was located — hence Arthur Boots declared that his motel was located at the “Crossroads of America.”
The final speaker, Tom Pike (President), spoke on behalf of the Route 66 Association of Missouri — whose Neon Heritage Preservation Committee (NHPC) had lent its support and assistance to the Boots owners for most of the project. For this celebration event, NHPC neon-restoration team member David Hutson restored the neon on the building.
After the awarding of numerous attendance prizes, a countdown preceded “flipping of the switch” at 8:08 pm, just before an unexpected, but brief, light drizzle. It didn’t dampen the spirits of owners Debye Harvey and Pixie Bledsaw, who joyously addressed the large crowd, not only to see this brilliant and unique green neon relit, but in appreciation for those who shared with them the Boots return to its neon glory — “the Boots is Back” was heard more than once.
In addition to all the foregoing, the party was further augmented by refreshments, music, informational booths, a “signing wall” for attendees to offer their comments, and several commemorative souvenirs: t-shirts, hat pins, magnets and key-chains. But the most cherished souvenir was a give-away ball-point pen that glowed when the button was pushed (in neon green, of course) and which was used by the crowd in a waving motion during the countdown — it was a novel idea and quite the sight to behold!
Congratulations to Debye and Pixie for staging an impressive relighting event for the Boots neon scene.
Chairman of the NHPC
Photo by Jim Thole