Tour brings route’s history to life

By Emily Kindiger

Just before Christmas, Preservation Oklahoma announced the availability of its Oklahoma Historic Route 66 Mobile Tour, and two of El Reno’s historic locations are stops along the way.

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Melvena Heisch said the tour became available the week before Christmas and it provides listeners with a guided tour of Oklahoma’s 72 historic locations, spanning from east to west from Miami to Texola.

Once the Jackson Service Station, the building on South Choctaw is now a doughnut shop, while across the street, the once Avant Service Station now houses a tool store. Both are included in the Route 66 Mobile Tour. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

The once Avant Service Station now houses a tool store.  (Photo by Ray Dyer)

The places included on the tours are those individually listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, noted icons such as Arcadia’s Round Barn, nationally registered districts such as the towns of Miami and Sayre and travel and historic districts. Also, the tour includes three museums dedicated to the history of Route 66 – National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton and Route 66 Interpretive Center housed in the Chandler Armory.

Of the 72 stops, El Reno is home to two, the vintage Jackson Conoco Service Station at 301 S. Choctaw and the art deco-styled Avant’s Cities Service Station on 220 S. Choctaw, both constructed in the early 1930s.

Heisch said the idea for a mobile tour began after she received an email discussing mobile, self-guided tours in national park sites, and the research began. The Oklahoma Historical Society developed the tour and OnCell Systems, Inc. created it. This company is also responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Tour.

Once the Jackson Service Station, the building on South Choctaw is now a doughnut shop. The location, as well as the tool store pictured above are included in the Route 66 Mobile Tour. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

Once the Jackson Service Station, the building on South Choctaw is now a doughnut shop. The location, as well as the tool store pictured above are included in the Route 66 Mobile Tour. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

“We believe sharing the information on Oklahoma’s heritage is extremely important …we’ve got to explain to people what they have and why it’s significant,” she said.

This tour is available for locals and newcomers, and the historical information is “more accessible” in the mobile fashion.

“It lets visitors to our state know about our rich history,” Heisch said. “We hope they are going to think, ‘There’s an incredible amount of things to see.’”

Heisch hopes visitors are “not just zooming from point A to point B” but will slow down and savor the ambiance and the essence of each location.

“I hope they see what a great place Oklahoma is to visit and what great people live here. We want them to visit and come back,” she said.

Gene Stroman, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said programs like the mobile tour raise “more awareness” about Route 66 and the towns along its path.

“I am more and more amazed about the continued impact of Route 66 on tourists,” he said, mentioning the visitors from inside and outside the United States who come through town exclusively for the historic route.

“There is such a plethora of history here,” Stroman said. The two El Reno locations on the tour raise visitors and locals “to a greater understanding of the history of El Reno.”

Stroman said he has lived in El Reno for 15 years and is well-versed in its past, but “I’m always amazed how much you don’t know about a town … lots of undiscovered history here.”

With the mobile tour and El Reno’s two locations, increased tourism is expected, which “is one of the fastest-growing industries,” he said. “Tourism has a strong economic impact.”

In addition to travelers spending money here, Stroman said they will often seek out potential sites for retirement and employment,  making tourism “just a circle effect,” encompassing all aspects of a town’s growth and prosperity.

For more information about the mobile tour, visit www.okhistory.org/route66mobiletour. To access the tour, call (405) 415-0626.

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