On to Paris Springs Junction, final stop on my short, fall road trip. Several miles west of Halltown 266 bends off left and is absorbed by 96. Old 66 shoots straight ahead to Paris Springs Junction. There is an early building on the south side that looks like it is being renovated. On the north side is a grab-your-camera-and start-wildly-shooting –‘cause-you can’t possibly take a frame from any angle that doesn’t scream “spirit of old Route 66”. Gary Turner’s rebuilt and enhanced Sinclair station attracts transcontinental road warriors like a waterhole on the Serengeti draws gazelles.
Mulling around in the front are the bikers I photographed tooling down the road at Halltown. It’s a Japanese motorcycle club looking for the real America. At first I wonder if they’ve found it at such an orgy of vintage and reproduction signage, rusty and restored vehicles, and new and old buildings. The more I wander through this ode-to-the-road, I recall our thesis on the HYPERCOMMON. Authenticity is not a ruler to be held up to American popular culture. An excess of the ordinary – while immeasurable – is what a lot of American culture is all about. Yes, the bikers from the land of the rising sun may have indeed found a true piece of the real, but often inauthentic and theatrical America.
There was a 1934 gas station here called Gay Parita, but it burned in 1955. The owner’s wife was named Gay. What Parita means I don’t know. Gary G. Turner and his wife Lena constructed a new station from period specifications, but didn’t stop there. Every surface of the building is plastered with repro signs and the yard is filled with aging rolling stock.
Among Gary’s many past occupations, mostly as a truck driver, he played a bank robber at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. He was born in Stone County, Missouri, not far from the mythic Shepherd of the Hills country that morphed into the Branson fantasia. Clearly he endorses a creative approach to history. His up to date knowledge of road food for at least several hundred miles on old 66 is however factual. He will even tell you what to order for dessert at the best cafes. Like Halltown’s Thelma White, Gary Turner is a beacon of mythos and information to guide the traveler on their real and imagined trip back in time.
The liberties with strict recreation Gary took with the Sinclair station are minor compared with what awaits the visitor in the vintage stone garage. It’s a noteworthy example of vernacular architecture filled to the roof with a surrealist assemblage of commercial artifacts. Words don’t do justice to this artfully arranged collection of genuine old stuff so be amazed at the slide show.
Click on any image for a slide show.