Next on our Route 66 trip was Galena, KS. Route 66 only crosses a small corner of Kansas. You really only travel in Kansas for a few miles. Yet, the few cities we crossed celebrated their involvement more than all of the cities in Missouri combined. Our one stop in Galena (named for the lead ore mining which is the basis of the town’s economy) was at the Galena Route 66 museum. This adorable little building was famous not for its artifacts, but for the locals who hang out at the museum and will talk to you for hours about their lives and stories of past travelers. Our “tour guide” decided she liked us, so she talked straight through her lunch break.
In the back of the museum, they had an old Model T Ford in working condition. Apparently a couple from England was driving Route 66 and they stopped at the museum. The man was a teacher of American History in England and he was traveling the Route to get a better understanding of American culture. When the founder of the Galena museum heard about this, he decided to take the man on a drive in his Model T Ford. He even let the man drive it for a block or two. A month later, the museum received a letter from the couple saying that their trip was a success and that they even ended up getting married in Vegas. But, the best part of the trip (even over getting married) was being able to drive the Model T Ford.
After showing off old high school and mining pictures of her family and friends, our guide finally let us go and they locked up the museum to head off for a late lunch. We were about to get in our car and leave Kansas when I glanced across the street and saw a beautiful old gas station sign. We had to investigate, so we crossed the street and found an abandoned gas station that was turned into a memorial to the owner. Apparently, the man had owned the station which included a soda fountain since the 40’s. His business survived the loss of Route 66 and he worked the pumps until he passed away. His friends and family left the shop exactly as it was. You look in the window and there is paperwork on the desk and his hat hanging on the hat rack. What a tribute to someone whose life might seem insignificant to others. He wasn’t famous; he just ran a gas station. But, he must have enriched the lives of those in his small town enough to warrant a tribute of this magnitude. The question is, to be successful as a human being, do you need millions to know your name? Or do you just need a few people to truly understand who you are?