Painting ©2018 John Clark III
Heading along Route 66 today through tiny Girard, Ill., population around 2,150, I was buzzing a little bit from an excellent interview I had earlier in the day with a former U.S. Marine cooking grilled pork chop sandwiches along the side of the road in Lincoln, when I spotted a sign advertising a place called Doc's Soda Fountain on the town square.
I had to stop.
After I parked the car, I hesitated for a minute or two, wondering if I should just drive on, but something told me to go inside. Sure enough, I struck gold.
After explaining my situation to the pretty girl at the counter, I was directed to the owner, Bob Ernst, who was in a back room helping moving tables with one of his employees. When I introduced myself and told Bob what I was up to, he quickly agreed to sit down and chat for a few minutes. That's him in the photo above, standing in front of a massive map of the world on one wall of his dining area, which he has stuck with red and blue pins representing people who have stopped by his place from not only all across the United States, but all over the world.
Doc's is a place now to sit for a spell and have lunch, a slice of homemade pie, some ice cream or maybe a root beer float, but for 117 years, it was a drugstore founded by Lewis C. Deck and B.F. Clark (no relation, that I know of). The Deck family kept the business going until Bob and his wife, Renae, took over, and along with the soda shop, the building includes an amazing pharmacy museum filled with original items from the old drug store.
As we sat and talked, Bob mentioned that people traveling Route 66 come into the shop every day they are open, Monday through Saturday. More people come in during "tourist season" than during the winter months. He told me that he likes to take advantage of the slow season to tell stories about the wide variety of people who step through the front door.
Stories? Well, well, well, do tell, Bob, do tell.
"We had four Germans who came in one time," Ernst said. "They wanted a root beer. Well, they took a swig of that root beer, and they about spit that stuff across the room. The only thing they saw was 'beer.' In Europe, they don't have root beer. They had no idea what root beer was. After we got done explaining it to them, they got to laughing, because, boy, you don't mess with a German and his beer."
It was a very cool day today, and I couldn't help comparing the trip again to walking the Camino. I think Route 66 is America's Camino de Santiago, albeit driving instead of walking. It's an historic journey, pretty much all the way across the country, with lots of historic landmarks along the way, mostly taking you through small towns and villages filled with friendly folks.
See y'all on down the road ...
A few reviews of John's books
The 30-Day Optimism Solution:
“Part memoir, part informative text. You get both when reading 'Depression Blues' by John H. Clark III. Mr. Clark shares his struggles with depression in an honest and real way, and as the book progresses, so does his hope. Woven into the story as jumping off points are bits of information about depression and ways to "conquer" the sadness, loneliness, and despair that comes with it.
Mr. Clark becomes more than an author in this book; he becomes a friend who understands the pain of depression and provides light. I recommend this book to anyone looking for light or to anyone who knows someone with depression and wants to learn more.”
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