White Deer Land Museum

McLean Was On Route 66: The “Mother Road”

In May 1923, an exciting event took place in “Rusty Shanks,” Alanreed kidders’ favorite name for McLean . A Shetland pony belonging to Chuck Cook was at his home when a cyclone struck. After the storm was over, the mud-caked animal, looking rather stunned and foolish, was discovered a halfmile away. The twister did a thorough job of wrecking numerous homes in town.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

With the oil discoveries of the 1920s, McLean began to change. The town, once a residential center for ranching and farming, expanded to take in the oil field people. McLean had two oil booms. The first, in 1928, was the biggest. Rent went sky high and real estate boomed.

Roy Barker, a pioneer in oil drilling, worked on the first oil well on the Morse Ranch in 1926. In 1929, he drilled his first oil well on the Gething Ranch north of McLean and the first well and the Webb Ranch in 1930. He drilled a 5,000 barrel-a-day oil well on the Chapman Ranch in the 1930s.

The second boom resulted when the Kellerville oil field came into production in 1935.

In 1942, many prisoner of war camps were constructed in the United States , and a site near McLean was selected for a camp to retain Germans. The site, approximately three miles east and one mile north of McLean , was apparently chosen because of flat land unobstructed by trees, sparse population and an inland position. Construction began in late 1942.

The camp consisted of 25 to 30 buildings for military and civilian personnel and three large compounds to house German prisoners. There were twelve companies of Germans in the three compounds with 250 men in each company — a total of 3,000.

The first prisoners, who arrived in mid-summer of 1943, were brought to McLean by train and loaded into large side-boarded trucks for the trip to camp. Most of this first group had been Rommel’s men and had been captured in North Africa . As a whole they were above average in intelligence and education. Many of them were quite skilled in woodworking, cooking, plumbing, electricity, arts, music and especially trades. Most of them were young and their main interest was in seeing the end of the war and being able to return to their homes.

In 1944, the first group of prisoners was moved out and a second group came in. The prisoners were unloaded from trains and marched around by Hillcrest Cemetery to the camp. This group was taken in Sicily and was described as hardened, goose-stepping Nazis.

As the war was coming to an end in 1945, the prisoners were shipped out and the gates were closed on July 6. Although the camp had provided jobs for civilians, most of the people in McLean were glad to see it dismantled.

The 1952 population estimate based on meter installations placed more than 2,000 persons in and about the town, though census figures that period recorded only 1,495 residents. In the early 1950s, there were 50 to 60 businesses in McLean .

Two assets built in the 1950s included the $150,000 McLean clinic-hospital that opened July 1, 1956 (it closed in 1980,) and the Lovett Memorial Library built in 1956 through the Lovett estate.

The Form-o-uth Brassiere Company of Gardena , California , opened a southwest branch at McLean in early 1957. Before this undergarment factory closed in the 1970s, it employed several hundred people.

A man who often drove on Route 66, said that he had always loved traveling through McLean “seeing that great billboard with the ‘ Uplift Town ‘ on it.” According to the McLean News, one person who thought the billboard was obscene, would sneak out and paint over the sign, but the kids in town would repaint the slogan.

In 1976, the population of McLean was about 1,100. There were 20 to 25 business establishments and five churches – down from seven in the early 1950s.

On November 13, 1981, dedication ceremonies were held for the McLean War Memorial located in the American National Bank Memorial Park . The Memorial lists 28 McLean men who died in WW I, WW II, Korea and Viet-Nam wars.

In recent years McLean has had a remodeling of its only bank, McLean Bank of Commerce, the opening of a nursing home facility, the passing of a $100,000 bond to replace the city gas system, an addition to Lovett Memorial Library with a community meeting room, and the renovating and decorating of the McLean-Alanreed Historical Museum .

The museum, first opened on September 12, 1969, was the result of a community effort directed by Vera F. Back and Alice Short Smith. Fayette Belle Barton is the curator in 1990.

McLean, located on historic Route 66 known as the ” Main Street of America ,” suffered a severe setback when it was bypassed by Interstate 40. Construction on the last five-mile stretch of 1-40, on mile south of McLean , began in 1980 at an estimated cost of $792,000 per mile. In July 1984, the red velvet ribbon that spanned I-40’s westbound lane was cut. McLean was one of the last towns on the 2,200-mile Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles to be bypassed by the interstate. It was also the last town east of the Rockies to be bypassed by 1-40, the 3,200 mile ribbon linking North Carolina to California .

On June 16, 1990, on the John M. Haynes ranch, 10 miles north of McLean, the Battle of North Fork of Red River was reenacted. During that battle, which occurred on September 29, 1872, U.S. Cavalry commanded by Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie captured a 262-tepee village of Comanches . The 1990 event was attended by about 409 members of the Palo Duro Chapter of the Westerner’s Corral and onlookers who watched 10 members of Amarillo Company E of the 4th U.S. Cavalry make a mock charge.

The Old Route 66 Association of Texas, of which Delbert Trew of Alanreed is a director, has been formed to draw attention to the glory days of the highway with the hope that an interest in history will bring people once more to McLean.

Route 66 acquired a fame that no other stretch of road has surpassed. Phillips 66 Oil Company is said to have chosen that name because Route 66 was the best known road in the United States . The McLean Chapter of the Association now owns the lot and the cute little brick building that housed the Old Phillips 66 station on west bound 66 in McLean and will soon have a 1930 Phillips 66 service station restored and ready for tourists to view.

In his best known novel, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck referred to Route 66 as the ” Mother Road ” of the United States . In 1946, twenty years after the highway was opened, Bobby Troup wrote a song of the beat generation, “Get your kicks on Route 66.” In the 1950s, Jack Kerouac related the beat generation’s pilgrimage from middle America to California along the same highway.

In his book, Route 66: The Mother Road (published in 1990), Michael Wallis takes his readers on a cross-country tour from Chicago ‘s Grant Park to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica . He introduces them to the people and places that made Route 66 special.

Wallis learned to read by looking at highway signs on Route 66. He hitchhiked to his home from Camp Pendleton and later drove trucks on the same highway, As a journalist, he has been writing for nearly twenty years about the people and places he has encountered on Route 66.

In June 1990, the Association had a car rally for a 37-mile trip on and around a portion of Route 66. The next Association event, scheduled for September, will take automobile enthusiasts from Elk City , Oklahoma , to McLean 66 miles on Route 66.

The Association will feature artifacts, photographs and a video display of Route 66 in a 1,250 square-foot space at the barbed wire museum now being prepared in McLean .

Delbert Trew is also president of the Texas Barbed Wire Collector’s Association whose purpose is to preserve and promote the history of barbed wire for future generations. He is spearheading the movement to establish a 14,000 square foot museum – “The Largest Barbed Wire Museum in the World.” The museum will be housed in the large brick building at 100 North Waldron in McLean . The McLean Fire Department, established in 1917, is now located in the building which was constructed for the undergarment factory of 1950 to early 1970s.

Bill Cox of the Amarillo Daily News has suggested that the museum might want to fly a brassiere from the flagpole in memory of the old support factory. Current plans are for the museum to be completed in late February 1991, and a formal ribbon cutting is set for March. Cox further quipped: “The ribbon will be barbed wire, I presume.”

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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