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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Film crew comes to see inspiration for a 'Cars' character

  • Melba Rigg, her sister Renee Charles, Betty Courtney and Judy Courtney vowed to bring Galena back to life one building at a time when they started 4 Women on the Route, a combination diner/collectibles show featuring Route 66 memorabilia, along with some Betty Boop and Wizard of Oz items.

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  • Melba Rigg, her sister Renee Charles, Betty Courtney and Judy Courtney vowed to bring Galena back to life one building at a time when they started 4 Women on the Route, a combination diner/collectibles show featuring Route 66 memorabilia, along with some Betty Boop and Wizard of Oz items.
    But they didn’t realize they’d also  have Hollywood filmmakers beating a path to their door. A crew from Disney Pixar is expected in today, to tape an interview with Rigg to be used in connection with the upcoming release of “Cars 2.”
    “People ask me if I’m nervous about talking to them,” Rigg said. “No, I’ll treat them like anybody else.”
    She proudly points out a rusty 1951 boom truck sitting in front of 4 Women on the Route.
    “That’s Tow Mater from ‘Cars,’ but the Disney people asked us to rename him because of copyright reasons, so we had a contest to choose a new name and now he’s Tow Tater,” Rigg explained.
    It all came about after John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar, took a road trip with his family and was inspired to do an animated film about roads and cars. He contacted Michael Wallis, author of “Route 66: The Mother Road,” who led 11 Pixar animators in rented white Cadillacs on a journey tracing the historic highway. While going through Galena they spotted the boom truck and Tow Mater was born.
    “Actually, my favorite character in ‘Cars’ is Filmore, the old hippie van, because I’m an old hippie,” Rigg said. “That character was inspired by Bob Waldmire, who traveled Route 66 in his van.”
    Though Tow Tater looks like he couldn’t budge, Rigg said that the truck still runs.
    “We take him all over, and where he goes, I go,” she said. “I always tell the story.”
    Tow  Tater is owned by Larry Courtney, also the owner of the old Kan-O-Tex station that eventually became 4 Women on the Route. Rigg said that the place was the brainchild of her sister, Renee Charles, who is now Galena city clerk and also current president of the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association.
    “My sister called and said, ‘Larry is going to let us have the building’,” Rigg said. “We were going to have a farmers market and sell Route 66 memorabilia.”
    The other two women were the late Betty Courtney, mother of Larry Courtney, and Judy Courtney, who was married to him at the time. They have since divorced, and she is remarried.
    Rigg said that 4 Women on the Route is strictly a family operation. “We’ve had nieces and nephews in here, but right now it’s just me and my brother, Robbie Nuttle, who came out from California to help. He’s a great cook.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She said that it took six months of work on the shop and four months in the diner area before the place was ready to open in 2006.
    “The hardest part was in finding a grill to fit back in the kitchen,” Rigg said.
    In 2008 4 Women on the Route was named the New Business of the Year for Route 66. Rigg said that visitors now flock to Galena from around the world.
    “I ask everybody to sign the visitors book, and I filled three books last year,” she said. “Last year we had people from France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Norway — the Norwegians just love us — Australia, Holland, the UK and Ireland. They want to buy anything with ‘Route 66’ on it, and they also want things that are from Galena so we made up these cards that have a plastic bubble with a little bit of galena ore in it.”
    Rigg added that the Europeans seem especially interested in and appreciative of the history associated with Route 66.
    “They ask me why Americans are letting it go,” she said.
    A large group from Australia is scheduled to come in soon.
    “I’ve got to go buy some pickled beets, because they like beets on their hamburgers,” Rigg said. “I tried it, and it was good. The beets taste kind of like pickles.”
    The Disney Pixar crew is expected to show up around 10 a.m., and her interview is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon, with the crew packed up and gone by around 12:30 p.m.
    “We’ll have to shut the store at 11 a.m. because they want it quiet when they interview me,” Rigg said. “But before that, people are welcome to come on out and support us. If I’d have thought of it, I would have set up a mini cruise for this. If anybody wants to drive their antique or vintage cars here, that would be great. We’ll show Disney Pixar what we feel about Route 66.”
    She said that businesses located along Route 66 support each other, and are like a big family. More such businesses are planned in Galena.
    “See that building across the street?” Rigg asked.
    “That was a 1930 brothel. We’re working on grants to make it into a bed and breakfast. The main reason that I’m here is the future of my children, and the future of Route 66.”
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