Lucille, Please Come Back where you Belong
October 6, 2015
By Sam Allen
About ten days ago I was visiting Lucille's between Hydro and Weatherford, Oklahoma, to film some interviews for the Pilot TV show I'm producing about riding motorcycles on Route 66. I was with my friend Kenneth Becker who grew up near there and knew Lucille.
Lucille's was a filling station built by Carl Ditmore in 1929. W.O. Waldrop bought it in 1934 and named it the "Provine Service Station." Waldrop later added a five-room motor court. He sold the business to Lucille and Carl Hamons in 1941. After the Hamons bought it, the place was known as the "Hamons Court," "Hamons Service Station" and finally "Lucille's."
During WW II, traffic along Route 66 declined significantly and Carl became a long distance trucker to earn extra money. Lucille was left to run the place alone. Many of the Okies and Arkies passing through on their way west were broke. Lucille would feed and give them gas in exchange for appliances and other possessions they might have. Sometimes she would take their broken down cars in trade and the travelers would catch a bus going west. Other times, she just fed the folks for free. Lucille became known as the "Mother of the Mother Road." When I-40 replaced Route 66 between Hydro and Weatherford, direct access to Lucille's was cut off and she lost much of her service station business. The motel also closed. Undaunted, Lucille installed coolers and sold beer to the residents of Weatherford, which was a dry town. That's when my friend Kenneth came in.
Kenneth was 19 years old in 1970. The drinking laws in Oklahoma were peculiar. Men could drink beer in a beer joint or buy beer to go at age 21. Women couldn't drink beer in a beer joint until they were 21, but they could buy it to go at age 18. When I asked Kenneth about liquor (as opposed to beer) sales, he just laughed and said "This is Oklahoma!"
Kenneth says Lucille was a slim 5'2" tall woman who had a permed hair style of the day. Kenneth said she looked like a grandmother, which she was, and was friendly to all her customers. She was there all the time and lived in an apartment above the store.
Lucille's wasn't a bar or beer joint. It did not get big crowds and it was not a bawdy place. It was more of a convenience store that had beer and a pool table. Many locals, including students from Southwest Oklahoma State University, went there primarily because Lucille would sell them beer even though they were not 21 years old.
In the early 1970's, nobody thought of Lucille's as a special place. Moreover, Route 66 was not thought of as a special road. There was no Route 66 tourism, at least not of the sort we have today, which consists largely of seeking out the relics of a bygone era. That's because the era was not yet bygone. I-40 had not been completed, and Route 66 still was the local road used to travel through the string of still prosperous towns across central Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Kenneth remembers I-40 as a bigger tourist draw than Route 66 because in 1970 nobody in central Oklahoma had ever been on a "super highway."
Lucille sold her last gallon of gasoline in 1986 and the station became a souvenir shop. She continued to operate the place for another 14 years until she died at age 85 on August 18, 2000. It was a 59 year run. The Hamons family donated the original "Hamons Court' sign to the Smithsonian in 2003, and it is displayed there in an exhibit called "America on the Move."
Locals tell me that the original Lucille's now is owned by a large company that has opened a new restaurant in Weatherford called Lucille's Roadhouse. The owners have spruced up the original Lucille's and have rebuilt the old motel building.
The word is that the owners of the new place won't open the old place from fear of losing business. They should. If the old place was open to sell only souvenirs and cold drinks, every Route 66 explorer would stop for a few minutes, get the t-shirt and a beer, and be on their way, maybe even to the new restaurant. However, even if the current owners never reopen the original Lucille's, everyone should thank them for preserving this small piece of American history.
Sam Allen wrote The Motorcycle Party Guide to Route 66. He also created and operates www.route66mc.com, which is the most comprehensive single source of information about Route 66 available on the web.