Crush your butts on Route 66

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    HAMBURG-Generations of Americans have fostered a fondness or perhaps even a passion for old Route 66. Christened "The Mother Road" by novelist John Steinbeck in his book, "The Grapes of Wrath," Route 66 was a means of going someplace. Travelers embraced the idea that the joy of traveling was not so much in the destination, but in the journey itself. So, after spending the summer on "The Glory Road" my interest in ashtray collecting began to take on a personality all its own. This ribbon of highway, as the song "This Land Is Your Land" proclaims, connected people. Yes, the souvenir shacks that dotted each town of America's Main Streets offered tokens of travel at reasonable prices. Purchasing these trinkets of tourist memorabilia peaked in the 1950's, selling for 49 cents while traveling the highways and byways of America. Immortalized in song, movie and literature, Bobby Troup's "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" jingled on the airwaves after World War II. Route 66 became "The Road of Opportunity" for businesses built along this newly paved highway and a slogan for many Americans as they pushed their way westward and traveled by train and automobile. Officially named Route 66 on November 11, 1926, the highway winds some 2,400 miles from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Ill. to the shining Pacific Ocean of Santa Monica, Calif. This grand old road connected the east with the west through eight states n Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. If Doris Duke, the late tobacco heiress and society diva, daughter of James "Buck" Duke, who founded the American Tobacco Company could reap $12 million for some of her recently auctioned jewels at Christie's in NY, then collecting ashtrays may well be the next hot item to seek while on travel. Being a veteran vintage jewelry collector, my favorite costume jewelry pins are those grayish non-glossy 1930 pot metal brooches and dress clips. Pot metal and white metal are terms used for tin based alloys used in low temperature casting of costume jewelry components that created the early costume jewelry pieces. By simply placing the metal in a pot, then heating, melting and mixing it together gave it the appropriate name of "pot". The words pot, white and base metals are used synonymously to describe the combination of several tin alloys which may or may not have lead content. The catch-all term "base metal" is used for metals not of the "noble" or "precious" type. My collection of 1950 souvenir ashtrays from around the United States are made of vintage pot metal and hallmarked Made in Japan. The hand-painted open work detail around the edge is painted an array of brilliant, almost iridescent colors to highlight the silver tone molded tray. Pot metal cannot be wrought by hand but must be shaped by casting. The mixture contains two or more metallic elements usually fused together or dissolved into each other when molten. These ashtrays are an alloy of copper and lead. On a recent road trip through Arizona and New Mexico, the original brown and white color highway Route 66 signs popped up along the Old Santa Fe Trail and on sidewalk poles winding through city main streets. Souvenir ashtrays, reasonable and plentiful in the local antique stores were everywhere. Celebrating an event in history or a State, these pot metal collectibles were a new item for me to seek and stash. This new collection of pot metal ashtrays was a fabulous addition to two I already own of the local Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg in their original box. Route 66 was the pulse of a great nation. Never to forget, we pay tribute to this glory road with memorabilia of many types. Some preserved, some torn down, these monumental tales of time have become the windows to the past. The ashtrays are showcased at the Hamburg Antique Center on Main Street near the intersection of Routes 94 and 23. For more information, call 973-823-9700.