Shamrock to Lela - Texas Main Street Cities
Shamrock, Texas in the 1950s.
Shamrock, Texas today, photo courtesy
Following the south
service road off I-40,
becomes Business 40, entering Shamrock,
which epitomizes "Main Street USA"..
Shamrock was named by an
Irish immigrant sheep rancher by the name of George Nickel when in
1890, the Irishman applied to open a post office at his dugout home
six miles north of the present town site. Suggesting the name
for good luck and courage, the post office never opened because
Nickel’s home burned down, but the name stuck. Having gained
approval for the name, another post office was operated nearby for a
short time, but, Shamrock
did not get its official beginning until the Chicago, Rock
Island and Gulf Railway arrived in the summer of 1902.
By August, town lots
were being sold at the town site that went by the name of Wheeler. However, the railroad named the stop
in 1903, and so the town returned to the original name. In the
same year a new school opened in the small settlement and the town
began to compete with nearby Story and Benonine as local trade
centers. By 1906, Shamrock
had emerged as the leader and businesses from the other two small
towns moved to Shamrock. Neither Story nor Benonine exist today.
By 1908, Shamrock had
two banks, a Cotton Oil Mill, and several other businesses. Shamrock
was incorporated in 1911 with E. L. Woodley as the first mayor. By
1925 the population had grown to 2,500. The very next year saw the
discovery of oil in the area and the arrival of the Mother Road and
began to boom.
The Old "Reynolds Hotel" was completed
1928, which housed many weary travelers for approximately 50 years. Today, the building is home to the Pioneer West Museum.
Boasting nearly 4,000 residents by 1930,
catered to the many travelers of Route 66 and Highway 83. Its main avenue
was rife with garages, filling stations, restaurants and tourist courts.
Among these were the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Restaurant. Representing the art-deco style that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s,
the building was completed in 1936. Local newspapers reported it as
"the swankiest of swank eating places" and "the most up-to-date edifice of
its kind on the U.S. Highway 66 between
Oklahoma City and
U-Drop Inn, where "Delicious Food Courteously Served" became the
standard, was a welcoming sight to highway travelers and the many buses
that pulled in at the diner.
In 1938, the town bandmaster by the name of
Glen Truax, started a St. Patrick ’s Day celebration on the weekend
nearest March 17, complete with parades and entertainment, a tradition
that continues to this day.
Just a few short years later, the Texas Panhandle began to see a decline in the
oil industry and Shamrock's
population started to decrease. When, in 1984, Route 66 was officially decommissioned, the
town’s population continued to decline. Today, Shamrock is
home to just a little more than 2,000 residents.
While in Shamrock be sure to tour around a little, taking
in the sites of Main Street USA, the U-Drop Inn, which currently houses the
Shamrock Chamber of Commerce and a tourism
office, and the many other
faded remains of Shamrock's Mother Road
Tower Station and U-Drop Inn,
Tower Station and U-Drop Inn
Weiser, September, 2007.
This image available for photo prints &
On the way to McLean, the Rattle Snakes Exit
Sign stood for decades near the Lela Exit in a pasture on the north side
of I-40. However, in the Spring of 2007, high winds blew the Route 66
The sign once advertised the exit for
the Regal Reptile Ranch
that was operated by Mike Allred, a carnival-like operator who once
displayed snake attractions all along
Route 66, in
Elk City and
Alanreed, Texas. The last and final "Reptile Ranch" was located in a service station
at the Lela Exit. The station building was moved to McLean and now serves
as part of the Red River Steakhouse. The old pumps; however, can still be
seen peeking from the high grasses near the fallen sign.
Continuing on the north frontage road will
bring you into Lela, Texas, once a thriving railroad town, now
diminished to little more than a
Established in 1902, Lela was originally
called Story and served as a station on the Chicago, Rock Island and
Gulf Railway. By the following year, the small settlement sported a
school and a weekly newspaper called the Wheeler County Texan.
That same year, it also gained a post office, as well as a postmaster,
who changed the town's name to Lela after his wife's sister.
Although the community was founded because
of its abundance of good underground water, it did not keep pace with
some five miles to the east and by 1920, many of the residents and
businesses had moved to the larger town.
At about the same Long Dry Creek flooded
and the town moved up the hill about
˝ mile from its
original site. The discovery
and production of natural gas brought renewed prosperity to this
farming and cattle region in the 1920s and the community once again,
began to grow.
1927 the Lela School burned down and before long, construction began
on a new brick school building that would be large enough to
accommodate all grades for the increased population. However, from the
1930s on, Lela's high school students attended school in Shamrock.
Another boost to Lela came from the
Route 66, and soon the town
sported a couple of combination gas station/general stores. But, it
wouldn't be enough. By 1947 Lela only had a population of fifty
people, an elementary school, a church, and four businesses.
In 1992, the Lela School district closed
and was annexed with Shamrock's..
In the 1970's Lela's post office closed.
Today, the town has no open business but a
number of residences continue to stand, many of which are abandoned
and in disrepair. The Lela School still stands, fronted by a Texas
Historical Marker as well as an old church.
Continue your journey to
of America, updated February, 2016
Texas Route 66
All images available for photo prints & editorial downloads
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