“With a degree of certainty, it can be said that the cornerstone for the modern interest in Route 66 is the barbershop and gift shop of Angel and Vilma Delgadillo in Seligman, Arizona.”
- Joe Sonderman
Angel and Vilma Delgadillo’s Route 66 Memorabilia & Visitor’s Center
For over 50 years Route 66 was the main thoroughfare through Northern Arizona and brought much commerce to the town of Seligman. But on September 22, 1978, the newly constructed Interstate 40 by-passed Seligman and replaced the section of Route 66 that had brought the traffic of thousands of cars through town on a daily basis.
The livelihood of the businesses in Seligman disappeared in one day. All the travelers who had once stopped to eat, get fuel, and stay the night were now quickly driving by just two miles south of Seligman. For ten long years the residents of Seligman learned to live on very little. Businesses closed, townspeople moved, buildings were abandoned.
Angel Delgadillo, barber and proprietor of the Delgadillo Barber Shop and Pool Hall, decided he had had enough of watching his town waste away. On February 18, 1987, in an effort to improve Seligman’s economy, he arranged a meeting of representatives from Route 66 towns in Arizona to organize a group to make old Route 66 a “historic” highway. At this meeting the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona was formed with Angel as President. This was the first Route 66 preservation association ever formed and Angel’s barber shop/pool hall housed the first headquarters for the grassroots organization.
As interest in the cause and Route 66 nostalgia grew, people started to want Route 66 merchandise. To support the Historic Route 66 Association, Angel and his wife, Vilma, started selling a few pieces of Route 66 memorabilia out of the building and thereby inadvertently established the first Route 66 gift shop in existence. Little did they know what was to come!
In November of 1987, the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona proved successful. The State of Arizona christened the old U.S. 66 from Seligman to Kingman as “Historic Route 66”. Soon after that the section of Old Route 66 to the east of Seligman, and the stretch from Kingman to the California border was also named part of the historic highway, preserving the longest remaining stretch of uninterrupted Route 66 in the country.
Not only did the Association reach its goal of making the old route “historic” but by doing so it did indeed create a new interest in the old road. People started driving Route 66 again. The dedication of Historic Route 66 in 1988, led to a yearly Fun Run, where 800+ cars start in Seligman to drive the longest stretch of the famed road every first weekend in May. The success of the Arizona’s Route 66 Association led to other states starting their own campaigns to rejuvenate the road and tourism to the small towns along it.
Now enthusiasts from all over the U.S. and the world come to drive Route 66 and experience a more nostalgic America. The small unique towns along Route 66 have new life and a piece of American history has been saved.
And it all started in a little barber shop on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona because the town barber refused to watch his town die.
Angel’s barber shop and pool hall is now a visitor’s center, museum, and Route 66 gift shop. At age 95, Angel is still happy and healthy and eager to share his story and encourage others that with passion and determination they can make a difference in this world, just as he did. His daughters Mirna and Clarissa, and Clarissa’s husband, Mauricio, all help to manage the shop and carry on Angel’s tradition of welcoming travelers with small-town American hospitality.
Mauricio, Clarissa, Angel, and Mirna in the barbershop with Scottish comedian and actor, Billy Connolly, one of the many international celebrities that have come to meet and interview Angel. We are featured in part 4 of his travel documentary "Billy Connolly's Route 66"