Last week I sat with Dawn Welch among the sooty remains of the 1939 Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma.
Dawn’s the inspiration for Sally the Porsche in the movie Cars. Since buying the cafe 15 years ago, she has propelled it into the national and international spotlight. It was one of the must-stops along the Mother Road.
At 11:20 p.m. on May 20, she got a call to tell her the cafe was burning. (The cause of the fire is undetermined. It wasn’t arson, electrical-, or weather-related.) By early the next morning, the flames were out, and the only things left standing were the four rock walls.
"Right away, everyone assumed I wouldn’t rebuild it," she said. "But there was never a consideration."
Her resilience is amazing; her attitude is completely positive. Not only is she going to rebuild, but she’s also determined to do it the right way.
"Luckily, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, and the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation office have all been taking a very active role in helping me."
Dawn’s family, friends, and community have pitched in to help with the cleanup. She started a blog, http://rockcafert66.wordpress.com/, to document their progress, so check it out.
I interviewed Dawn for an upcoming story on Route 66. To hear excerpts from that interview, listen below.