Bob Waldmire – a Route 66 Legend

My family has been visiting me while in Anchorage and we decided to take in a movie. Donna and I wanted to see the new Cars 2 movie – Matt wanted to see the new Transformers flick – luckily they were both playing at the same theater – so off we went.

Cars 2 – Ugh. Great visuals, Tow-Mater has his moments, and it’s always fun to see what Pixar can do to make the world into one where everything is automobile-oriented. But the story was convoluted and boring – one family with kids left halfway through the movie and the rest of the kids spent most of the time running up and down the aisle – no interest in the movie whatsoever.

The hippie VW bus in the movie is named Fillmore and was originally voiced by George Carlin. But, Fillmore wasn’t the first pick for a name for that bus. It was “Waldmire” after Robert Waldmire.

Bob Waldmire grew up in St. Louis in the 1940s & 1950s where his family ran the Cozy Dog Drive-in located right on Route 66. His father created a ‘hot dog on a stick’ concept when he was in the Army and this was the big draw to the diner.

Bob Waldmire

Bob was always interested in drawing and, while in college at Southern Illinois University, he watched some fellow students draw their home towns for art class. Bob liked the idea and began drawing bird’s-eye scenes of his home town and was surprised at how many of the merchants were willing to pay for drawings that included their businesses.

Bob then hit upon a great business idea – he could charge businesses to be put in his drawings, then get those same stores to sell his artwork. Added to that, Bob figured he could travel Route 66 to the north in the summer, then head south for the winter, all the while earning his keep with his drawings and the profits from the store sales. What an idea – a life of drawing, great weather year round, and travel his beloved Route 66 every day!

Bob eventually did bird’s-eye view drawings of 34 cities – many of them college towns. The kids loved his work and sent the drawings home to family and friends. He also did many of the icons of Route 66 such as the “Edsel Graveyard” in Shamrock, Texas and the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California.

One of Bob's Pieces of Art

By 1985, Bob was really becoming well-known, not just on the Mother Road, but throughout the U.S. To best continue his way of life, he needed a vehicle that he could live out of so he purchased a 1972 Volkswagen Van. Today, that van rests in the Route 66 Hall of Fame in Pontiac, Illinois:

Bob's Van

If you remember, the original Cars movie was set in a forgotten town on the old Route 66 called Radiator Springs. When Pixar was looking for iconic inhabitants for the town, they wanted to use Bob’s VW bus and were going to name it after him. They signed a contract and paid Bob $3,000 for the rights to the image.

Soon after, Bob found out that the plans called for Waldmire to have a McDonald’s ad placed on the side of the van in the movie. Bob, a devout vegetarian, gave Pixar their money back and forbade them to use his VW’s likeness in the movie.

And, that’s how Fillmore got the gig.

In 1987, Bob purchased an old school bus and this is also a resident of the Hall of Fame. As you can see in the following photos, Bob created quite the home complete with back porch.

Ever the nature lover, Bob’s bus included a rain-water collection system, solar panels, and a wood stove for heat:

It gets chilly out there on the highway!




Come sit on the porch for a spell...

Bob passes away in 2009, but not before his drawings and painted murals adorned many stores, buildings, and barns across the nation. Bob had planned to paint a mural in Pontiac where many of the buildings sport lovely, colorful reminders of the past. In honor of Bob, the city had a mural painted across from the Hall of Fame and dedicated to his memory:

And another interesting legend of the great Mother Road…


One response to “Bob Waldmire – a Route 66 Legend

  1. Holy cow, that was a great story! Loved the sedgeway from the movie and loved the views inside that vehicle!

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