The Angel of Route 66

The famous Snow Cap Drive-in in Seligman, AZ.
In 1953, a resident of Seligman named Juan Delgadillo built right on Route 66 a drive-in diner he named The Snow Cap Drive-in. Not having much money, he built the place himself using scrap lumber from the nearby railroad yard. To advertise his diner, Juan cut off the top of a 1936 Chevrolet and outfitted it with painted writing, horns, brightly colored Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree sticking up out of the trunk. He drove it up and down Route 66 and when he wasn't driving it, he parked it in front of his little scrap-lumber diner. It wasn't long before business took off and The Snow Cap Drive-in has become such a success that it is now known around the world as a famous icon of Route 66.

Juan's 1936 Chevy that he cut the top off and drove up
and down Route 66 and in parades to advertise
 his quirky little establishment.
Juan had a great sense of humor which he built into the diner and even the menu which features "cheeseburgers with cheese," "hamburgers without ham," and "dead chicken sandwiches." The napkins and straws are advertised as "slightly used." The door leading into the diner has 2 doorknobs - one on each side. A glass door is locked with no doorknob and no way to unlock it - and then you notice there is no glass in the door so you can step right through. "Juan's Garden" is located in the rear - a collection of old cars, phone booths, signs, and oddly intriguing odds & ends.

Airplanes, tin-can robots, and assorted other interesting
 items adorn the Snow Cap grounds. 
Juan always had a lot of fun in life and he brought that same spirit to his business. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Juan Delgadillo passed away on June 2, 2004. His son John and daughter Cecilia now operate the business which continues to draw large numbers of visitors to this small town which seems to be wonderfully caught in a time warp. The business cards from all over the world which line the walls around the Snow Cap's counter area are a testament to the success of one man's vision, hard work, and spirit.

Juan's brother, Angel, was born in Seligman in a house on Route 66 in 1927. In 1947, Angel graduated from Seligman high school and soon opened a small barbershop in town right on the historic highway just a very short distance away from where his brother would later open his Snow Cap Drive-in. A few years later, he and his wife built on to the little barbershop building and opened the Route 66 Souvenir Shop. Some years ago, Angel retired from being a barber, but his wife Vilma and he still own the souvenir store and occasionally, Angel comes in to meet and greet visitors, pose for pictures, and give his signature to those who ask.

Angel's Barber Shop
By 1985, Route 66 was delisted as a highway from the U.S. Highway System and the railroad had closed the station and ceased operations.  Angel, a man who had grown up on Route 66 and lived and worked on the old road for almost 60 years wasn't willing to see his town die like so many other towns bypassed by the interstate. He enlisted the help of a few friends and founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. He tirelessly extolled the virtues of the road and initiated numerous events, including the acclaimed Arizona Fun Run, to help bring attention to the fading status of America's Main Street. Eventually, Route 66 associations were founded in all six states the road goes through and there are now Route 66 associations all around the world. Now almost 86 years old, with every one of them on the historic road, to say Angel has been a witness to Route 66 is a heck of an understatement. He has been interviewed by publications,  TV stations, and book authors more than 200 times and is at least mentioned in most every Route 66 book. He has been given titles of "The Mayor of Route 66," "The Father of The Mother Road," "The Guardian Angel of Route 66," and "The Ambassador."

John Lasseter interviewed him for the 2006 movie Cars while he was researching the history of Route 66. Angel told him how when the interstate was opened, traffic in the town virtually disappeared overnight. In the movie, Sally Carrera, the female Porsche character, told this story in a 3 1/2 minute monologue on the history of Radiator Springs, the fictional town which was loosely based on Seligman.

Angel & Vilma's Route 66 Gift Shop.
The day we stopped in Seligman, I became one of the lucky ones who got to meet Angel in person, talk to him for a while, get a picture and get his autograph on a postcard.  He was very friendly and open, easy to approach. I had heard of him, but never expected that I would actually get to meet him. He asked me where we were from, were we doing the whole Route 66 or just a portion of it. I felt like I was in the presence of living, breathing history. We had a wonderful little discussion, back and forth for a good 5 minutes and I was sincerely enjoying his company. We were standing together off to the side inside his store, just the two of us, and he was just starting to tell me a story about "something pretty funny" that happened on the road in front of his store at some time in the past, when a small bus of Japanese tourists pulled up and immediately after entering the store, about a dozen of them recognized Angel right away and started smiling and pointing at him. They made a bee-line straight for us with every one of their camera's clicking away. Angel smiled his big smile and his eyes took on even more of a twinkle as he looked around at each of them. He turned to me, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "I better talk to these folks for a while. After all these years and I'm still surprised by all the attention people give me. I'll save my story for next time. Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by!"

I went back to shopping for a refrigerator magnet and other souvenirs that I couldn't live without. For such a small store, it sure has a lot of stuff in it. I found a really cool looking magnet, a t-shirt and a couple of other items to bring back home with me. After paying for my goodies, I turned around to see if Angel was still there, but only a couple of the Japanese were still milling around and he was nowhere to be seen.

Thank you, Mr. Delgadillo for all you've done for us Route 66 fans. Take care and don't forget, you owe me a story!

Which door knob do you pull to open
 the door to enter the Snow Cap?

Interesting stuff behind the Snow Cap in
Juan's Garden..

Be careful of  the low-hanging overhead!

Take your time and read all of the posts in the
Snow Cap windows.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: