The iconic American highway Route 66 would’ve faded into a distant memory of a bygone era, were it not for the excellent work of Angel Delgadillo.
The passion Americans have for their automobiles is inseparable from the thrill of exploring the open road, visiting villages few have seen, and discovering humble hamlets like Delgadillo’s hometown Seligman, Arizona.
These days, not many tourists appreciate the historical significance of Route 66, stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. Still, thanks to Delgadillo and the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, forthcoming generations will have the opportunity to know the tale.
What initially began as the only barbershop in the area that served minorities has flourished into a top tourist hot spot.
Dubbed the “Guardian Angel of Route 66” and the “Mayor of the Mother Road,” the 94-year-old Latino American barber still oversees the Angel & Vilma Delgadillo’s Original Route 66 Gift Shop daily, greeting anyone who comes by to speak with the man who saved Route 66 from the sands of time.
Delgadillo felt his calling around 1978 after Arizona completed construction of the I-40 freeway, which runs east-to-west between Ash Fork and Kingman.
Being bypassed in the name of economic progress, Seligman declined precipitously over the ensuing ten-year period. As Delgadillo explains, “you could lay down in the middle of the street and not get runned over” during the early 1980s.
No one anticipated how much the new highway would affect Seligman’s economy.
After seeing business after business close down, Delgadillo decided to take action, working every day to make Route 66 between Seligman and Kingman an official historical treasure recognized by the state.
Along with the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, Delgadillo finally achieved what he dreamed of his whole life. Arizona ultimately recognized the importance of Route 66 between Seligman and Kingman in November 1987.