The Ghost Town That Ain’t Dead Yet.
Amboy was first settled in 1853, being later established in 1883. Lewis Kingman, a locating engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, created the town as the first of a series of alphabetical railroad stations that were to be constructed across the Mojave desert. By the early 1900’s, Amboy became a boom town and a major stopping point after the transcontinental highway (National Trails Highway) that became Route 66 was built in 1926.
Roy’s Motel & Café
In 1938, Roy and Velma Crowl opened the service station and café. Being the only town to stop for miles, Roy’s quickly added to his booming town with motel cottages. With the help of his son-in-law, Herman “Buster” Burris, Roy was able to expand his businesses to a thriving 24-hour a day, seven day a week operation. The town was well known for its “retro-future”, Googie architecture, which was added to one of the original buildings. Yet, it was notably famous for its 1959 addition of the classic, Roy’s neon sign which was visible for miles approaching the town. This was accompanied by the construction of the motel’s new Mid-Century modern guest reception and office building.
Boom to Bust
Passing the Depression into World War ll, tourism was diminishing due to wartime-efforts. Yet, Amboy still flourished as one of the busiest Mojave Desert Road towns. Post-war business boomed as families discovered the joy’s of motor travel after years of tire and gasoline rationing, and the halt of new car manufacturing. Sadly in 1972, the opening of Interstate 40 drove all mandatory traffic away from Amboy. Buster Burris was quoted himself saying that his business “went down to zero” the day I-40 opened. Buster continued to run the remainder of the business after Roy’s passing in 1977. He continued working until he sold the town to Timothy White, a noted New York photographer. White saw value in the weathered, worn condition of Amboy as a filming location. He contracted with high school friend, Walt Wilson, to manage the property and continue selling gasoline, food, and Route 66 souvenirs. However, business continued to decline as hours were sporadic, prices were overcharged, the menu limited, and poor management which forced White to sell. With no one willing to purchase, the property went into foreclosure for repossession in February 2005. the ownership of Amboy and Roy’s was returned to Buster Burris’ widow, Bessie Burris.
A New Beginning
Bessie quickly sold Amboy in 2005 to Albert Okura, founder and owner of the rotisserie chicken franchise, Juan Pollo. Born and raised in California, Albert primarily worked in the fast food industry until starting his own restaurant chain in 1984. With most of his early restaurant franchises being located in the Inland Empire, he became fascinated with the history of the fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Del Taco that also originated in the San Bernardino County. In 1998, he purchased the site of the first Original McDonald’s in San Bernardino. During that same year he dedicated that site to opening a McDonald’s museum to commemorate it’s history. The museum is free to the public, displaying decades of donated McDonald’s merchandise, toys, and memorabilia. Bessie became inclined to sell to Albert after he had promised to restore Amboy and keeping it’s famous 1950’s retro style. He made no hesitation to purchase Amboy after discovering the listing in the local newspaper.
Since 2005, Amboy has seen an annual increase in tourism. In 2008, renewed permits allowed Amboy to re-open the gas station. the cafe was also re-opened and sells snacks, beverages, souvenirs, merchandise, and collectibles. Today, we are now visited by hundreds of guests per day from all walks of life. From European and Asian Route 66 tour buses that pass through, the California bikers that pass through Amboy to their annual Laughlin River Run, to the Route 66 enthusiasts and daily tourists, Amboy continues to provide a glimpse of what used to be in the “ghost town that ain’t dead yet”.
Future Restoration Projects
Restore iconic Roy’s Motel & Cafe sign with neon lighting and paint finish
Restore Motel Lobby Building with neon lighting, repaint, and remodel into new gift shop
upgrade existing gasoline pumps for 24 hour self-serve gasoline.
Water Filtration system to provide clean water to restrooms and facilities
Install backup generators for backup electricity
Install approved septic system to replace old existing system
Restore and Remodel five unit cottages for tourist lodging
Attain food permit to reopen Roy’s Cafe as a full service diner
Every dollar donated is greatly appreciated and will be dedicated to Amboy’s Restoration Projects