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Route 66: History, Myth and Memory

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Cooking with Maple Sirup



Generations of Maple Sirup Farmers

Foreign Apeal in Route 66

  Family & Hospitality in Route 66 Maple Sirup*

*In the fifth generation of owners, Hazel Funk Holms specified in her will that Funks' "sirop" should be spelled with an "i." - see Funks Maple Sirup

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup is a sweet cozy place nestled softly along the side of Route 66, America’s Mother Road. As an attraction along the historic Route it is immersed by the same family ties and genuine hospitality that keep the Route so appealing to common travelers. This myth of family appeal and friendly meetings shows itself in many ways along the Route and in many written works of Route 66 authors, who have personally traveled it. Along with the tasty sirup of Funks Grove, this myth is what makes the visit to Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup so enjoyable and keeps the business prosperous.

Family togetherness is what encouraged a new form of travelers to come and experience Route 66. This sense of family warmth has always been a key part of Route 66. “In 1952 and throughout the heyday of Route 66, my dad would start up his Plymouth. The excitement of traveling was certain whether our family headed east or west on the road.” says Marie Clark, author of Route 66 Cookbook, as she retells the story of her family outing (2000: XXXII-XXXII). From 1952 till now people pack up the essentials for a good family road trip on Route 66. It’s a cheap form of fun and entertainment.  “‘The mother road’, my family, like so many others, used the artery of concrete and asphalt to our advantage” Drew Knowles, author of Route 66: Adventure handbook, fondly thinks back onto his childhood memories (2006:11).  The Route became an escape from the everyday monotony of school or work. A place where the whole family: from the children to the adults, could enjoy themselves with the many attractions and eateries that lined Route 66.

Family fun is a big part of Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup. It is both an educational and tasty retreat. Nestle back behind the tall maple trees that surround the main farcicalities, one opens the door of the car to be greeted with the sweet sent of maple sugar. Workers come up and great you with a smile, and then begin to give a tour on the process of making pure maple sirup starting with a walk into the beautiful maple woods. “Hazel Funk Holmes, owner of the business in the 1920’s, intended a walk through the camp to be an educational experience”. At the end of the tour take a stop in the gift shop and try a free sample of pure maple sirup. Its clean fun, a chance to learn something new and you are given a treat at the end. Instead of reading about maple sirup in a book (which little do) or trying it at the super market (which tastes nothing like pure maple sirup) Route 66 asks the whole family to come out and experience the process and taste it first hand.

Route 66 is not just about family, it’s about the warm feelings of family togetherness, friendship and hospitality. Weather one goes with their father, sibling, friend, or just by themselves; he or she can expect to be greeted by the road with open arms. . “Along the many surviving stretches of Route 66, folks were serving up generous helpings of hospitality for generations “ (Marian Clark, 2000: XXXIII) People along the Route that own and operate businesses take pleasure in meeting new visitors and are always happy to entertain, lend a hand, or talk about the history of their establishment  “It becomes a reconnecting with people and places” (Drew Knowles, 2006: 27) Take the time to sit back and enjoy a pleasant talk and their company, as they do with the company of their guests. “The best thing people get out of traveling Route 66 , my answer is always the same; be prepared to add many new friends to your life” (Jim Conkie,2007: 2) This feeling of friendship between visitor and owner is a big part of what makes people want to come back again and again.

Debby & Steve Funk

The first time I went to Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup I was greeted with a happy smile and a hand shake, the second time I was greeted with a hug. Even though tapping trees and getting the maple sirup ready for selling can be a tedious and strenuous process the owners always welcome guest cheerfully. “On Route 66 you can still take a moment to care and to be cared about” (Michael Wallis, 1990: xi). There have been a couple instances were this common form of friendship and hospitality has gone above and beyond. During an interview with former owners, Debby and Steve Funk who still participate in the business a little, Steve talked about a soldier who had car troubles and had a broken leg, in a cast. The soldier had to be at his base in Chicago that evening, so Steve drove him (a three hour drive). “It was easier to just to put him in the car and take him” said Steve.  Glaida informed me later that, “We tried to help out people along the road”. When I came an hour early, before the shop opened, a worker personally came out and opened the shop so I could buy some sirup. Small things, like opening the shop, and big things, like driving a person to Chicago, show that the people at Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup personally care bout the wellbeing and happiness of their visitors.

It is understandably why Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup is such a family oriented and hospitable place for visitors. The business itself has been passed down from generation to generation for many years. “Beginnings of the maple farm are credited to the pioneer Isaac Funk in 1824. Since then it has gone through six generations and the owners at present are Mike and Debby Funk” (Funks Grove Maple Sirup). Even since the beginning the farm had a caring atmosphere built into it with family and friends. Many of the local citizens in Funks Grove help out annually, to keep the place thriving and in top shape. “Around the 1920’s when Route 66 came threw the small town of Funks Grove, the maple farm was already nicely supported by buyers from nearby towns” (Funks Grove Maple Sirup) Even when the hype from Route 66 died down due to knew highways, it didn’t, travelers wanted to come back and villagers were always loyal because of wonderful taste of pure maple sirup and the family care that owners and workers give towards their visitors.

Over the years the Funks Grove Maple Sirup farm has prospered greatly due to many interested costumers driving on Route 66. From the friends coming from local towns or driving many miles to experience the ride; the quaint maple farm has made it their duty to improve upon itself for the best of the costumer. Mike and Debby Funk, present owners, have brought about many new changes just within the past few years. “Mike, with the help of his brothers, made a sugarhouse with a gift shop attached to it before this; sirup was sold of the porch of their house.” (Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup) There has been countless new ways to improve the efficiency of making maple sirup. “Going from cooking sirup in a kettle over a fire to using oil with a flat-pan evaporator, Steve and Gladia Funk began the use of oil and Mike later improved upon the machinery afterwards.” (Interview Glaida Funk) The switch made making sirup easier and less time consuming. “When Mike and Debby came to own the farm they installed a ultra violet light to kill more germs in the sirup” (Interview Gladia Funk) Making a cleaner sirup for their eager costumers. Every owner of the maple farm has taken pride and care in the process of making maple sirup and challenged new ways of improve it. These changes help the business prosper for future generations and aid in the constant return of visitors and friends.

One change came about in response to the specific form of Route 66 travelers; it was the increase of new merchandise within the Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup gift shop. In the beginning the farm only sold maple sirup but as many Route 66 enthusiasts came by the small shop, Debby noticed a problem. “Most of our costumers are here for maple sirup and then we have our Route 66 costumers. They don’t usually buy much maple sirup because they are traveling” said Debby Funk. Due to the split of costumer types Debby and her husband Steve found new ways to cater to them. “There's maple candy, maple cream, and Funk's Grove honey, as well as nature books, cookbooks, T-shirts, and plenty of Route 66 memorabilia.” (Penny Zimmerman, 2003) Route 66 travelers can still take a piece of Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup with them and it doesn’t have to be the liquid jugs of maple sirup. This is especially good because of the increase of foreign travel on the road. “Visitors like the film crew from Japan or the Motorcyclists from Norway, foreigners hoping to get their own piece of the road”. (Debby Funk) In an interview with Glaidia Funk, mentioned how the new merchandise was also nice because planes wouldn’t allow liquids on the flight. From the travelers in the USA and the travelers abroad can see Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup is always looking for new ways to leave a lasting impression on the hearts of the Route 66 enthusiast and urging them to take a piece of their experiences with them.

Above all Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup is a family place that cares for its visitors and appeals to their different ranges of needs. Located on Route 66, it is an icon of clean family fun and neighborly hospitality. For generations it has informed people about the production of maple sirup and the wonderfully sweet taste of ‘the real thing’. As travelers from near and far come to experience this cozy place on Route 66, they leave with a sense of friendly comfort, and desire to return yet again.

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