Book review — July 28

“It was a time of unrest, unemployment, and the search by Americans for stability and security, when J. H. ‘Jim’ Stiles opened his sign shop in Tucumcari, New Mexico. The date was 1935, and he saw a small vibrant community in need of his talents. As a sign painter of recognition across the upper areas of Potter County, Texas, and from an established base in Amarillo, he believed opportunity beckoned in New Mexico. He was right.

For over 50 years, with shops in Tucumcari, and later in Alamogordo, his sign work brought notice and lights for the businesses in the state. Particularly spectacular were his neon and glow-in-the-dark scotch lite signs along Route 66. His work received notice in national signs magazines, and for posterity, in the Smithsonian Magazine. He opened the doors for sign work in using the newest and most up to date media and materials to bring advertising benefit to the Quay County stretch of the national highway, and extended on to Gallup in the west.

This little book is a tribute to the man who put the lights on Route 66, when America was beginning to find herself again. He built a business in an era of American progress with light, paint, and design. His artistry lit up the highways with glowing, innovative signs. The gleam of his neon glass acted as a beacon for travelers searching for a respite at one of the “motor motels” along Route 66 for over 50 years.

— E. Jacquelyn Kirkis 2010