The event brought in an intimate group of fewer than 50 people,
but all of whom have strong memories of, and affection for, the
Tropics. According to the committee members, this was the target
group for this kick-off event. Committee member Michelle Bauer said
that the hope was that the evening would energize the guests and
make them into champions for the cause as the committee works to
hold fundraisers later this year.
The money raised will then go to the restoration of the iconic sign,
and the eventual placement of the sign in a prominent location in
The highlight of the evening was a presentation by Tami Goodrich
that included the history of the Tropics in photos. Goodrich, who is
the daughter of the owners, Lew and Bev Johnson, spoke about living
as a child in the Tropics along with her brothers, and how that her
parents were committed to the restaurant and worked diligently to
make it a place everyone could enjoy, and did so successfully.
Throughout her slideshow presentation, she noted people in the
pictures who held a special role in the history of the restaurant
and asked that guests in the room help her fill in the gaps when
folks were pictured she didn’t know. There were several responses to
the request, along with folks who just shared memories connected to
what they saw in the slideshow presentation.
Goodrich shared some fond memories as well. She recalled how her
parents worked out a 20-hour a day schedule. She said she remembered
well her father bringing her and her brothers to the restaurant for
breakfast before school each day. She said that dad took care of
this part of the day so that her mom could sleep in a little bit
before coming to work as well.
She remembered being permitted to play "waitress," going table to
table and “taking orders” while the real waitress stood in the
background and did the real work.
She remembered the scent of her father. Goodorich noted that it was
always very late at night when her father would come home. But he
carried the scent of grease and smoke, and it was instantly
recognizable when he walked into the home. She said no matter where
she was at, she always knew the minute dad came home.
And, she remembered the year that winter weather saved the
restaurant. She recalled it was 1977, and the restaurant was
struggling to stay open. That winter a terrible storm hit in Logan
County, knocking out electricity in a very wide area. She said that
Ameren brought in large numbers of people to get the electricity
back on in the area. She noted that all those people needed to eat,
and Ameren worked to get the electric back on at the Tropics as
quickly as possible so that their crews had a place to eat. She said
the Tropics served the crews three meals a day, for quite some time,
and it was that boost that got them through a terrible year.
Throughout the presentation, Goodrich talked about milestone events
that occurred at the Tropics, the famous visitors, the two fires;
one not so serious, the other quite serious. She remembered the
murals on the walls of the dining room, the exquisite buffet, and
the Tiki Hut Bar.
She also talked about the future of the Tropics sign.
Currently, the sign has no home and is in dire need of restoration.
To get a home for the sign and complete the restoration, the
committee hopes to raise about $50,000. Goodrich explained that it
would cost $25,000 for the restoration, then there would be residual
costs to getting it placed in a permanent location, such as
electricity for the neon. They also want to place a wayside marker
at the sign that will provide some history and explain the sign’s
Route 66 significance.
Right now the sign for all practical purposes is homeless. And, not
unlike people who find themselves in that situation, being homeless
provides a specific challenge. It is hard to get money when you have
no home, and it is hard to get a home when you have no money.
The goal of the committee right now is to raise enough funds to be
able to say, “This project is real, and will be going forward.” When
they reach that goal, the committee will be able to then present the
project as something that is going to happen, to property owners
whom they hope to work with to secure a permanent home for the sign.
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According to Bauer, and Maggie McMurtrey of the Logan County
Tourism Bureau, the committee has some good ideas of where to put
the sign. They want to assure that it is located in a part of the
city that will be relevant to Route 66 Tourism.
In addition to the
presentation by Goodrich, there was a wall filled with memories of
the Tropics as it was when the Johnson’s were the owners and
operators from 1955 to 1997.
An additional feature of the evening was an original Tropics table
and chairs, set with the yellow tablecloth and green napkins. Guests
had the opportunity to sit at the table for a photo.
There was also a mystery wine grab-bag fundraiser, where attendees
could pick a bag for $10, and would get to take home a bottle of
wine after the evening was over.
The food provided by the Lincoln College Food Service Department
included hamburger sliders, bacon wrapped sausage, meatballs, a
variety of fruits and cheeses, spinach dip with bread, and a tossed
salad dressed with the famous Tropics Thousand Island Dressing, a
homemade concoction made daily at the restaurant from scratch.
Tami Goodrich, Lincoln Mayor Marty
Neitzel and Alderwoman Kathy Horn
Goodrich had made the dressing from her parent’s recipe, and many
enjoyed the memory of it. At the end of the evening, she told the
audience that at each table, one chair was specially marked, and the
person sitting in that chair would take home a jar of the homemade
The Tropics Fundraiser Committee includes Goodrich, representing the
Johnson family; Bauer, representing the city of Lincoln; Renee
Martin and McMurtrey, representing the Logan County Tourism Bureau;
along with Bob Goodrich, Eric Johnson, Kim Johnson, Konnor Browne,
Cara Barr, and Bob Wilmert.
The group has fundraising efforts ongoing now including a “gofundme”
account where anyone can donate via the internet. To make such a
donation go to
There are also plans for a large fundraiser this fall that may
include a sit-down dinner or cocktail party and a reprise of the
presentation given last weekend by Goodrich.
The committee is open to suggestions about future fundraisers and
are also happy to have volunteers who will pitch in and help make
those suggestions reality. Anyone wishing to become involved in this
effort can contact Maggie McMurtrey at the Logan County Tourism