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Pitstop at the Regal Reptile Ranch & Menagerie

Ernest Michael Allred was a surly carnival man who opened the Regal Reptile Ranch & Menagerie along Route 66 in Erick, Oklahoma, giving post-war American travelers one of their earliest tourist trap experiences. Showcasing over 100 snakes, lizards, and other animals (that’s the menagerie part), Allred charged minimal admission to get behind the walls and then put on a show for visitors, handling venomous snakes and letting them get an up close look. Of course, the real money was in the ‘gift shop’ which ranged from rattlesnake rattler keychains to snakeskin wallets to remember the experience. The four lanes of Route 66 from Sayre, Oklahoma to Erick were the last Oklahoma section of US 66 to be bypassed by I-40, so the Regal Reptile Ranch eventually moved down the way to Lena, Texas in the ’70s where Allred erected a giant sign reading ‘RATTLESNAKES EXIT NOW’ alongside the interstate. When Allred died in 1979 at the age of 80, his sister Addie, who was running her own snake attraction in Alanreed, Texas, took over his business and ran it well into the ’80s. The giant ‘RATTLESNAKES’ sign stood for decades until high winds took it down in 2007, but being the local landmark that it was, it was eventually restored and put back up in a local park, minus the ‘EXIT NOW’ portion.

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