Interstate 40 exits 35, 36, 37 and 42
Where in the 806 can you crank the wheel of an 1896 printing press, ride along the grooves of Old Route 66 and get a rare, inside look at wind energy in the Texas Panhandle?
Those three activities and more make up our first stop, the Milburn-Price Culture Museum.
Ten years ago, if you had stopped in Vega, you might’ve taken the old hardware store at 1005 Coke St. as a bus stop. But it was a bus hub in name only, when a made-for-TV movie, “What Matters Most,” was filmed in town.
That sign came down when, with community support, nonprofit leader Greg Conn rehabilitated the building to house the Milburn-Price. You’ll get your first impression of how hands-on the museum is when you walk in the door and are invited to print your own Route 66 postcard by turning the wheel of that printing press from before the turn of the 20th century. Items inside tell the story of Vega and Oldham County, featuring both the Old West and the heyday of Route 66.
Experience vintage scales, sewing machines and the workings of two finely crafted, early 1900s bolt and screw display cabinets. Military displays honor native sons gone to war. You’ll see a horse-drawn wagon and buggies. Conn will open up the hood on a Model T to show the original, still-operating engine, and encourage you to check out the interior of a 1951 Hudson Commodore Six Coupe and the sleek lines of a 1955 Willys Custom Aero. Plus, art and photographs are plentiful.
On the grounds, you can actually walk inside the open end of a wind turbine blade recently donated and delivered to the Milburn-Price. It will give you an appreciation for the immensity of the many turbine towers dotting the Texas Panhandle.
The collection has grown so much over the museum’s brief years that it expanded to an adjacent building on the property. Even the display cases are interesting. Some were used at the Alamo as far back as the 1930s. Don’t miss the walls covered with push-pinned maps and photos of travelers from all across the globe. The museum can see hundreds of visitors a month during the regular tourist season. Conn and museum volunteers will hang back if you want to look on your own, but we recommend hearing the details from them.
Hours are curtailed during the winter months, so check the museum’s Facebook page to see if it is open. Admission is free.
Other stops on this Texas Panhandle Road Trip:
- We can’t quite close the book on the Milburn-Price, but you’ll leave the museum to take part in that Route 66 ride. Conn takes tourists out in a Humvee, something he says foreign travelers especially enjoy. He’ll take your photo behind the wheel, too.
- The museum grounds also contain some of the town’s colorful murals and public art, such as a climbable dinosaur, a depiction of Billy the Kid, and what’s billed as the “largest branding iron in Texas”—all great photo ops. Cruise some of Vega’s main drags to spot other murals and displays, including green aliens in a rusted pickup truck.
- On U.S. Highway 385, south of the Oldham County Courthouse, you’ll see the Magnolia Service Station built in the 1920s to serve Route 66 travelers. The station was restored in the early 2000s, with help from a $50,000 cost-sharing grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. It reopened in 2004 as a visitor center. The Oldham County Chamber of Commerce has placed many historical photographs of the station and its owners, gas station artifacts and other items inside.
- Just behind the Magnolia Station a large-scale arrow pierces the ground to commemorate legendary Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. Few details are there, but the arrow is part of the Quanah Parker Trail, and more info is available at quanahparkertrail.com.
Vega hosts several community events a year. Conn recommends visiting anytime. But on the second Friday and Saturday in August, the Oldham County Roundup gets in full swing. The weekend offers a barbecue cook-off, parade and activities such as bingo, cornhole and softball tournaments, and evening dances. The Milburn-Price and Magnolia Station are open for viewing as part of the festivities. Check with the Oldham County Chamber for information.
The now-restored Magnolia Service Station in Vega, built in the 1920s, served travelers on old Route 66.
Panhandle PBS Senior Producer Karen Welch talks with Milburn-Price Culture Museum operator Greg Conn about display cases once in the Alamo at San Antonio.
This revolving bolt case dates to 1903 and is original to the hardware store at 1005 Coke St. in Vega, Texas, where the Milburn-Price Culture Museum now operates.
Milburn-Price museum operator Greg Conn claims that this branding iron commemorating the historical XIT Ranch is the largest in the world “until someone proves me wrong.” It’s part of the public art that can be found in Vega.
This Welcome to Vega mural can be found on U.S. Highway 385 near the Oldham County Courthouse, where Route 66 ran through the city.