By SCOTT MASON
OKLAHOMA CITY— The summer of 2001 was a time when life was much simpler. Times were good.
I was privileged to have worked for my grandfather, Dr. Walter S. “Doc” Mason, Jr. that summer. I say privileged because I do not regret a minute of it, especially since I don't have that time to spend with him anymore.
I worked the day shift at his Best Western Trade Winds in Clinton. Most days were busy with tourists from all over the world, especially those Route 66 enthusiasts from Europe who would fly to Chicago and rent Harleys to travel the Mother Road to Santa Monica. Clinton made the perfect overnight resting place.
I considered it an honor when my granddad would ever so slowly give me more and more responsibility over the property and the guests. He always made sure everyone left his place with a red apple, a great story and a big smile.
So, when he introduced me to German television crews or reporters from the Guardian newspaper out of London who were doing a story on Route 66 or a family or grandparents taking a trip to Phoenix, or Albuquerque, I tried my best to take care of those people just as he did.
But there is one memory that will always stick out to me. One evening during that hot summer of 2001, my granddad called me at home in Cordell suggesting that I report to work early the following morning.
He invited me to breakfast with himself and a few guests. At 7:30 the next morning I was in the dining room of my granddad’s Trade Winds Restaurant ordering pancakes and sausage with none other than the Disney/Pixar Animation crew.
The gentleman sitting across from me created Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story”; he created the fictional characters that so many children around the world thought of as heroes.
The people that I ate breakfast with were Academy Award-winning director John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Disney/Pixar; Jonas Rivera, Joe Ranft, Matthew Lohn, Kevin Reher and a couple of others from Disney/Pixar.
It was my granddad’s close friend, author Michael Wallis, who brought the crew to the Trade Winds on their Route 66 road trip.
The gentlemen from Pixar were getting ideas on Route 66 for an animated movie that they wanted to create based on the famed highway. The title hadn’t been determined at that point as they were in the very preliminary stages.
Following breakfast we all went to the lobby of the motel so that my granddad could tell more stories of his time on Route 66 and the four times Elvis Presley stayed at his motel.
After the story-sharing, Mr. Lasseter gave us a couple of baseball caps with the Pixar logo and signed one for my granddad and one for me. We then all walked across the street to take the Pixar crew on a tour of the Route 66 Museum.
My granddad explained to them how he had donated the land to the state to build the museum.
After our tour, I asked each one of the Pixar members for their business card. They obliged, and Mr. Lassester offered for me to visit the Pixar Studios if I was ever in Emeryville, Calif.
Joe Ranft told me that he and Matthew Lohn’s office were next door to each other and to be sure and say “hi” if I ever toured the facility.
Unfortunately, in August of last year while driving on Pacific Coast Highway 1 in Mendocino County, Calif., Pixar story editor Joe Ranft was one of two people who were killed when their vehicle veered off the road and plunged into the Pacific Ocean.
While Ranft never got to finish the Route 66 film, Lasseter and the rest of the crew continued work, and it was released worldwide recently. You may recognize it as Disney/Pixar’s “Cars.” It was dedicated to Joe Ranft.
The movie “Cars” is an incredible animation feature, a family movie with a great story and a great tale of the legendary Route 66. Most critics are calling it the best film of the summer. My granddad’s friend, Michael Wallis, who brought Pixar to Clinton, provides the voice of the sheriff.
As I watched the movie opening night and saw the character “Doc Hudson,” a pillar of wisdom and leadership in the fictional town of “Radiator Springs,” it reminded me of my grandfather, a pillar on Route 66 and in his community. It would not surprise me if the character “Doc” was not loosely based off of my grandfather, Doc.
The best surprise came at the end of the movie. As I sat there, I saw my grandfather’s name, Dr. Walter S. “Doc” Mason, Jr., listed as special thanks in the film’s credits. If my granddad didn’t have Alzheimer’s right now, he would be so proud.
So, to John Lasseter and his Disney/Pixar crew I sincerely say, “thank you,” on behalf of my grandfather, “Doc” Mason.