owned by the larger-than-life personality of tom lewis, tom’s welding is one of the must-see attractions of barstow;

the shop is known world wide for the thousands of artifacts from america’s early love affair with the automobile and the railroad. a denny’s sign, each and every one of the state route 66 signs, gas station signs even some old gas pumps jam-pack the aisles and cover the walls of the open-air building. it is the go-to place for collectors of americana.

when i drove up, mr. lewis came out from behind the truck he had been working on, shushed the enormous barking bull dogs and asked if i wanted a tour.

i took a look around and knew there was a story here.

tom invited me in for a chat and i grabbed my notebook. the weather was chilly but inside the office there was a little iron stove beating back the cold. the office was as crowded with relics as the main shop.

i talked with tom for quite a while, taking notes and trying to absorb it all. as i was leaving he opened a desk drawer and handed me a small buck knife.

 i really didn’t know what to say, so i said “thanks.”