Driving down Route 66 can be like a 70 mile-per-hour history lesson, where vestiges of the state’s past stand out along 400 miles of highway. In Yukon, a 100-plus-year-old flour mill visible from the Mother Road is a symbol of local pride and community spirit.
Crowning the old building is a sign proclaiming “Yukon’s Best Flour.” In its heyday, the thousands of light bulbs that make up the words lit up the evening sky. But it has been a while since Yukon’s Best has been at its best, something the town wants to change.
The iconic landmark was last restored in 1989, and Yukon has decided another overhaul is overdue.
But first Yukon residents needed a plan. In January, citizens began meeting to decide how to best repair the mill. The resulting organization, a nonprofit called Friends of Yukon’s Best, has the mission of first restoring the mill before preserving it for future generations.
Pam Shelton, chairwoman of Friends of Yukon’s Best, said the mill has deeply historic ties to the town. In the early 1900s, the facility was owned by two brothers from a family of Czechoslovakian immigrants. In a quintessential tale of the American dream, John and Frank Kroutil, along with their brother-in-law, turned a flour mill in a small Oklahoma town into an international business, shipping Yukon’s Best products to more than a dozen countries overseas.
The Kroutils added a steam-powered electric generator to the mill in 1907, enabling Yukon to become one of Oklahoma’s few small towns at the time to have electricity. In later years, the mill provided Yukon High School with basketball and football uniforms, a legacy reflected today by the district’s moniker, the Yukon Millers.
Now, the town is rallying to preserve its cultural heritage. Friends of Yukon’s Best is working on a fundraiser to resuscitate the “Yukon’s Best Flour” sign. Broken and missing light bulbs will be replaced with long-lasting, high-quality LED bulbs. Although upgraded, the sign will look as close to the original as possible. The building itself will be repainted.
Shelton is optimistic for the mill’s future. City officials, she said, have been supportive of the endeavor, and townspeople as a whole are looking forward to seeing the landmark aglow.
“Yukon is a community that when you need something, they come together to make it happen,” Shelton said.
A fundraiser to support the mill, Blackout Block Party, is set for Sunday at Grady’s 66 Pub in Yukon. The all-ages event will feature Western swing group Asleep at the Wheel.
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• Asleep at the Wheel interview