You can still get your kicks on Route 66

Norine Albers

Spanning fifteen hundred miles from Chicago to California, the concrete trail of Route 66 created uncountable business opportunities along its winding route. It opened up travel from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean for the American people.

Missouri towns in this area included Rolla, Waynesville, Lebanon, Phillipsburg, Conway and Marshfield. A short drive to Lebanon makes available a trip back down the old Route 66 historic road.

This famous road has been referred to as “the backbone of America” on the now-vintage Route 66 television show. Most often it has been referred to as the “Main Street of America”.

Historically, Route 66 began when the Osage Indians and others walked single file through the woods to hunt, visit and trade. The same trail was then widened as early settlers and hunters made wagon ruts as they passed through the area.

Then, plank toll roads, measuring 8 to 12 feet wide, were built under the direction of the State General Assembly.

The Legislature first considered a highway in 1916. Missouri’s first hearing was in 1922. The proposed road was named Route 66 in 1926. Construction began in 1929 and would continue through the late 1930s. Ingredients used through the construction era were men, mules, dynamite for blasting away the limestone rock and gasoline-powered concrete mixers.

In a 1989 Lebanon Publishing Company magazine, Vicki Cox wrote several accounts of local men who worked on the construction crews.

Accounts included crews who often lived in tents by a spring, ate in a cook shack, put their horses and mules in a fenced field, and retained a blacksmith to shoe the horses and sharpen the tools.

“Three scoops of gravel, two of sand, one scoop of cement” was combined in the mixer, and then moved by wheelbarrow to the cementing site.

Twelve hour days were common.

If you did not work hard and fast enough on the crew, there was another man waiting to take your job.

One man recalled a mule team that had 19 mules. The mules were “hooked together by twos and threes with a worker and a lead mule in front.” 

Once the highway was usable, new businesses opened up along the highway. Restaurants, filling stations and the “auto camp” or tourist “home” and vacation attractions gave financial growth to those situated along the new travel route. 

In the Lebanon area, there were tents, then small log cabins and motor courts. There were early “bed and breakfast” homes known as homotels.

One was operated by the Lenz family home near the east entrance to Lebanon that operated from 1932 until 1975.  The Munger Moss Motel at 1336 E. Route 66 was built in 1946 and is still in business today. Wrink’s Market at 135 Wrinkle Avenue opened in 1950.

Glen Wrinkle passed away in 2005 and the store is under new management, but very little has changed in its appearance since its opening day.

Route 66 Museum and Research Center is a free facility at the Lebanon-Laclede County Library at 915 S. Jefferson Avenue in Lebanon.

The museum is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum exhibits offers something for everyone interested in the old Route 66.

In 1956, progress overtook Route 66.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned with our homeland security. The U.S. did not have adequate roadways linking the country from city to city across the nation.

Missouri was the first state to give out contracts for the new interstate highway systems. 1970 marked the end of the Route 66 travel era.

Interstate Highway 44 will give you a fast journey through the Ozarks. Old Highway Route 66 gave you a journey in the Ozarks.

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