The Lope: Rolla, MO - Stonehenge and Hillbillies on Route 66

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rolla, MO - Stonehenge and Hillbillies on Route 66

Happy Midsummer's Day! We're not at Stonehenge - no, far from it.

We travelled through Rolla, MO twice this year on weekend Route 66 jaunts: April 7th and 8th, and June 2nd and 3rd. This is a patch of 66 just SW of Rolla. All of the sights in this post - and it's a long one so I apologize to dial-up users - are along Route 66 unless noted otherwise.

If half the fun is getting there, then at least 1/10 of it is billboard-induced anticipation, at least for me.

The main impetus for the April trip was the then-imminent name change of the Totem Pole Trading post due to a reported sale.

I shot pictures of practically everything of even minor interest to me, like the odd windows in this structure.

The building that houses Pinga's Tortilla Flats at 14775 County Road 7100 (Route 66), may have an interesting history. The sign on Pinga's door read "Closed if'n we're gone."

Ahh...another trading post billboard. I'll admit to being a tourist trap junkie. The inner ten-year-old in me always wants to stop, and the adult caves in and lets him.

Besides, maybe I need a sword or a life-size animal.

But I wasn't expecting quite this kind of a trading post.

Wolfman's Trading Post, 13700 Martin Spring Outer Road, sells all sorts of sports collectibles.

And they have porn too! I always wondered what Betty Boop really did for a living. I'd better not let the inner ten-year-old see this.

There appears to be a small Route 66 mural back by the flea market part of the business.


Our motel for June 2 was Zeno's, 1621 Martin
Springs Drive.

I chose Zeno's because it is independently owned and had history. The front part of Zeno's is 50 years old; it was built in 1957.

This wood "Z" is on front of the lobby desk.

The lobby

Musician Dennis Foster was playing as I peeked into Zeno's Lounge from the lobby. A few of the locals who came in to dinner seemed to be pleased by this.

Our room in the back building, added in 1973, overlooked a pastoral valley.

I imagine this would be a wonderful place to listen to cicadas, but we were too early in the year for that.

I've taken to photographing motel rooms if I can remember to do so before I've dumped my travel crap all over them (which takes about 30 sec). This place was neat and clean, by the way, and cost $52 with my AAA discount for two people.

Photographing motel rooms may be the most useful thing I do for fellow travelers. I know I'd certainly like to have photos of rooms that were shot by customers and not ad people before I make a reservation.

There was an odd little sort of seat at the end of the bathroom counter. I used it to set up the laptop so it wouldn't disturb my lovely significant other as she slept.

The rooms, at least the ones in our building, used these Ving card keys. (I altered the dot pattern in Photoshop so this one could not be forged.)

Zeno's Steak House, added to the building in 1959, is a slightly pricey but restful place to eat after a day on the road. It'd be a good date restaurant.

This is one of the chandeliers.

After we gave our dinner orders, I went outside to catch an Ozark scene - a flag against a misty evening backdrop, right at sunset.

The 20 oz Zeno's Pride steak at $24.95 was fine - not the meaty ambrosia of Oklahoma City's Cattleman's Cafe, but about on par with The Big Texan. Yeah, we like steak.

Mist gathered in the valley below the room.

We had lunch there the next day. The onion rings had been recommended to us, so we ordered some. They were huge and delicious. Notice that the die cut lunch menu resembles those of Rod's Steakhouse in Williams, AZ.

Co-owner Tracey L. Scheffer was working the register; she was happy to answer our history questions and give us souvenir menus.

Totem Pole Trading Post

The Totem Pole Trading Post was our main goal in Rolla. I'd read in the tourist-essential Route 66 News, and the online Rolla Daily News that it had been sold, and the name would change. I wanted to get photos of the sign before the name change occurred.

In case you're not familiar with travel in Missouri, let me inform you that fireworks are a hot sales item here, especially along the interstates. I believe some of the neighboring states are not as liberal as MO in this matter, hence the booming sales.

The Totem Pole Trading Post, 1413 Martin Springs Drive has been in business since 1933. I've read that it has been moved a few times to accommodate changes in the road, but an employee told me the west (right) part of the building - which now houses a small convenience store - is the oldest part of this particular structure.

There's a bit of gas station nostalgia outside.

Inside, a hillbilly theme prevails in the gift shop.

Corn cob pipes are as standard in this area as are Indian-theme key chains out in Arizona and New Mexico.

Dean Evans was working the counter that day and showed Ace Jackalope how to smoke a corn cob pipe. He informed me that the sale of the business had fallen through, but I was happy I'd had a catalyst to get me up to Rolla anyway.

A coon skin cap would go nicely with a Red Ryder B-B gun, wouldn't it?

There's also a slightly adult element to the gift shop selection in that they have older Playboy magazines and some joke novelty figurines that are in a...uh...a state of turgidity.

There were more mainstream items also, like this "gum parker." This is the sort of thing I'd see in a grandmother's house, circa 1970.

There's a flea market section, too.

But it's not a bargain basement. $325 is a lot to pay for an aluminum Christmas tree.

I didn't see a price on these juke boxes.

Moving on toward central Rolla, we encountered Sirloin Stockade, 1401 Martin Springs Drive. It's a chain restaurant, and therefore usually would not register on my touristic radar, but I include the sign here because big fiberglass cows are one of those once-ubiquitous things that seem to be thinning out. I imagine many sign ordinances frown on fiberglass bovines.

After a little interchange involving I-44, Route 66 changes from Martin Springs Road to Kings Highway, or King's Highway or Kingshighway, depending on where you look. Buehler Park is on the north side of Kings Highway; I always like to see googie-esque park signs.

I didn't get the name of this liquor store on the south side of Kings Highway, but a reader has commented that it is called Beverage Mart. The sign does light up at night, but I wasn't able to stop and shoot it.

The main route of Route 66 turns north off Kings Highway onto Bishop Avenue (US 63). I'd never seen a Delano gas station, so I shot the sign.

I presume this rather stylish building at 11th St and North Bishop Avenue is part of the University of Missouri - Rolla. "UMR" is the common abbreviation of this branch of the Missouri University system.

UMR Stonehenge

UMRStonehenge, (I've also heard it called "stubby Stonehenge") is a partial replica of the British megalithic monument.

It was erected in 1984 on the northwest edge of the campus at 14th Street and Bishop Avenue, where Route 66 curves toward the northeast. The diameter, to the outer ring of stones, is 50 feet.

The five trilithons, are 13 1/4 feet high. "Trilithon" refers to the arrangement of two upright stones with a lintal across the top of both.

Like the original Stonehenge, this one is capable of astronomical alignments. Most of these are seen while standing on this marker in the center of the monument, while looking through the slits created by the vertical stones in the trilithons.

The only problem with UMR Stonehenge is that hilly, built-up Rolla isn't exactly Salisbury Plane. In fact, I do believe that all of the solstice and equinox sunrises and sunsets are blocked by landscape and buildings. For example, this angle from beside a marker stone shows the view toward the Midsummer sunrise - blocked by a rather large building.

However, Rolla's Stonehenge does a neat little trick that the original doesn't do, and it does it with a small obelisk called an analemma. The analemma is a sort of calender; a spot of noon sunlight falling through a space at the top of the slit in the south-facing trilithon (center of photo) falls on a slightly different spot on the analemma every day.

Over the span of a year, this dot-to-dot pattern traces a figure-8 on the upright stone and horizontal base of the analemma.

The gap at the top of the trilithon at left is a Polaris window, through which Polaris (the north star) can be seen while standing on a marked place on the monument floor.

While it doesn't instill the awe of the original, UMR Stonehenge does have a certain magesty and I wish my town had one.

The rock was cut with the university's Waterjet equipment, which used two waterjets cutting at a pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch traversing the surface like a conventional saw. The cutter moved at about 10 feet per minute and cut between one-quarter and one-half inch on each path.

The same technology was used to cut the nearby Millennium Arch, designed by artist Edwina Sandys. It's not on Route 66, but is nearby on 10th street.

Moving on around Bishop Avenue, we saw the American Motor Inn motel, included here because of the sign.

"city" 66
Before we move northeast on out of Rolla, we shouldn't forget that there was a "city" route.

Had we stayed on Kings Highway instead of turning north onto Bishop Avenue, we'd have come across the small strip mall that contains A Slice of Pie at 601 Kingshighway Street.

The first time we found it, on March 8, it was closed for Easter - hence, the terrible fate of having no pie.

We'd since read about the place in Route 66 News and were sorry we'd missed it, so we were delighted to come back when they were open.

Inside, pies in old wooden cases held the promise of tasty break from the road. The last time I'd had a good slice of pie was back in April at the MCC sale.

The pie of the month - and my first choice - was Moe's Millionaire. You can never turn your back on a jackalope when pie is in the room, by the way.

Travel has made me appreciate the diversity of pie. I think the first time I realized this was at the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, TX. I admired the top of this slice of as one might study the surface of a delicious planet.

I've heard from a few readers that like pie, so I'm including a couple menu shots.

Route 66 merges into 6th Street, and then turns north onto Pine Street, which is currently one-way over most of its run. I do not know if this was the case back when it was Route 66.

A coffee shop called "Zero Five" recently inhabited a cool rounded building at 700 N Pine Street.

Phelp's County Bank, 718 N Pine, with its two rooftop signs, dominates the downtown stretch of Route 66.

According to the bank's Vice President and local history buff, Jim Marcellus, the building was built as the Edwin Long Hotel in March of 1931 and always had a bank in the first floor. The two signs originally read "HOTEL." The building housed a succession of banks, becoming the Phelps County Bank in 1963; the hotel closed in 1971. The building is on the National Historic Register.

Marcellus said the hotel's construction was rushed to coincide with the official opening of Route 66 in Missouri, for which the hotel was committee headquarters, and that 8,000 people, including the governor, crowded into the intersection around 8th and Pine for the ceremony. He also mentioned that a 72,000 gallon cistern lies under the intersection and was used by the fire department in by-gone years. It was only recently filled with stone.

I thought at first that the carved eagle concealed a previous state seal, but Marcellus tells me he does not believe the carvings were ever altered.

Of course, no matter how tired one is, one must go out late at night to shoot signs. The two signs face the directions of approach from Route 66, circa 1931, before Pine was one-way.

Just off of Pine is Ruthie's House of fashion, 214 W 8th St, which has this nice (possibly recycled) sign.

Very close-by is this cool old sign for Lambiel Jewelry, 218 W 8th.

The Ramsey Building, 1000 N Pine, with its sizable area of glass brick, housed the Salvation Army Thrift store until recently. Now is hosts R & S Floral.

The former Uptown Theatre, 1100 N Pine St, is now a bar and grill. Read about its history at Cinema Treasures.

Pine Street intersects Bishop Avenue, and to go northeast on Route 66, we turn right and then curve left to go across I-44 and check out a small stretch of 66 that becomes an access road on the north side of the interstate.

Mule Trading Post

At I-44 exit 189, on a dead-end stretch of Route 66, is the Mule Trading post.

Like Zeno's, the Mule is 50 years old, according to employees.

Carl smith, who with his wife, Velma, owns the Mule.

The Mule, under new owners Carl and Zelma Smith, has recently obtained a Route 66 relic to draw attention from I-44. This nearly two-story motorized hillbilly rotates his arms and has small flags hanging from each hand. The hillbilly is the newer of two that were made for the defunct Hillbilly Store, which started out near Devils Elbow, MO, on Route 66. However, this one was made after the Hillbilly Store moved closer to I-44.

By chance, I happen to have a photo of the Hillbilly Store's original sign which they parted with after commisioning the one that now resides at the Mule. I saw it in front of a store in Willow Springs, MO, along Hwy 60 sometime around 2001. I do not know if it is still there.

Back to the present day at the Mule: The newer hillbilly is considerably younger.

The sign currently has no lighting on it, but management of the Mule told me they plan to spotlight it.

A movie of the hillbilly:

The Mule also has this nifty neon sign

The sign has a three-stage movement in the ears. When I saw it on June 2, the tubes in the middle of the face did not work.

I put together this night composite photo of sign "movement."

And here's a movie of the neon sign:

They really do have life-size animal statues.

The Mule carries a nice assortment of Route 66 books...useful stuff, too.

The merchandise here is a lot more like a suburban pottery place.

A nice collection of political buttons is displayed in a case.

There aren't actually that many mules at the Mule. This is a cane head.

I'd be disappointed in a Missouri trading post if it didn't have some grandmother-ish ceramic brick-a-brak.

A storage barn

A short distance down the road, one finds Granny's Bird House. I had thought it said "Rann's" but a helpful reader pointed out the missing letters.

Rock Shops are too few these days, but here's one, down at the end of the dead end road.

A rock shop should have wooden bins of geodes and such, and this one does.

$295 will net you a Segnosaurs dinosaur egg from the late Cretaceous of China (90-95 million years ago).

The quartz was more affordable.

Behind Ace you can see the posts that mark the end of this small stretch of drivable Route 66.

A&W family

Atop a truck in front of a building marked "Discount Groceries", sets a fiberglas A&W family. Students of roadside giants will know that the A&W family was made in the mid-1960s through early 1970s by International Fiberglass as revealed in on of the internets's true gems - an interview with former company owner Steve Dashew at

I know there are quite a few enthusiasts of these
things, so I'll offer a few views.

Papa Burger is the only one with a root beer mug. I've seen photos of other A&W family members with root beer mugs, but I don't know if it was standard.

Mama Burger

Mama Burger carried a tattered flag as if emerging from the ruins of a cataclysm with motherly reassurance and comfort food.

Teen Burger

Baby Burger

For more information on the whereabouts of surviving members of A&W families, see The webmaster of that site refers to the business as "Goodies Discount Grocery" and her photos show a sign to that effect on the trailer. However, when I was there on March 8, 2007, there was no sign on the trailer at all, and the building behind was marked "Discount Grocery."

On down Route 66 a bit, lies Route 66 Motors, which has this fine Mobile Pegasis.

Even though my maps show it to be outside the Rolla city limits, I have included it here because its address is 12651 Old Highway 66, Rolla.

Mobile Pegasis in daytime

A Standard Oil sign peeks from the trees.

DX sign

I don't know if the cars are for sale or show.

On east down Route 66, possibly not still in Rolla, the sign for Country Aire rooms and camping is half hidden in the trees, and some of the letters could use help.

The other side is a slightly better.

This is another of those motels that may have nice been a cozy overnight stay for the family on Route 66 and is now apparently a long-term stay place.

The Mother Road goes on, and so do we. But the next cool thing I saw - a neon dripping faucet - has a St. James, MO, address and this post is quite long as it is. Another time, perhaps?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting pictures.....the liquor store is called The Beverage Mart

Tue Jul 24, 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Rolla, MO. Its funny how interesting the things are around here to people that arent from here. To me, its everyday stuff I see all the time. :)

Anyways, the one pic you have labeled as 'Rann's Birdhouse' is actually called 'Granny's Birdhouse'. That building has been falling apart for years and has lost some of its letters.

Fri Jul 27, 01:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great recap & photos! The entire A&W family all hoisted root beer mugs when new. The mug could be removed for transit and it looks like everyone but Papa Burger lost theirs.

Fri Aug 24, 01:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny that in less than a year since you posted this, so much has changed...The Uptown theater (aka CJ's Uptown Bar & Grill) has been closed down, the American Motor Inn suffered from a major fire recently, Zero Five closed down (It was only open for a short time, really...), the Ramsey building appears to be in the early stages of demolition (It has been gutted and all the windows removed)...I think that's it, but all in 6 months! Also as a sidenote the sunsets and sunrises were at Stonehenge were not blocked by building for the first 23 or so years, until the university built their new student center and residential colleges.

Sun Feb 10, 02:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You missed a picture of the actual "Martin Springs" of Martin Springs Road. It is about 2 miles SW of town past Zenos. It is where the actual spring is with its Springhouse. People years ago would drive a long ways to carry some water home. My grandmother Emma Martin operated the grocery there until her death in 1971. They named the road after her I believe in the mid 1950's (would have to check with my mother on that one), she was not informed they were doing this and was quite pleased & beaming when she found out. In the 1940's the WPA built the his & her's outdoor toilets. (People still stop & take pictures!) She and my grandfather farmed there and owned all the land including 1-44 and past, when they put 1-44 in she sold off part and was really PO'd that all the blasting upset her hens laying! Grandpa passed in 1943 but grandma kept on with the place and the store until her death. The place is still in the family which grandma would be proud of. Everyone knew her simply as Miss Emma, never heard a bad word said of her and she always made sure no child ever went hungry. Sorry to go on, lots of history there.

Wed Apr 02, 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raised in Rolla-lived here for 38 (out of 49) years. The brick "UMR" Building was originally the Holsum Bread Bakery Building until the late 70's (maybe early 80's).

Wed Jun 04, 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Debra Jane Seltzer (aka agilitynut) said...

Hey, what about this "neon dripping faucet" sign. I'd sure like to see it!

Wed Oct 15, 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ace Jackalope said...

Hey Debra!

I didn't include the Murdon Concrete Products neon dripping faucet because it's not actually in Rolla. It's listed by different sources as being in Union or St James, and I'll feature Murdon's in a future post. In the meantime, enjoy this video:

If you fish around in my youtube account, you'll see other videos that haven't made it to the blog yet.

You aren't by chance coming this way?

Wed Oct 15, 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ramsey building was rehabbed, not destroyed. It looks wonderful now. The old Benton school at 6th and Cedar is undergoing rehab now. Looks like it will be great.

Do you have any old pictures of the trading post that was at Rte 66 and Sugar Tree road, just west of Rolla. They used to have a large sign of Daisy Mae churning butter. We used to stop by there to get horehound and rock candy.

Thu Apr 02, 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UMR is now Missouri University of Science and Technology.... Name changed in 2008... it is still part of the University of Missouri System but has changed the name to drop the '-'.

Tue Jan 05, 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Angie Dawn said...

The MS&T Alumni Association has purchased the Uptown Theater, as well as the neighboring Smith & Turley Law Office (a house that was built in the late 1800’s). They are planning to tear both buildings down to build a $2.5M alumni center and a parking lot. I personally am insulted by the thought of a parking lot replacing a very-cool 1941 art deco theater, one of few buildings in Rolla with any historical significance to the town.

If you could sign this petition to reuse the building rather than destroy it, and pass it along to those you think might be interested, I’d really appreciate it!

Wed Jan 27, 10:28:00 AM  

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