Volume 32, Number 2, Winter 1993
In fall 1992 the Route 66 Association of Missouri met in Springfield to celebrate the 1926 founding and 66th anniversary of the Great Highway. Pavement construction continued on the road until 1938 when automobiles could travel from Chicago to Santa Monica without driving on dirt or gravel. The Mother Road became famous for its travelers, places of business, as a source of inspiration for songs, and as the Main street of America. Most of us remember the song, "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" made popular by Nat King Cole.
Route 66 developed into more than one route through Springfield, and Queen City corridors grew to include the commonly termed "By-pass 66." Route 66 signs were placed on Glenstone, Kearney, College, and St. Louis streets and on Chestnut Trafficway. Travelers drove past Rest Haven Motel, Glenstone Court, the Shrine Mosque, Melinda Court, Seven Gables and numerous smaller courts, motels, cabins, service stations, and truck stops. Here thousands of tourists were introduced into the promotional concept of the Ozarks Playgrounds, indeed, some Route 66 promoters were veterans of the old Ozark Trails Association.
The 1920s was a decade of great social change. At the beginning of the decade no one really knew what highway business was but plenty of entrepreneurs were willing to invent it. In 1920 general stores still sold great quantities of kerosene and gasoline, but within a decade consumers purchased most of the gasoline at a filling station. With the commencement of Route 66 construction in the Missouri Ozarks, entrepreneurs began small town truck lines hauling local products to urban markets and returning home with manufactured goods for local merchants.
The Morrows on Route 66
George B. Morrow, an Iberia, Mo., retail merchant and farmer, saw this opportunity in 1926. He founded his own truck line, using one truck as a local route truck to collect livestock around southeast Miller County for weekly trips to St. Louis, and another truck to haul cream from the Iberia Farmers Exchange to Springfield twice weekly. Iberia merchants sent purchase orders to be picked up in St. Louis at Simmons Hardware, Famous Barr and other outlets for markets in the Ozarks. Drivers Jewell Morrow and cousin Freeman Skaggs encountered alternating strips of finished Route 66 pavement and gravel roads during their many trips.
By the end of the 1920s motor courts with some amenities in food, bathing, and overnight service could be found throughout the length of Route 66 as it crossed the Ozarks. The majority of people who began highway businesses were commonly families with small budgets who built their own buildings, worked long hours serving the public, and lived on the grounds.
The Morrow Station on West Kearneys "By-Pass" was such an enterprise. Located a quarter of a mile west of Ed V. Williams public school on the south side of 66, George Morrow purchased three and one-
half acres of the Huffman farm for $1,500 in the summer of 1932--land along Route 66 was expensive during the depths of the Depression as it commonly was in other years. Populous and progressive Greene County led all White River counties with 429 miles of improved roads (e.g., Christian had 57, Taney, 34). George and family were recently returned to Missouri from Houston, Texas, where they had lived for two years working and hoping the climate would benefit Georges bad health. The Morrows owned and rented their Tavern Creek farm in Miller County, but George and wife Ethel would never return to the farmers life.
George Morrow and sons were used to building with their hands. Their southern Appalachian Scotch-Irish forbearers were blacksmiths, carpenters and sawmillers who always built what they needed. By 1932 the Ozark region was filled with native rock buildings and this genre of vernacular Arts and Craft commercial buildings--a part of the late Craftsman Movement in America--found particularly inviting locations along Route 66. Builders used unshaped fieldstone and the fossilized "worm rock", others matched rocks to form a cobblestone appearance, but most were flat sandstone, easily split with a chisel and laid in mortar on edge. These latter buildings commonly had wide painted joints that created a distinctive "giraffe rock" look. Agricultural extension pamphlets promoted these rock-exterior buildings for farmhouses, chicken houses, sheds, barns, dairy buildings and more.
These buildings were solid and relatively maintenance free. They were cheaply built if the family provided its own labor and materials. George Morrow and sons Jewell and Jennings used their 1929 Chevrolet flatbed truck to haul worm rock and gravel. On north highway 65 they brought rock from the Womack farm. On north highway 13 they bargained with the owner of land at Sac River crossing for gravel--all you could haul for 20 cents per load.
The Morrows framed the station, actually a housestore in building terminology today. The building combined living quarters and space for doing business. This kind of functional building has ancient antecedents in Europe and was always found in American cities and rural countrysides, and still is. Janss Lumber Yard on Commercial Street provided manufactured materials, and two masons contracted to lay up the exterior veneer of rock. Between the gas pumps and the road George built a rock flower box. A gas tank was installed underground on the west and three pumps allowed regular, ethel, and white gas to flow. The tool room contained a large 55 gallon drum of kerosene for customers. On the acreage behind the housestore the familys Guernsey milk cow grazed.
Inside the housestore, the walls were plaster. Two wood stoves--located in the living room and commercial room--provided heat while a gasoline stove sat in the kitchen. Ethel Morrow fixed sandwiches, short orders and desserts served at a small table by the front window (Ethels cooking skills later earned her a job at the Grove, Springfields longtime famous restaurant on Glenstone). At the counter travelers sat on stools to snack and purchased candy, bread, milk, and traveling supplies. There was no cash register, unless you counted the small box on the high shelf that contained change for transactions.
In the beginning, however, there was one obstacle to a smooth running housestore--there was no hookup to public water. Grover Cole who operated another station across the street had a well and allowed the Morrows to haul water by hand. By late 1933 the Morrows began digging a water line trench from their station eastward--1/4 mile--to hook up with the line that came to Ed V. Williams school. Jewell Morrow
line that came to Ed V. Williams school. Jewell Morrow toiled many weeks, helped by a neighboring Atwell family, before the hookup could be made.
In 1934 George and Jennings built two frame cabins for the overnight automobile trade--more were planned. Each was one room and had 4" weatherboard siding. The builders planted maple trees and plans were made for additional cabins, but Georges fatal illness in 1934 ended the cabin building.
Jewell Morrow took over the management of the station. This and other generational changes were on the horizon. Georges widow Ethel moved to an apartment and soon bought a bungalow on Broadway where she lived for the next forty years. Jennings met his future wife Lois in the housestore in 1934 and Jewell married his sweetheart Brownie in 1935. In fact, kith and kin gave Jewell and Brownie a shivaree at the housestore accompanied by gunshots in the air and good-natured revelry. Several of Jewells rural customers northwest of Springfield attended and received cigars and candy from the newlyweds.
Jewell and Brownie managed the station from August 10, 1935 to March 12, 1938. The station opened by 7:00 a.m. and closed by 9:00 p.m. During these long days Brownie served pie, coffee and hamburgers to the traveling public. Occasionally, Benny Atwell, a teenage neighbor, worked at the station while the Morrows visited or did business around Springfield. Receipts sometimes included $1.00 for cabin rent that helped pay the property taxes of $2.53 in 1936.
The cabins were occupied primarily during the warm tourist months, but one cabin had a small wood stove that provided a heated rental during cold weather. On one particularly cold day the water line froze, so the Morrows hauled water and filled tubs inside the station in order to have water. Right at this time, a flue fire began in the heated cabin. Without losing any time, the Morrows hauled water in bucket brigade fashion and put the fire out before it did any major damage. On another cold day in February, 1937, Ethel Morrows first grandchild Wanda was born at the station.
In 1938 Jewell and Brownie moved to the Tavern Creek property to try their hand at farming. Tenants rented the station for $35.00 per month while Jewell and Brownie farmed a couple of years. In February, 1940, they moved back to the station grounds with two small children to help the then station operator, Mr. Harvey, build up the business. Jewell and his brother-in-law Russ Scandrett spent weeks working on Ft. Crowder in Newton County while Brownie and the kids lived in one of the tourist cabins.
This last turn for the Morrows in Route 66 commercial trade had one memorable event. Jewell was repairing the flat roof on the station while the bread man delivered an order to stock the small grocery inside. While the adults conferred over the business transaction, three-year-old Wanda and near two-year-old George Morrow climbed their fathers ladder to the roof of the building. After feverish minutes looking for the "lost children" anxious parents located them, learning that the kids were growing up faster than expected!
Two years later in Spring, 1942, Jewell continued his defense work accepting a job in Colorado. Brownie and family rented a house on Douglas Avenue, and the station continued to be rented until Ethel Morrow, following a heated dispute with the last tenant who had made a chicken house out of one of the tourist cabins, sold it in 1943. Jewell and Brownie later made a home in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Joe Morrow continues life on Route 66
George Morrows youngest son Joe grew up fascinated by the big trucks traveling Route 66--then they were only single axle tractors and trailers. Joes favorite toy was an old discarded pair of steel roller skates that he fashioned into a truck. He removed the front rollers off one skate and hooked them onto the other skate and a trailer truck was born.
After serving in the Navy, 1945-1947, Joe got a job driving a truck for Pattons creamery company who had a government contract to supply milk to Fort Leonard Wood seven days a week. The route? Route 66 from Springfield to the Fort, the same corridor traveled many times by his brothers Jewell and Jennings and father George. Joe continued a trucking career for the next 36 years.
In 1950 Joe bought his own tractor and trailer and became a "wildcatter" hauling freight all over the U.S.A. Loads included most anything but livestock--automobile parts, tires, processed foods, appliances, furniture, Ozarks hardwood flooring, and more. The more dangerous trips included loads of ammunition--small caliber, bombs and torpedoes--hauled during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Most trips included a part of Route 66 as Springfield was home base. Numerous adventures included the entire route from Chicago to Los Angeles and vice versa. Springfield was always a welcome sight for familiar faces, clean clothes, rest and good food.
In 1956 a fateful accident on Route 66 near
travel on Route 66. He began work again for Powell Brothers Truck Line and most runs were between Springfield and St. Louis. Another job with Voss Truck Lines whose home office was in Oklahoma City directed freight hauling between Chicago and Oklahoma City--a Route 66 run. In 1960 Voss sold out to Western Gillette headquartered in Los Angeles and in 1977 Western Gillette sold out to Roadway Express. Joe ran the Route 66 corridor seeing it phased out for the new Interstate 44.
George Morrows truck line traveled Route 66 from St. Louis to Springfield; the Morrow service station-house store and cabins received Route 66 trade; and Joe Morrows generation of driving on Route 66 contributed to the routes famous reputation. This is but one small story of hundreds of families who lived and felt the impact of the nations famous "Mother Road."
The editor thanks veterans of Route 66 who contributed to this article--Brownie Morrow, Jennings Morrow. and Joe Morrow.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues
Local History Home