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Missouri Route 66

Stop and Shop in
Halltown

Missouri Route 66

 

The first time I saw Halltown I was impressed. That it was an old town was evident. I wondered what interesting stories lie behind the weathered wood of the false fronted stores along old Route 66 here. Halltown was founded in the 1870s when George Hall settled the area and opened a store. In 1879 a new post office was opened and named after the storekeeper. During the early days of Route 66 three grocery stores, a drugstore, variety store, blacksmith shop and garage serviced the highway traveler. After W.W. II, during the time of the great highway boom, the town expanded to 15 – 20 businesses to accommodate the traveler. Today Halltown still has a few surviving businesses and has become a wonderful place for the antique hunter. This apparently is nothing new in Halltown. In 1946 when Jack Rittenhouse came through he commented on the many antique stores he saw here.

Halltown Route 66

        
That day as I first drove through I didn’t stop as I was on a time schedule, that curse of the road wanderer. So many times there’s so much to see and explore yet so little time to do it. That day as I drove through Halltown I promised myself I would return and stay awhile. A few months later I returned. It was a temperate September morning in 2003 when I slowly drove my car down old Route 66 and stopped. The morning was glorious; the early morning sun felt good as I climbed out of my car to photograph the faded glory that is Halltown. The sweltering summer heat and humidity was now a thing of the past, instead there was a faint crispness to the air, heralding the approaching fall. Halltown still has the charm of an earlier time in America. It is a town existing apart from the mad dash that is modern generic America. The buildings look comfortable in their weathered appearance, as if proud of the people and times that passed by once. People on the way to forge a nation as they traveled down the celebrated highway we call Route 66. People passing through on the way to somewhere else, past the front porches, wooden sidewalks, and open doors of the country stores.
       

Free Coffee at Halltown
Michael Lamp & Free Coffee

One store in particular attracted my attention at first. In big bold letters it proclaimed "Free Coffee on Route 66." Slinging my camera over my shoulder I sauntered over to the store. Somehow I didn’t remember seeing this place when I hurriedly drove through back in June. But one thing I knew for sure, at this time of the morning a cup of coffee sounded mighty good. I climbed the wooden steps and wandered into the store, my nose sniffing the air for the aroma and direction of fresh brewed coffee. I had to get my priorities straight now you see. The proprietor of the store, Michael Lamp, met me at the door with a big hello. He was still in the process of setting up his store with all sorts of road memorabilia.
      
Antiques, T-shirts, and Route 66 souvenirs lined the shelves of his small establishment. Michael had only been open since July making "Free Coffee" one of the newest Halltown Mother Road businesses. I got myself a cup of coffee and stood there talking to Michael, enjoying all there was to enjoy about Halltown that morning. Michael is an escapee from the big city who just wanted to find a simpler life along Route 66. In this I believe he has succeeded. We talked about Halltown, his plans for the future, and of course Route 66. When he found out about my interest in the Mother Road he had a special treat in store for me. There was someone I should talk to about Route 66 and he was going to introduce me to her.
         
I followed him next store to another classic Halltown False Front Store, the White Hall Mercantile. Within the walls of this old building, first built in 1900 and used as a grocery store I met Thelma White. Thelma is a road legend in her own right and has been involved with Route 66 for many years. What a delightful lady she is too. In her antique shop there’s so much to see I was convinced that it would take days to see it all. Treasures lined shelves and were displayed in glass cases. Objects from Route 66, antiques from rural America, and curios of all sorts where piled high, some reaching the old tin ceiling of this historic old building. But of course the real treasure here is Thelma herself.

Whitehall Antiques

      

Thelma White
Thelma White

We stood talking about Route 66 and the history of Halltown and I new it was times like these that made my explorations along the Mother Road so special. This was Route 66 in all its glory. Simple times like this, enjoying the company of strangers soon to be friends, drawn together by a common interest is what traveling the forgotten stretches of highways like Route 66 is all about. An experience like this is sorely missing from the fast paced world of the Interstates. All too soon I had to leave, I wanted to get a few more pictures of Halltown for this web site, and one very special picture would be of Thelma White. Thelma is getting older and thinking about retiring, when and if that happens another chapter of Route 66 will come to a close. Thankfully there are people like Michael Lamp that are willing and excited to carry on the traditions of Thelma for the next generation of road wanderers. Get off the Interstate and stop by Halltown and show these folks and others like them that you appreciate all they do for the Mother Road. Support Route 66 businesses.
      

Paris Springs Junction

       

Paris Springs Route 66
Route 66 at Paris Springs Junction

I left Halltown and continued my Route 66 explorations. A few miles west of the old town I came to Paris Springs Junction. Originally the town was located one-half mile north of the junction and named Paris Springs in 1872 in honor of a local hotel proprietor. The town became famous for its springs of "healing waters" and there was a bottling company located here at the turn of the last century. Later when Route 66 came through the town was moved to its present location and called Paris Springs Junction. At the junction the remains of an old gas station and garage can be seen.
       

Near the old station is a fine old cobblestone barn. I just couldn’t resist taking a picture of this great barn. Once again, I’m impressed by the history all around as I travel this part of Missouri’s Route 66.

Paris Springs

 

Forgotten Spencer

      
There's not much left of Spencer but memories of Route 66. Entering Spencer from the east Route 66 crosses Johnson Creek on a beautiful steel-truss bridge that was built in 1926. A short distance from the bridge is all that’s left of Spencer’s business district. Stone buildings stand silent as if looking out over the quiet road contemplating the changes that have taken place over the years. Where once their now empty and boarded up windows saw a mass migration of people moving on – a nation on the move – now there is only a peaceful solitude.
     
Spencer Route 66 Bridge Spencer is a "Brigadoon" of Route 66 in Missouri. Decades ago people came through here. Some passed by here looking for a better life down the road and around the next bend or over the far distant hills. Some were on business moving goods to other places. The sailors and soldiers, the Greyhound Busses, and the post war vacationers all stopped here once, long ago. These old buildings, built in the 1920s, stand silent now in Spencer. Route 66 is quiet and peaceful. The verdant foliage and sounds of hidden birds muffle the noise of autos and trucks far away on the Interstate. This is the kind of place you can stop and absorb the atmosphere of simpler times.
      
When I stopped here on a fine morning back in September 2003 to take these pictures my only companion on this forgotten stretch of Route 66 was a large black dog that came out to greet me, half curious and half protective of his little realm along Johnson Creek. Deciding that I posed no threat he slowly turned and lumbered back into the trees from whence he came, leaving me all alone once more to reflect on the changes that the passing of time brings. Over one hundred and fifty years ago this small hamlet was a busy place. The first establishment built here was Johnson Mill on the banks of Johnson Creek. Years later a store was built on the site of the old mill by old man Spencer. In 1868 the post office was named for the store and the small settlement of Spencer began. Route 66 brought new life to the town when it passed through here in the 1920s. With a new bridge over Johnson Creek and new stone buildings to house the roadside businesses of Route 66 Spencer was posed for growth. Somehow that never seemed to happen.

Old Bulidings at Spencer

       
One mile west of the lonely remnants of Spencer is the ruins of Camp Lookout. Once promoted as the Most Modern on Route 66 it once had a Phillips 66 Service station and garage along with a cafe. Now only foundations half buried in the weeds attest to its one-time existence.

Route 66 leaves Spencer and continues towards Carthage through a lost byway of numerous small settlements: Heatonville, Albatross, Phelps, and Rescue (so named for a family of emigrants that were helped when their wagon broke down here in the late 1800s). The observant road wanderer can see the remains of old camps, motor courts and gas stations that hark back to the hey-day of Route 66 all along the roadway to Carthage. It is a drive well worth your time.

Photographs taken September 2003

Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

Travel Cyber Route 66 in Missouri

Go West on Route 66

NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, from the western state border to the eastern state border. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

Go East on Route 66

To Carthage

To Springfield

 

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