Even though this fine sign looks a little familiar, the Munger Moss Motel was never a part of any of the chain motels that became popular in the 1950's.
However, the Missouri motel did copy the popular sign image from Holiday Inn. They needed to do something when suddenly there was competition from chains.
The Sign Before the Sign
Don and I had read about the motel with the odd sounding name, a few years ago. We were ready to give it a try this past April.
We exited off I-44 and quickly spotted the big billboard... 300 yards from the motel.
We turned onto the old Mother Road and the Munger Moss was right there.
The neon sign and word MOTEL, weren't a part of this scene when it first opened in 1946. Originally there were 14 cabin courts, connected with carport/ garages.
The neon sign, along with TVs and air-conditioning were added in the 1950's.
The office and the sprawling u-shaped line up of motel rooms greeted us on a drizzly, cold day. I was eager to get inside the office and meet the woman I'd spoken with on the phone.
Ramona entered from the back as we came through the office entrance. She'd been expecting us. and we chatted for 30 minutes.
We heard how Ramona and her husband moved from Iowa with 4 kids in 1971. They took over the motel business, living in 2 family units, connected by a door. The kids adjusted to their new state, embracing the warmer months with access to the motel pool. Ramona chuckled about a day when her son was missing, but turned up in a room with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. He was watching TV.
The office was packed with Route 66 goodies.
Evidently the International guests really love the tee-shirts and souvenirs.
Ramona had fun telling us about all the guests she'd chatted with during her 45 years of hosting.
She pointed out the photos of famous guests who were there before her. Many stayed at Munger Moss while performing in USO tours at nearby Fort Leonard Wood.
From Around the World
Ramona said in recent years, their guests have come from all over the world. For some crazy reason, Route 66 is considered a big part of American History to many foreign travelers.
Ramona laughed and recalled an Australian traveler, when I asked who had been her most memorable guest.
Finding Our Room
We finally got our key and headed up to find the Route 66 Room.
The walkway beside the rooms only gave a few hints to the original design. It was hard to imagine how all these connected rooms had once been separate cottages.
The Old and New
We could see the changes in brick color. An older door had not been replaced in the original section to the left.
The newer brick on the right, showed where a motel room was later added, replacing the carport. Now there are 44 rooms and 16 efficiencies.
The Special Room
Don and I just had to chuckle a bit when we opened the door and laid eyes on our special room.
This was the Route 66 Room that Ramona wanted us to have. It was decorated by Ramona with the help of her granddaughter. There were at least 90 matted prints, depicting Route 66 scenes.
There were a couple of orange-gold chairs and some lacy lamps, along with a functional motel desk attached to the wall.
It wasn't exactly 1940's or '50's decor, but there was a sincere effort here. Don and I dashed down to the office where Ramona scooped us up some ice. We had to drink to our little motel in the Ozarks. We made a toast and then tried our best to study the fine photos and prints, without climbing on the furniture.
Pink and Blue Tile
How I do love some vintage tub and tile features in pastel colors!
Ramona said they've replaced and repaired along the way, so there was a bit of a patchwork quilt look to our bathroom.
Some Old Details
I peeked in another room that was about to be cleaned and spotted a bathroom with a rounded shower opening. This took me back to the old motor court days, a little better.
And there was a great push button holder on the bathroom door! When was the last time I saw one of those?
Where Are We?
The motel no longer has a sandwich shop, but not far from the covered patio, (where the pool used to be) I found some fun posts with arrows. A black and white arrow pointed to Devil's Elbow, 40 miles away.
Devil's Elbow is where Munger Moss began! The next day, Don and I drove to the town and ate lunch.
Munger Moss Sandwich Shop... at Devil's Elbow
We found the original sandwich shop that Nelle Munger and her second husband Emmett Moss owned.
Now it's a bar/cafe called Elbow Inn, but back in 1945 the couple sold their business with its name. The new owners moved the biz to Lebanon, then expanded with roadside cabins. So that's the reason for the strange motel name!
I met Bob in the morning and he was a sweet as his wife, Ramona. This couple is the reason you come to stay at Munger Moss.
They've worked for 45 years, running the motel, raising kids, welcoming guests and sharing the history. I am so grateful that we were able to stay while they are still the owners. I will remember their genuine warmth and the old fashioned price as well! AND... the sign, lit up at night!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!