I remember a lot of neon signs on Glenstone Avenue, when I was a kid. Our family would drive in from Iowa to visit grandparents and cousins in Springfield.
I don't exactly remember Rail Haven from childhood, but it was there. It was one of many motels and motor courts, with inviting pools and grassy playgrounds.
The old neon sign used to be on the corner of Glenstone and St. Louis Street. St. Louis Street was once part of Rt 66. Long before that, the land was an apple orchard.
In 1938, eight sandstone cottages were built and the business was enlarged over time. Eventually Rail Haven took on the motel look, popular in the 1950's.
Today, the glowing Rail Haven sign is near the rear of the complex. I didn't photograph the boring, blue, Best Western sign that is now in front. I didn't want to be reminded that we were staying at a chain motel.
But, while wandering the grounds a bit, I found this retro yellow sign with the old 5-point crown. It was attached to one of the original cottages. The 1960's style sign reminded me that Rail Haven became a part of Best Western, back when I was a kid. That's a piece of motel history worth noting.
I believe at one point the office for the motor-courts, was across the street at a gas station.
Now the office sits proudly on the corner, with lots of 1950's era decor to honor the Route 66 history.
The gas pumps are a reminder of the station, that once held the motel office.
Gas stations and motels must have been big business in 1938, when Route 66 was quite young. It's fun to picture the busy auto traffic along the Mother Road, from Chicago to California.
The lobby with the rounded, glass block desk, had more of a 1960's feel. The staff was very friendly.
They were too young to remember the evolution of the motel, but the young man at the desk said his father had shared a lot of that history with him.
At check-in, the breakfast area was empty. But in the morning there was complimentary breakfast, with a few hot options.
The motel's original phone booth with rotary dial was tucked back behind the stools.
Like so many roadside motels, it's hard to see the old, after renovations.
But the rectangular cupolas on the roof, made me think Howard Johnson's. And our room with the high window, had a retro feel.
Not The Elvis Room
Our room didn't look like the room Elvis stayed in, when he was in town performing in the 1950's. Evidently he was booked at the Kentwood Arms Hotel, but preferred a motel and moved over here.
He probably liked being able to pull right up to the room and walk in... just like we did. Today, the hotel's Elvis Room is decorated with a bed that looks like a pink Cadillac and giant retro murals.
A Little Nostalgia
We got a tiny bit of motel nostalgia, in the bathroom with the flesh colored tile and the small frosted window.
Everything else was nice and updated, so no complaints.
Quiet on a Cool Night
The covered patio was empty on a cool evening. It was actually pretty nice with tables and a couple of mounted TVs, showing retro black and white sitcoms.
I'm pretty sure this area was once where the kiddie playground used to be, beside the pool. I read that they once had horse shaped swings, aimed westward, so little cowgirls and cowboys could ride towards the old west!
Some Old Stuff
And in a sort of forgotten area in the back, I found an old slide. It looked just like the metal slides I remember burning my legs on when I was a kid!
There was also a portion of split rail fence. Not the original, I'm sure. But the motel got its name from the fence that surrounded the property.
It was an easy, economical and comfortable stay, with some fun hints of the past.
The room, breakfast and even the lobby will probably fade from memory, but I'll remember the signs. As a kid, Glenstone was magical at night, with all the colorful neon. I never thought I'd be staying at one of those motels!
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!
A 150 Year Old Campus, in Missouri's Arcadia Valley
Don and I learned about Arcadia Academy when searching for hotel stays in Missouri. The Arcadaia website showed 5 nice looking B&B guest rooms, but when we arrived we found a 16-acre campus with 8 buildings.
What exactly was the history of this place? We approached this building and learned later that it once housed about 100 young women from Ursuline Academy. The dining room had become a restaurant and the dorms above, became hostel rooms.
Once inside, I was happily jolted by some very sweet smells. A display of enormous cinnamon rolls tempted me from a nearby wooden rack. There was another display case for inedible goodies. This cabinet was lit up, to highlight a collection of religious treasures.
We examined numerous Virgin Mary statuettes, then peeked in at "Thee Abbey Kitchen" restaurant, where some diners were finishing up a late lunch. We waited a bit longer until a man in a white apron rushed out from the kitchen to assure us that he had alerted Katherine to our arrival.
As we waited, we studied the cute little nuns on one of the shelves, we wondered who Katherine might be.
Would she arrive in a black and white habit and introduce herself as Sister Katherine?
Bakery and Creamery
As we stood in the hall, the smells from the cheery little Bakery & Creamery made things pleasant.
But peeking up the eerie stairway to the second floor made me question our decision. As it turns out, the upper floors held the hostel rooms. I didn't even know that had been an option.
Priest's House from 1902
Katherine arrived with a big smile and no habit. She apologized for keeping us waiting and took us next door. She took us past some toy trucks and trikes, that I believe belonged to her children.
She warned us that the first step was a big one and we hiked up to the hefty white door with a doorbell crank in the center. This had been the Priest's House. I'm not sure if that was during the 100 years of Ursuline Academy, or later in the 1970'a when the buildings served as a convent.
Facing the Garden
Katharine said she had upgraded us to a suite on the first floor, since they were only using 2 of the 5 rooms.
The price of our upgraded suite would have been $60. more, so that was a sweet deal from our sweet host! Our new room was on the corner with windows looking over the porch to the gardens.
Katherine showed us around a bit and took us down the hall where Presidents, George and Abe peered down from frames.
She pointed out the parlor where we could play a hymn on the pump organ. Actually she did not invite us to do that, but we could exit the door near the Jesus portrait and enjoy the porch.
More Hall Goodies
Opposite our room, was the kitchen entrance where we would later eat breakfast. I loved the little prayer desk next to the kitchen door. Maybe it was a writing desk, but how could I be in this place, without thinking of prayer? It looked like it was just missing a padded kneeler.
The plastic light switch plates were pretty special. Some people seem to think old B&B's and hotels are eerie. But this little image was downright comforting. I felt sure there would be no hauntings. Only holy ghosts in this place!
Our 2-room suite was quite the mix of old and new. I loved the 10-foot ceilings and rich wood baseboards.
The door was awfully grand, as were the 6 windows. I only wish we could have easily opened the curtains to let in the view of the grounds.
From the Door
From the doorway, you can see we had a mounted flat screen TV with a DVD player, which we didn't really need.
It's obvious where the new split wall had made two rooms into one suite.
I doubt the priests ever had the luxury of double granite sinks.
They probably would have found the spa tub a bit disgraceful, since it looked like it was built for about 4 people.
Shower and Toilet
The gigantic shower with 2 shower heads also hinted at some unholy behavior. Katherine was eager to point out the large shower and she was kind enough to warn us about the teeny toilet closet, which was behind the door, where the robes were hanging.
I'm not a huge person and I had been warned, but I still laughed out loud when I checked out the tiny space. "Holy cow! How could anyone actually close the door, when when making use?"
We weren't given any drinking rules, so we shook up martinis in a thermal mug and took our happy hour to the second floor porch.
What a beautiful evening and setting! As the sun lowered, the frogs delighted us with their evening music!
From our porch chairs, we had a rear view of the chapel.
What a beautiful cone shaped roof with cross. We also could peer back into the courtyard where a statue of Jesus stood center, and a little red wagon waited under a tree.
More Garden Views
Directly forward from the porch was a lovely stone building.
There was a porch swing hanging from a tree and a few statues and grottos and a pond.
In the evening and morning I wandered the grounds, trying to figure it all out.
I walked around the back of St. Joseph's Chapel, build in 1908. It was hard to imagine these grounds in 1846, when the original Methodist school opened, as Arcadia High School.
I love a hotel with a creek or pond. I especially love, if there's a bridge!
The pond and gardens came much later after the The Ursuline Catholic Sisters took over in 1877.
Pondering Near the Pond
The whole setting really was absolutely peaceful. I noticed a pair of ducks enjoying their pond. As I paused to enjoy, I wondered how many young boarding students stood out here, missing home and family.
Or how many nuns wandered in prayer? And even more sobering to imagine... How many Civil War Union soldiers came out into the sunshine to heal... back when the campus turned into a hospital during the Civil War?
This gym, (built in 1930) intrigued me the most. It was built when the Catholic Girls School was at its peak.
Were those seesaws and swings, from way back then? The front of the building had an Alfred Hitchcock feel... with a pair of cement swans resting on the steps.
The Chapel was built in 1907.
We had hoped to get a tour with Katherine before leaving, but there wasn't time. I had to just imagine the beautiful interior.
The main road leading to the Academy, took us right by a stone wall and cemetery.
I didn't explore beyond the wall, but we heard that the grave markers had the names of Sisters from the academy. That seemed like too many graves. But then again, the school was open nearly 100 years.
At the end of the drive, there were stone entrance gates. I pictured the buggies that first arrived, bringing young girls to boarding school.
What thoughts went through their heads as they traveled towards the chapel and campus buildings?
We ate dinner in "Thee Abbey Kitchen" that evening.
We pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Back in the Day
An old photo reminded us that not too much had changed.
There were no white table cloths for our visit, but we did have a framed Last Supper print nearby.
Our young server Cassie, (who had the energy of a hummingbird) recommended Janette's Chicken with a light and savory chicken chive sauce. Man, was that rich and delicious.
We tried to eat without making too much noise, since the young girls long ago had strict talking rules. But we did laugh out loud when we saw the high chair in the corner. Don had one just like it, as a youngin'.
In the morning we headed across the hall to the kitchen.
The funny stove & oven held the Keurig coffee maker and the rounded fridge had some help yourself sodas and water. The old ice box, was maybe just leftover, from back in the day. We sipped on a little coffee, and took in the atmosphere.
Breakfast with Others
We shared the large table with the 2 other hotel guests.
They were traveling from Arizona and as we chatted it became evident, we all shared an appreciation for unusual and curious hotels... some good story swapping!
The painting of the praying man made me feel extra grateful for our French toast, eggs, bacon and potatoes. He only had bread.
I also felt a little guilty as Katherine rushed through the door, which connects to the dorm/restaurant, carrying our steaming plates. We had seen her bustling around at 8 the night before and here she was serving our breakfast!
We stayed on the outskirts of a tiny town, on a sprawling campus of a hotel... that happened to feel pretty heavenly. That's no joke.
But, you do not have to be Catholic or ultra religious to feel welcome. As a guest, you just need to be open to a little nature and history! What an amazingly, peaceful place. Big thanks to the Katherine and her Oyler family for the huge task of renovating and running such a place!
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!