Ozarks Life: Rich Green’s Route 66 mystery

Green has owned a building for ten years but has never known its true history.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:39 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:01 AM CDT
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HAZELGREEN, Mo. (KY3) - Down historic Route 66, 2.1 miles from the old Gasconade River Bridge, and just inside the Laclede County line, sits a Mother Road relic.

“History, it needs to be saved because eventually, it’s all going to be gone,” Route 66 resident Rich Green said.

For ten years, Green has owned the Wayside Inn and Central Motel. He has photos showing a glimpse into a forgone era.

“I made the signs ‘Central Motel with Mobilgas’ off of those pictures,” Green said. “I had a friend make those in Illinois and he said those signs will last forever.”

Funny how short “forever” has gotten these days...

“I was under the impression, like Rich, that this was the Central Motel,” Gary Sosniecki, a member of the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society said.

The society’s mission is to preserve Route 66 history in the county. But while gaining more and more research on Route 66 in the county, unfortunately, Gary and others also find discrepancies.

“Only in the last couple of months,” Sosniecki said, “have I discovered that, no, actually, the Central Motel that Ed Lentz owned is two miles down.”

The photos of the Central Inn look like Green’s building. The doors and windows are almost a match. Green even has a foundation to the east - possible remnants of a service shop like what’s seen in those photos.

“So I’m among the people who were wrong,” Sosniecki said. “So now we’ve got this mystery. What was the name of this motel?”

Sosniecki asked for help on the society’s Facebook page.

From what Green could tell, his mystery building originally had six units. Two of which were later combined in the 1960s and expanded out to form the Wayside Inn.

“It sounds like it was a pretty good place,” Green said. “Busy at one time. They served pizzas here and some hamburgers and stuff like that. It was mostly a place locally to hang out.”

A soffit runs over where the bar once was. Deer permits from the 1980s are still taped on the wall where hunters would brag about bucks over a beer.

Green also heard the remaining four units, now occupied by spiders, were rented out to service families. Once he finds out the name of this building he plans on making new signs and giving it a new life.

“I think it’d be a great place just to relax,” Green said. “It could be an antique mall or a small restaurant. It’s a great location.”

And that’s where Chad Plein thought this story would end. But as he was leaving, Glenda and Dwight Watson pulled up and handed a man named Rich a priceless piece of paper.

Glenda saw Sosniecki’s post on Facebook and found two friends who knew this property well including Pat Hancock, whose parents made the building block by block.

Glenda’s research shows the building was never supposed to be a motel. The original idea was to make a 12-unit apartment building. A dispute over a property line made them downsize to six units. And, to Hancock’s recollection, her parent’s building never had a name.

And that is not the end of the story.

Buried near Green’s building are two trenches. He believes mechanics would use these to walk underneath cars to change their oil.

Was a gas station on this property?

Glenda’s friend remembers a Walker-Weekly Gas Station and Cafe. That is something that has not been documented.

It leaves Green and Sosniecki to wonder if that once sat on the property as well.

The mystery continues.

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