CARTHAGE, Mo. -- One of the halfway stops on the Mother Road re-opened on Tuesday with a ribbon cutting and nostalgia. Spared from foreclosure and demolition, the Boots Motel is back in business.
Four million cars were rolling off Detroit's assembly lines by the end of World War II. Americans were free and ready to travel. Thousands rolled through the Ozarks on their way to or from the Grand Canyon or southern California's sunny beaches.
Waiting to accommodate them were tourist courts and motels with more than 400,000 units. Here, the place to stay was The Boots. Route 66 Chamber of Commerce founder Ron Hart called the famous highway "the interstate before there was an interstate." Businesses flourished along the Mother Road.
Clark Gable stopped twice here on vacation, mainly because it was by the best highway for traveling during his stardom. Many people in the Joplin area, Hart said, heard the movie star was in town, went to the motel to meet him and collected his autograph. Records show Gable liked room 10.
Gene Autry and his horse Champion were also one-time celebrity guests. Autry's beloved steed grazed on the grass behind The Boots.
The Boots, named for its builder, not cowboy wear, enjoyed a heyday until Interstate 44 came through Joplin. Then it declined into flophouse apartments. Last year, two shy sisters decided they could revive the crumbling stopover before a major drug store chain had other plans for the property.
Complete restoration will take some time. One wing is still undone but the authenticity is back. No TV set, only a radio, is in every room.
The new owners say The Boots is booked through October's fall festival in Carthage. They say people on every continent have signed their virtual guest book.
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