It’s always a little sad when a beloved attraction closes, especially ones that we have fond childhood memories of. It is even more sad if these places are allowed to deteriorate before our eyes, or be converted into something as basic as a tire shop or warehouse. All of these places are treasured attractions that were once very popular and well maintained. Some are still standing as sad reminders of what once was, while others have been completely demolished and sold off in pieces, their land or buildings re-purposed. Let’s take a little visit back to the past.
1. Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum, Branson
If you haven’t heard of Roy Rogers, it probably means you are under the age of 45, but for those in the know, he stood as a profound public figure for many years. He began his career in the 1930’s as a yodeling radio cowboy, but later went on to star in more than 80 western movies, and to become a fixture of 1950’s television. Dale Evans was his third wife and co-star, and Trigger, his beloved horse, became a star in his own right.
The museum was created by Roy and Dale in the 1960’s upon their retirement, and was located just outside of Victorville, California. He would often ride to the museum in a golf cart to greet visitors for many years until he died in 1998. With his death, the surviving family members decided to move the museum to where they might get a little more traffic, the popular Baby Boomer destination, Branson, Missouri. At this time, it was run by Roy’s grandson, Dustin Rogers, and Roy’s son “Dusty” performed his father’s old songs twice daily in the museum’s Happy Trails Theater.
The museum was packed with mementos from Roy and Dale's long life together including their gun collection, their parade saddles and jeweled riding suits, and even their power boat. Displays looped around the Happy Trails Theater along an indoor street lined with fake Old West storefronts.
The beloved Trigger and Dale’s horse Buttermilk were stuffed and a huge part of the museum, along with their dog, Bullet. Although there were rumors that they had planned to add themselves after they died, they are actually buried at a cemetery near the former museum in California.
Even though the ideal age demographic of Branson was a great plan, the museum ultimately closed its doors for good in 2009. The collection was auctioned off by Christie’s in 2010, with Trigger going for the hefty price of $266,500.
2. Two Bit Town and Country Cousins Cabin, Lake Ozark
Located on the Bagnell Strip is "Two Bit Town," where you could once find bumper boats, mini-golf and shops.
A big 50' Indian marks the entrance, and the park included a haunted house and shooting gallery, along with an unusual self-guided tour through a small country cousins shack built over a mysterious vortex.
It was reported officially closed in 2013 and abandoned, but you can still wander the ruins and enter the crazy cabin.
3. Cave Restaurant, Richland
The Cave has only recently closed, but was included in this piece with the hope that the closure is only temporary. It is located in a hillside cave overlooking the Gasconade River. It has experienced many incarnations in the past, so hopefully, will arise again.
The restaurant and resort features four cabins built in the 1920s, a fishing pond, volleyball and badminton courts, biking and hiking trails, canoe and tube rentals as well as a fishing pond. The resort centered around the The Cave Restaurant, which is just what it sounds like. They serve everything from steaks to Italian, but featured "Gary's catfish", locally provided. It seats 225, had a shuttle from parking lot to cave, and had live music most weekends.
4. Memoryville, U.S.A., Rolla
George L. Carney met a young aspiring actress named Donna Douglas in art school. After graduation, he went on to collect antique cars while Donna Douglas soon became America's beloved Ellie May Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies television show. When George decided to open a car museum in Rolla, he enlisted the help of his old friend hoping to drum up Route 66 business using her association as a tie-in, and offering Donna Douglas LP's and fan items. Entering the museum, you will see many antique cars with old '50s glamour mannequins with no arms arranged next to them.
Descending the stairs into musty darkness, you discover "Memoryville USA," a night time re-creation of a supposed 1900s Main street. With the song "The Entertainer" playing non-stop and a bit loud, over and over, you browse the square filled with malt shops and shoe stores. There's even a 1900's storefront that proudly displays a real super dusty collection of Donna Douglas -Ellie May Clampett memorabilia.
Traveling further down several dimly lit levels, you pass the silent film theater, the antique televisions, the Hitler collection, the blacksmith shop, and at the very end you come upon an antique car restoration garage, still in action, then exit to the gift shop.
Sadly, it was reported closed in 2009, following the death of George Carney and handed over to his son Steve. Now it is home to a Big O Tires and the Nature Girls herbal/coffee shop.
5. 66 Park In Theater, Crestwood
This drive-in movie theater was opened in 1947 by Flexer Drive-In Theaters and was taken over the following season by Wehrenberg Theaters until its closure in 1993. The 66 was located on historic Route 66, had a capacity of 800 cars, and was a popular location to visit in the St. Louis area. It included a playground located under the screen, and the name of the theater spelled out in neon lining the back side of the screen. It also had a large concession area.
The 66 Park In closed in 1993 and was demolished in 1994 to make way for a shopping center. Their last night of operation was October 17, 1993 with showings of “The Program” and “The Good Son.”
6. Chain of Rocks Fun Fair Park, St. Louis
On top of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River north of St. Louis stood a once magnificent entertainment venue called The Chain of Rocks Amusement Park. A popular destination along the historic Route 66, the park opened in 1927 and was owned by a man named Chris Hoffman. It changed hands in the 1940s to Carl Trippe of the Ideal Novelty Company, and then again in 1958 by a group of investors headed by Bill Zimmerman. They hired a man named Ken Thone to manage the park, which he did until its closure in 1977.
An extensive ride list included The Scrambler, the Tilt-O-Whirl, The Whip, Baby Whip, Bumper Cars, Walking Spookhouse, Riding Spookhouse, Mad Mouse, The Rocket, the ski lift, and much, much more. The Comet marked the west border of the park, and the dining hall, the Whip, Moonrockets, Carousel and Dodgems marked the east along the edge of the bluff, 230 feet above the Mississippi.
School picnics had been a huge part of Chain of Rocks business, and a drop in school enrollment in the late 60s and early 70s severely affected that side of profits. In addition, there were two major fires within four years, and a rise in unruly behavior by patrons. More factors still were the opening of Six Flags in Eureka in 1971, and another fire that destroyed the Sky Garden Bar and Restaurant in 1973.
When Holiday Hill, another St. Louis amusement park, closed in 1975 due to the Lambert Airport expansion, several of their rides were relocated to the Chain of Rocks Fun Fair Park, yet attendance still continued to drop. 1976 brought an imposed 5% amusement tax in addition to the 4.5% sales tax, and further led to the drop. Perhaps the final blow occurred in June 1977, when another fire destroyed several rides, including the ornate carousel. Ultimately, the park was closed on Labor Day of 1977, and the rides and other components of the park were sold at auction in June 1978, with everything else being completely torn down and replaced by low income housing.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge is all that is still standing and was a significant landmark for traveler’s along Route 66 for many years. It was built in 1927 as a toll bridge, becoming part of Route 66 in 1936 and remained in use until 1968 after the construction of the free I-270 bridge in 1966 decreased traffic tremendously. It was supposed to be demolished in 1975, but narrowly escaped this fate due to the low price of scrap metal making it extremely unprofitable. It was used in the filming of the 1981 film Escape From New York, and was eventually leased out to Trailnet in 1998, becoming a pedestrian and cyclist bridge and monument to Route 66.
Do you have any memories of any of these places? Stories to tell? Glad to see them go? Share in the comments below.