The Good Roads campaign in Missouri during the first two decades of the 20th century had resulted in graveled roads linking the small towns of each county to the county seat as well as paved roads between larger towns. In addition, the Highway Act of 1925 had resulted in the building of U. S. Highway 65 and U.S. Highway 50. The combination of better roads and relatively inexpensive automobiles made it possible for people to travel more easily for business, shipping, or recreation.
Sedalia’s business and professional community took advantage of the ease of travel to advertise Sedalia as a shopping center readily accessible by automobile. In mid-July 1931, a group of 90 members of Sedalia’s business and professional community traveled on a “good will” tour through the area south of Sedalia that was being developed as a tourist area by the creation of the Lake of the Ozarks.
The group included Kroenke’s Band and Uncle Ezra, a character on the “Happy Hollow” radio show. They first visited Eldon, where they were met by E.T. Collins, president of Eldon’s Chamber of Commerce, and other representatives of the Chamber. Collins made a welcome address, and Charles Botz, president of Sedalia’s Chamber of Commerce, responded. Uncle Ezra spoke about the performance of “Happy Hollow” that was to be presented in Sedalia on July 23. Sedalia’s Mayor Kennon announced a fireworks display planned after the performance.
The group next visited Barnett where Mayor C.L. Hatter and banker W.W.Gillum greeted them. Sedalia’s Dr. Cannaday responded. The group visited the Indian Creek Valley, an area six miles from the Lake of the Ozarks. Following the visit, the group boarded the buses and traveled on towards Versailles.
Arriving in Versailles around noon, the group ate lunch at the City Hall. Editor Lewis Baker of the Versailles Statesman presented a program that was followed by speeches from Mayor William Wells. Sedalia’s Mayor Keenan and banker William Powell addressed the residents of Versailles.
At Stover, the next stop, Stover’s ladies served fresh lemonade. Since Stover Mayor E. T. Vickery had recently undergone surgery that had hampered his ability to speak, a loud speaker and speaker’s stand had been provided. H. J. Meyerstect read the speech Vickery had written, and Sedalian A.L . Shortridge responded.
The Sedalia Democrat printed the speech, which extended an effusive welcome to the Sedalia contingent and noted the growth construction of the Lake of the Ozarks had brought to the south central part of Missouri and the advantages the Lake would bring to Sedalia. The speech praised
Sedalia’s restaurants and drug stores, which had already seen an increase in business as a result of tourism in the lake area.
The speech went on to encourage a “feeling of genuine fellowship and friendship” among the towns in the area, noting that competition between businesses could benefit the businesses in all the towns near the lake, but warning that “the demon jealousy must be annihilated” and the “spirit of welcome” must be maintained. The speech ended with the hope that the towns could speak of each with “kind words.”
The good will tour continued on its way to Cole Camp and other communities. Next week’s column continues the account of the tour.
— Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.