Sep 272011

I will say this: ‘Good things DO happen to good people who try to do a good thing for other good people!’

CARTHAGE, Mo. — When Deborah Harvey, the new owner of the Boots Motel, got a phone call on Sept. 13 she was on her way to Columbia, Mo., for a meeting, but she turned around immediately when she saw who was calling. It was, Bob Boots, the son of Boots Motel founder and builder Arthur Boots and the one person still around who might remember the most about what Harvey’s new project looked like when it was opened in 1939. This is the first of two stories about his visit.

Bob Boots, 85, Tulsa, returned last Tuesday to the motel his father built when Bob was a student at Hawthorn Elementary School and stepped inside for the first time in years.

“It was kind of like a door opened to some old memories,” Bob Boots said as he stood in the old front office. “This whole corner brings back memories. The courthouse is the most obvious landmark, the Boots Drive In, I spent years there, but this is special. I was a teenager here, oh, I must have been 14 whenever we first moved over here and dad started building it.”

And it was those memories that Harvey and her sister, Pricilla Bledsaw, hope to tap as they make plans to renovate the iconic motel.

“What we plan to do is restore this to a 1940s appearance and that’s what I need you for, I need someone who was actually here in the 1940s and old enough to remember,” Harvey told Bob Boots during the visit. “I really wanted to talk to you in depth about the construction of the building.”

Boots said he hadn’t spent any time in the motel since his father sold it in 1942. He left for service in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1945 and returned in 1946 when Arthur Boots was building the Boots Drive In, a restaurant across Garrison Street that now serves as the Great Plains Credit Union.

“I’ve been up here a couple of times and I’ve driven by a few times but I haven’t stopped in,” Bob Boots said. “This is part of my life and it always will be, but it’s something in the past. It’s kind of like the door in time. There are old, vivid memories here. I sat here and smooched up my girlfriend and watch the traffic go by. That’s part of the teenage routine.”

Bob Boots said he remembers that his father came to Carthage searching for the ideal place to build a motel. In Carthage he found what people had long called the “Crossroads of America,” where U.S. Highway 66 and U.S. Highway 71 crossed.

At that time, Route 66 was a major highway link from Chicago to LA and Route 71 was a major highway from the Canadian border to New Orleans.

“He knew what he wanted, and his brother had a Boots Court in Eldon, Mo., and it’s now called the Randall’s Court,” Bob Boots said. “It’s been there for 70 years or so. His brother had a motel and dad decided he wanted one too. We lived over in Independence, Kan., where he and a partner had a John Deere franchise. They sold out and he started looking over the map. He wanted a place where two highways met and came together. He came to the Crossroads of America. We lived in this house that we bought next door. Dad had all of his money tied up here and he wanted to stay close to it.”

Copyright 2011 Carthage Press.

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