A.J. Barnett drove Cuba forward


A.J. Barnett and Model T in Cuba, Missouri

A.J. Barnett owned the first Model T in Cuba, and it is commemorated in Viva Cuba's first mural.

The recent 110th Anniversary celebration of Peoples Bank, brought to mind A.J. (Alva James) Barnett, the first cashier of the bank when the bank’s assets were $8,000. In 1920, he was elected president of the bank, a position he held until his death in 1959. He was the grandfather of the present chairman of Peoples Bank, James Barnett.

A.J. Barnett Cuba Missouri

Mr. Barnett behind the counter at the bank in the early days.

Cuba Missouri Peoples Bank

A.J. Barnett (L) , even with all his forward thinking, would probably be amazed with the changes in Cuba.

A.J. Barnett (L) with Mr. Munro at the bank.

Barnett (L) and Mr. Munro at Peoples Bank.

A.J. was the first in other ways. He owned the first automobile in Cuba, a Sears electric buggy. He owned the 1st Model T in Cuba, which he purchased from Sears-Roebuck in 1908 for $315.  It was called a “Motor Buggy” at that time.

A.J. Barnett Model T Cuba MO

A.J. Barnett is cranking his Model T so that he can takes friends and family for a ride. The influence of this photo is reflected in the mural.

The Barnett Motor Company opened in 1915 and was a Ford Agency that operated until 1932.  At one time, Barnett acquired 50 sewing machines in a trade that he had to dispose of to attain his profit.

Barnett Motor Company Cuba Missouri

The Barnett Motor Company was one of the first garages in Cuba.

In 1929, Dick Krulik remembers that every Saturday that A.J. would come down to to the Chevy dealership owned by his father J.F. Krulik and fill up his Roadmaster Buick with Ethanol gasoline. J.F.’s son Dick would pump the gas, and A.J. and J.F. would talk for a long time, catching up on the latest news.

Barnett was twice mayor (1920-28 and 1938-40) of Cuba and very civic minded. He was mayor in 1922 when the first light system was installed and lit for a regional teacher’s meeting. That must have been a wonder for those who attended.

Charlie Vaughn, who now does the landscaping for the bank, remembers his own connection with A.J Barnett, which seems to disprove the stereotype of the “cold hearted banker.” In 1946, Charlie was graduating from high school, and money was tight. He needed a suit to wear to graduation. The suit cost $50, and Charlie’s father Henry didn’t have the money. Charlie and his father went to Peoples Bank to talk about a loan.

A.J. Barnett walked up to greet them. Henry Vaughn hated to borrow money, but he explained that he needed a loan to buy his son a suit for graduation. Vaughn remembers that A.J. didn’t say a word, walked to a drawer in his desk, got $50, and handed it to Henry. He shook Henry’s hand, and said “Pay it back when you can.” They were never asked to sign any papers.

Henry told his son Charlie, “Anyone that trusts me that much is going to get paid back.” Henry paid him back in less than a month.

Charlie also remembers that A.J. himself  wore the same navy suit every day. He wore it so much that it was actually shiny from being well-worn. On Sunday, the Barnetts often ate roast beef at the Wagon Wheel Cafe before going to the nearby movie theater.

A.J. Barnett Cuba Missouri

A.J. Barnett is at the typewriter in this early photo. This is probably about the time that he made the loan to Henry Vaughn.

A.J. Barnett’s name is prominent in the history of Cuba as he served on many boards and committees. In the early days of the Cuba Fire Department, one of their carts was stored in a garage owned by Barnett. He was a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge and an original stockholder and promoter of the Crawford County Fair.

He was a member of the first cemetery association for the Presbyterian/Kinder Cemetery. In 1946, he was a purchaser of shares in the Cuba Development Company, formed to promote industry in Cuba.

Barnett is just one of the early citizens of Cuba who helped it become the community that it is today. His grandson James Barnett is chairman of Peoples Bank and continues the professional and civic interests of his grandfather.

It seems fitting, that A.J. Barnett, who was 1st in many things and a leader, should be pictured in the first mural of  Viva Cuba’s mural project.


The A.J. Barnett/Model T mural was painted by Canadian muralist Michelle Loughery, assisted by Shelly Smith Steiger of Cuba. It was sponsored by Peoples Bank to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the bank.






Who needs Cars 2?

Cuba, Missouri 1950 Studebaker

This trailered visitor from Ohio fit right in to the historic district in Cuba.

With the collection of eye-catching vehicles and happenings on Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri, the new Cars 2 movie might be a let down.

The above 1950 Studebaker was spotted on Saturday in front of the Truamn mural and Wallace House. The couple from Ohio had been to Springfield, stopped at the Visitor Center in Rolla, and  been told if they were coming this way that “they must stop in Cuba.” They were scouting some stops that they might make when they drive Route 66 in the fall. They were photographing murals, headed to the rocker, and taking a look at the Wagon Wheel Motel, our Historic Landmark on Route 66. They also wanted to know what restaurants were available in the Historic District. Thanks for the shout out Rolla Visitor Center.

I didn’t even think to ask them why they were towing instead of driving the Studebaker. It did match their truck like some people’s boats match their trucks.

1950 Studebaker Cuba, Missouri

With the Truman mural in the background, it's easy to picture Harry Truman in this car.

Probably one of the most unusual vehicles sighted this week in the Cuba area is the Wienermobile that is pictured with the Guinness World’s Largest Rocking Chair out at the Fanning Outpost US General Store. What can you say about that? Well, it’s one big wiener and one big rocking chair!

Wienermobile & World's Largest Rocking Chair Cuba, Missouri

I wonder what Guinness would say about this photo? (photo from Outpost Facebook page)

Then a simple trip to get gas today, turned into a photo op. These two attractive product representatives were there with the Red Bull car filling up for a trip to the Huzzah River to see the floaters and share their product. We predict that they will get a warm welcome on the rolling river.

Red Bull Car Cuba MO

The representatives for Red Bull and their car drew a lot of attention at Mobile on the Run in Cuba.

Red Bull Car Cuba Missouri

That's a big can of Red Bull. It might go well with that wiener out at the Outpost. Too bad we could get them all together for a photo.

To complete my trip around town that was beginning to seem like a trip to  LaLa land, I stopped at Hayes to give a tourist in a Route 66 shirt a mural brochure. He was from Wisconsin and was checking out the murals. He was headed to Missouri Hick for BBQ and going to see the Wagon Wheel Motel too.

I turned around from talking to the tourist and saw the Viva Cuba sock monkeys (another story for another day) had taken over the Hayes Shoe Store window. The fair-themed window had Dad Sock Monkey selling fair tickets, Mama Sock Monkey, selling Cotton Candy, and Baby Sock Monkey going around on an operating ferris wheel. The other passengers were shoes. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself.

Come to Cuba; there’s always something new to see.



How to make our small town even more outstanding and prosperous…

Chris Case Chairs photo

Do we want to be just another town on the road, no different from any other?


Lawn Chairs Cuba, Missouri

Do we want to be outstanding and worthy of distinction?

Does Cuba make a good first impression?

When you drive into Cuba what do you notice? Is it clean and attractive? Are the streets, sidewalks, and parking lots clean? Are there businesses that make you want to stop? Does it have some claim to fame that makes people want to visit? Are there attractions and events promoted? Are the buildings in good repair? Are there weeds growing or does it have a cared-for look?

What if you just happened to stop in Cuba?

If you stop to get gas, are there reasons to spend more time, to eat here, to visit some of the attractions, or to return for a longer stay? Is there any reason to say anything about the town to anyone else that would encourage them to make a stop in our town? Are the clerks and townspeople friendly and informative? Is there a Visitor Center to offer the traveler information about the community? Do people point this out?

Would you return or suggest others visit?

If the town is visually pleasing, the people and clerks friendly, and there were interesting events or attractions, you will have a positive response.

Are all of the above attributes true of Cuba? Many of them are. Could there be improvement? Yes. Are we ready for the next step?

What can be done to improve on many of the postives that Cuba has going for it?

1. Be friendly. On trip advisor, many of the reviews mention if the people and townspeople who run businesses are friendly. Recently, Australian tourists were so impressed with the locals that poured coffee for them at a busy breakfast spot. When the owner at Gordoz didn’t charge them for the coffee and told them it was a Memorial Day gift, they were doubly impressed.

2. Be helpful. If you don’t know the answer to someone’s question, send them to the Visitor Center or ask someone else. Recently, one of the customers had to take over when a customer in a business asked about  some of the local attractions and a clerk told them that there was nothing to do in Cuba. Cuba has an excellent Visitor Center with an informed staff. Take advantage of it. Don’t take the positive aspects of your town for granted or cut down Cuba to make a lame joke.

A recent woman who had car trouble wrote a Cuba Free Press letter to the editor complimenting the workers at the BP station for their help. She just happened to be a Convention and Visitors Bureau staff member from St. Louis. She recognized the outstanding work of these employees and went out of the way to acknowledge their help. And you can bet that she will tell others about her “Cuba experience.”

4. Be appreciative. If people travel to Cuba, when appropriate, let them know that we appreciate them visiting our town.  Viva Cuba members often stop and ask tourists if they have mural brochures and talk to them for a bit. They often want to know about local businesses, restaurants, attractions, etc. We always thank them for visiting Cuba.

5. Listen to them and be responsive. If you are a clerk and checking them out, pay attention to them. Don’t spend that time talking to another person behind the counter or yelling across the store. Jackie at the Outpost General Store engages the customers in conversation and makes visiting the general store an experience, which causes a lot of positive word of mouth about the store. Joy at the Cuba Free Press runs out to buses touring the murals  to give them mural brochures and sometimes one of the local papers.

6. Keep buildings in repair and get rid of weeds and clutter. Some of this is up to individual businesses and home owners, and some of it is up to the city to enforce its ordinances in a timely manner. Do we need more ordinances to take care of run down buildings, or do we need to enforce the ones we have?

Here’s an idea if you have an empty building. Clean the inside, wash the windows, and let us put a display of a seasonal nature or maybe some historical photos from Cuba in the window. Make your property an asset to Cuba.

Many businesses and organizations have adopted streets in Cuba and work to keep them clean. Let’s keep the momentum going and keep improving Cuba.

Methodist Work Group Cuba Missouri

This Methodist work group recently had a work day to do extra cleaning around their buildings.

Who is responsible for making our town better?

We all are. The city (the Mayor and council), the people in the businesses and on the streets, the Chamber of Commerce,  and other organizations can all look at Cuba with “fresh eyes” and decide on one or two things to do to improve Cuba or their part of it. It might be a good idea to drive into Cuba and think about what a tourist sees. Walk along the streets of Cuba and see what tourists see when they walk around looking at the murals. Walk around your business. What do you notice?

If you have a physical property, does it look the best it can? Are you giving back to your community or just taking from it?

Become a Cuba booster. Tell visitors about some of our major events like the fair in July, the September Car Show, or Cuba Fest in October? Tell them to return for these special events.

Below you will see a pair of grandparents from Illinois who are returning to Cuba and sharing it with their grandchildren. Thursday evening they were staying at the Route 66 Wagon Wheel Motel and eating meals here, shopping here, and probably buying gas here. When I told the grandmother about Cuba Fest the 3rd weekend of Cuba, she expressed a desire to return and take the trolley tours.

illinois Visitors to Cuba, MIssouri

These grandparents are return visitors to Cuba. They brought their grandchildren on this trip to experience Route 66.

Why does it matter?

Visitors spend money, which funds the sales tax. When they stay in Cuba motels, they pay a tourism tax that helps promote tourism to Cuba, which generates more sales tax.

Even if you work at a Cuba plant or business that isn’t tourism-related you benefit from the taxes and the boost in the local economy. What helps tourism, helps business development. Businesses are more willing to relocate to a town that has a prosperous appearance and that employees won’t mind living in. That provides jobs for everyone and gives young people a reason to stay in their hometown. A better tax base also helps provide better schools, which influences many aspects of life in our town.

Think about $5.00 that a tourist might spend in our town. How many times is it re-spent as it moves into our economy as wages, retail purchases, or services?

Let’s make our attractions, our buildings, our people, and our organizations work together for a continually improving Cuba.

Ghosts of the past haunt Route 66 landmark


Update: The Midway has been demolished and is now a vacant lot.

Early Midway Cafe & Garage Cuba Missouri

The Midway started as a small cafe and gas station

In the 1930s Allyne Earls leased the Midway a small cafe in Cuba, Missouri from the owner William Mullen. When Route 66 came through Cuba, it brought prosperity, and the Midway was positioned to take advantage of good times as the motoring public traveled from Chicago to California and points in between. Earls decided to buy the Midway Cafe from Mullens and capitalize on the new business.

WWII in the 40s brought even more business to the door of the Midway. Earls built on to the Midway in the 40s with a second floor and 24 rooms and 4 bathrooms. She kept the cafe open during the building and often customers had plaster and dust falling on them. According to the Route 66 Cookbook: Comfort from The Mother Road by Marian Clark & Michael Wallis, Earls said “When I decided to add the second floor for sleeping rooms, things were really a mess.”  She goes on to say, “We swung beams over folks’ heads and moved tables from one side to the next to accommodate folks, but I never closed.”  For months customers had to enter through the front windows.

Soldiers from Fort Wood and their wives filled the new rooms. Traveling salesmen often made the Midway a stop on their routes across the country. The Midway also became a bus stop, and Earls staff expanded to where she had 36 people working for her. The restaurant was open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and Mrs. Earls owned it for over 38 years. When she sold the cafe in 1972, she had no key to give the new owners because she had never locked the doors.

One great story from those years from the Clark and Wallis book deals with some passed out soldiers at the counter.  A liquor inspector came in and demanded that the soldiers be moved out of the restaurant. Friends carried the soldiers to the lawn of the Mullens house next door. When Mrs. Mullens saw what was happening, she took the soldiers blankets and pillows. She said that she had sons in the service and hoped that someone would do the same for them.

Two of the Midways famous characters were cooks Gertie Forbes and Bea Forster. They both started as waitresses and later cooked at the Midway. They were part of the lore of the Midway and just a couple of the scores of employees that labored to serve the public. At one time, the Midway served as many as 600 meals a day.

Midway Restaurant 1948 Cuba Missouri

The Midway was well positioned for the prosperous years of Route 66.

Midway Cafe Cuba Missouri

This photo shows the Midway Cab and the large ice cream cone on the porch. Mrs. Earls often drove her own cab.

The Midway was also a gathering place for the locals of Cuba. It was a place for first jobs, special events, hanging out after school or school events, family dinners, meetings, and other occassions. Breakups and makeups took place at the Midway. Kids danced to tunes on the jukebox. Teens went there after ball games. Generations of Cubans counted the Midway as an important part of their growing up.

Mrs. Earls sold the Midway in 1972 to Dan Harris, and he sold it to Junior Beers. In 1976, Blues hockey star Noel Picard and his wife Viviane bought the Midway. The Picards and their two children Dan and Annie all worked to make the Midway a success. The St. Louis Blues team would come out for wild-game dinners at Noel Picard’s Midway. St. Louis football players such as Jim Hart, Dan Dearduff, and Jackie Smith would stop by the Midway. Locals gravitated to the  family run restaurant , and the Midway was still a popular gathering spot although the upstairs rooms were no longer in use.  The annual New Year’s parties were famous.

Noel Picard's Midway Cuba Missouri

The Picard years at Midway brought many people for dinner and drinks. Joe Sonderman photo collection.

After, the Picards sold the Midway, the restaurant business died out and the building was used for small businesses, and it began its decline. Years of neglect has brought the Midway low. Recently the building was sold, and truckloads of debris were removed from the empty building.

 Empty Midway Cuba

Lately, the Midway has stood empty, the windows dark.

This week the local fire department began using the building for simulations of firefighting by trailing hoses through the building and scaling ladders to the second story windows. It is said that the new owners will tear the building down.  A trip through the building shows sad scenes of abandonment. A building that bustled with energy, growth, and good times is now a hollow shell. The photos show it best.

Interior Midway Cuba Missouri 2011


The restaurant and bar area once rang with laughter and good times. Now there is just rubble.



Second floor landing Midway 2011

2nd floor MIdway Building 2011

Interior 2nd floor Midway Cuba 2011At one time these rooms on the second floor were bright with new plaster and Mrs. Earls’ hope for prosperity.

2nd floor bathroom Midway

Midway Cuba

Midway Wood floors Cuba

Light switch Midway Cuba Mo

The vintage lights are switched off at the Midway Building and only memories remain of its the lives and energies that have passed through it

Midway Sesquicentennial coin Cuba, Missouri

This image of the Midway was cast as a collectible Sesquicentennial coin in 2007.

The Midway’s greatest legacy is the memories of generations of Cuba citizens and travelers who spent time within its walls. We invite you to use the comment section to add your stories to this entry. Your remarks will continue the history and life of the Midway.

When you register for the comment section, just leave the URL section blank if you don’t have a website.

Crawford County Fair steeped in hometown pride and tradition

Cuba Missouri Crawford County Fair 2011

The 2011 fair is themed "Hometown Pride County Wide."

July 12-16, 2011 in Cuba, Missouri is fair time!

For 4 days, Hood Park along Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri will be the center of all activity as it hosts the 65th annual county wide fair. The family friendly fair is steeped in tradition and brings home towners back for the many activities and events that the Fair Board plans during the year.

A recent innovation is the Tuesday evening Family Fun Night when there is no gate charge and there are carnival arm bands sold.

But the official fair beginning is the Wednesday evening fair parade when viewers line the streets of Cuba from Mizell Funeral Home (formerly Brittons) to just past Missouri Hick BBQ where the parade turns across the railroad tracks to the drive to the Hood Park gate.

Cuba Missouri Fair Parade

Generations of families have attended fair parades, rain or shine.

Saturday’s headliner this year is the legendary George Jones.  Jones didn’t want to record his mega hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” because he thought it was too sad for anyone to want to listen to it.  Well, evidently his fans felt his pain, and Jones went on to win every major country and western award there was.

In 1940, senate candidate Harry Truman visited Cuba during what they then called the “Homecoming” fair to make a political speech. While he started speaking on the steps of the Methodist Church, he soon found that the draw of the fair was too strong for locals to resist, and they passed him by on the way to the fair. When he learned of the lure of the fair, he adjourned there  to capitalize on “fair fever.”

Cuba Missouri Truman County Fiar Mural

Even future President Harry Truman visited the fair in 1940. Four-H projects were highlighted in the mural as well.

If you aren’t from Cuba, and you visit during the fair, be warned that things are a little different during the fair. Businesses may close early, you might see people decorating floats (they’ll be glad to let you help), and you might not be able to find someone because they are staying out at the fair grounds that week.  Just enjoy it. We do.

Visit the official Crawford County Fair website for updates and details on the fair.

Season fair passes are now on sale at the banks and the Visitor Center across from Country Kitchen at the I-44 overpass. Fair activity cards are also available.

Here are some past blogs that give a little more info about fair traditions and history. There’s some neat old photos too.

“Crawford County Fair: horse racing, arson, and over 100 years of tradition”

“Thirty year-old Crawford Countian prepares for 31st Crawford County Fair Parade….”

“Harry Truman visited Cuba. Why don’t you?”

Fair Float Cuba Missouri

This float has 4 generations of the Pasch/Killeens on board. It was 30 year-old Molly's (blue dress) 31st parade.

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