Cuba, Missouri: Good-by Midway, Part I.

Helen Brown  Cuba, MO  2011

Helen Brown worked at the Midway in the 1940s. Recently, she reminisced about those years and shared photos of those days.

Empty windows at Midway Cuba, Missouri

Although the Midway stands a shabby reminder of what it once was, in its hey day, it was a warm, welcoming place for the community to gather.

Although it was never certified as such, The Midway Restaurant has long been a historic landmark on Route 66. The large white building at the intersection of Route 66 and Highway 19 in Cuba, Missouri was a local meeting place and restaurant, a haven for travelers, and a community center of its time. A local feature in the Cuba Free Press, gives the details of how it started, developed, and how long time owner Allyne Earls shaped it over the years. Helen Brown was a waitress there in the 40s, and she shared her remembrances and photos of those days. All the people in the photos can’t be identified by Mrs. Brown, but the old photos take us back to those days. Click to read the Cuba Free Press Midway Part I feature here.

Enjoy additional photos below and take the opportunity to add your stories about Midway in the comments section. There will be a Part II to the Midway story that deals with its place in the hearts of community members and how some couple met at the Midway.

Midway Bus Cuba, Missouri

The Midway Bus provided transportation from town to town.

vintage Midway Cab Cuba, Missouri

The Midway Cab was a community service.


Midway Restaurant Staff Cuba, Missouri

Forever frozen in time, cooks and waitresses pause for a photo at the restaurant.

Meat cutter at Midway Restaurant Cuba MO

Mrs. Brown said this gentleman was a meat cutter for Midway and worked in the basement.

Cuba History Museum Allyne Earls uniform

Allyne Earls was the long-time owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel, and her uniform is displayed at the Cuba History Musuem in its Route 66 room. She was said to be a sharp dresser who loved wearing jewelry.

Cuba History Museum (Allyne Earls/Midway)

This display at the History Museum describes Allyne Earls’ role at the Midway.

Roy Earls

Although Roy Earls ran a business in Steelville, his wife Allyne put her stamp on Cuba’s Midway and his name was on the Midway Bus and Cab. He appears to have been a snappy dresser too.

Update: This photo was provided by the grandson of Blanche Rook who worked at the Midway. He contributed this info:

I am the grandson of Blanche Rook, who was the cashier at The Midway, on Rt.66 in Cuba MO. My grandmother worked for Allyne Earls for many years. Allyne was a tough lady who was a very prosperous entrepreneur with the Midway and took it from a cafe and garage in 1934 to a major Trailways bus stop, 20 + room hotel and cafe in the 50′s & 60′s. Her husband, ran the Earl’s Cab company as well as the Earl’s bus line. I have a lot of fond memories of Cuba, as well as St. James, the Rosati family’s grape stands, The Mule Trading Post and my grandfather’s farm in Rolla. My parent’s families were from all up and down Route 66, from Bourbon to Rolla.

Cuba Missouri Midway Restaurant, Blanche Rook

Blanche Rook was one of the many workers whose hard work made the Midway Restaurant a successful venture for many years.

Update: More photos of Blanche Rook sent by her grandson:

Blanche Rook @ Midway Cashier

For Blanche Rook a smile went with the service in the 1950s.

Blanche Rook Midway Cashier 1950s

Blanche Rook was a trusted employee who helped keep the Midway working smoothly.

Although  Allyne Earls is a legendary business owner, we have no photo of her. If anyone can help remedy this, please let us know.

For more photos of the Midway Restaurant now and then read this blog entry “Ghosts of the past haunt Route 66 landmark.” For a followup on this Part I History visit “Some Midway Matchups withstand the tests of time.”










Where in the world is Flat Stanley?

Flat Stanley in Cuba Missouri "Route 66 Mural City"

Flat Stanley stopped in Cuba, Missouri in his travels.

Flat Stanley was spotted riding in Cuba’s very first Model T, featured on Viva Cuba’s mural at the corner of Buchanan and Washington St. on Thursday. Kaylin, a student from Mexico, Missouri, and her class are participating in a Flat Stanley project. She emailed a paper cut-out of Flat Stanley to a friend in Cuba.

The idea is for Flat Stanley to visit various destinations around the world.  He can be sent by mail, email, or even travel with someone on a trip.  Photos are taken as Flat Stanley makes his journey, and then sent back to the students. The kids then talk about, track and write about their Flat Stanley character’s trip.

Word has it that Flat Stanley enjoyed his visit to Cuba, the Rt. 66 Mural City, and has arrived back home safely to share his adventures with Kaylin.

Flat Stanley taking a ride on the A.J. Barnett mural in Cuba, Missouri

Can you find Flat Stanley?

Viva Cuba Mural Project is happy to be included in the Mexico, Missouri’s Flat Stanley project and hopes the students will visit Cuba with their families to share our many attractions.

Students might be interested in reading about the Guinness World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Cuba.

World's Largest Rocking Chair Cuba, Missouri

You- or someone you know-might enjoy this coloring page for the World's Largest Rocking Chair.


Secrets of Santa Claus revealed

Santa and a fan

The look on this guy’s face tells it all.

Cuba, Missouri: While Santa gets a lot of attention this time of year, Cuba’s Santa is working all year long. That beard is real, his persona is maintained year round, and the Spirit of Christmas is ever-present for Cuba’s favorite Santa.

Once while on vacation (yes, Santa takes vacations), Santa and Mrs. Claus were walking up a mountain to see a waterfall. On the way up, they met a family who had to stop so that the kids could visit for a short while. Then they walked to an area with a steep drop off. The family was many yards away, but a the little boy hollered back and said, “Careful Santa, don’t fall off.”

When Santa is out and about, Grandparents often ask to have their photo taken with Santa so that they can send it to their grandchildren.  And parents will often use his presence during the year to tell their children, “Santa is watching you.”

Santa Claus You Better Watch Out

Santa keeps his eye on all the boys and girls.

Santa Claus 2011

Santa is very aware of what he tells the children.

Santa reading

Sometimes Santa entertains the kids with a reading.

A recent interview with Santa brought out some of the “best practices” for our Santa.

  1. Kids usually ask where Mrs. Claus is and why she isn’t with me. Of course, she is home baking cookies and what–not for the elves.
  2. They always wonder where my reindeer are. I tell them they are very shy, so I have them tied up out in the woods and drive the jeep when they are not around. I always tell the kids that “jeep” is the official car of Santa Claus. They ask me if I drove from the North Pole. Of course not, I came in the sleigh and then drove into town in the jeep. They want to know about Rudolph and the other reindeer.
  3. They ask about the key that I have hanging on my belt. It is a magic key and allows me to get into houses without chimneys. It opens the front door on Christmas Eve.
  4. They are concerned about how I get all the toys delivered in one night. That is a hard one to explain. I tell them that time slows down for me, and I get it all done in one night. It’s magic.
  5. I never promise a child a specific toy or item. I use the reason that the Elves are so busy that they may not be able to get their item ready for this Christmas. I tell them that if I can’t get exactly what they want, I will bring them something that they will like.
  6. They are continually asking for live animals and that can be a touchy subject with parents. I always tell the kids that the sleigh is too cold for live animals and that animals are something they need to ask for from their parents.
  7. I had a few incidents where a child has asked for a sick loved one to get better, and I always tell them there are some things Santa can’t do, but I tell them I will say a prayer for their loved ones. It is the same thing with lost animals.

Santa. You gotta love him.

Cuba Fest October 2011

Santa wore his “summer outfit” when the temperatures soared in October.

Santa Cuba Missouri

You just have to believe in Santa.

Recently, Santa got this story from a mother: My daughter saw Santa with a group…and she told her sister that she was sure that he was a fraud, because his beard ‘wasn’t real,” so she wouldn’t tell him what she wanted (she’s 9). So then she told her big sister that the Santa at Aerofil was the real Santa because his beard was real… and she doesn’t care if she sees another Santa, so next year we we’ll be looking for you again. She told me a few weeks ago that she heard a rumor that Santa wasn’t real (at school-4th grade). I said, “Oh yeah, what do you think?” She said, “I think he’s real….”

All photos graciously supplied by Santa and his Elves. All rights reserved. 

The coolest Christmas tree on Route 66

Cuba Missouri The coolest Christmas tree on Route 66

Eli Palmer stands beside the Christmas tree that his dad Chris Palmer built.

I think that I saw the coolest Christmas tree on Route 66 last night. I mean it is freezing cool. It is the creation of Rudd Heating & Cooling owner Chris Palmer and is on the lot next to his business on Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri. We’ve all heard of Frosty the Snowman, but Frosty the Tree?

Later that evening, I saw Chris and asked him about the tree that I had seen on his lot when I had gone by earlier. Chris said that it has been three years in the making. “The first year, I had the vision for the tree and started thinking about how I could build it. Last year I was getting the materials and working on R & D (research & design), and this year, I made it happen.”

Here’s what Chris’s design looked like in his shop.

Chris Palmer Christmas tree design Cuba, Missouri

Copper tubing with freon, a basketball goal stand, and an air conditioner form the basics of Palmer's design. A couple of red and green flood lights were added later. Here, a layer of frost is already starting to set up on the tree frame.

As I stopped back by Chris’s tree tonight to take a photo, his mom and son Eli were there to look at the tree’s progress.  Eli filled me in on a few details. He told me that the center support was a basketball pole and stand that had tipped over in the driveway and crashed into his mom’s car. His dad was going to scrap it, but then he realized that it would be useful for the tree design.

Eli also told me that there was freon in the copper tubing and that there were no holes in the tubing and that natural condensation froze on the tubes and built up the frost layers that formed on the tubing. The air conditioner kept the whole process in motion. He added that the tree could be built smaller or larger and into other designs with the same basic concept. The colored flood lights were added to give a Christmas look to the tree.

Chris’ mom Barb said people have been stopping to look at the tree and take photos. I don’t know that anyone has seen anything quite like this before. People have also told Chris that he needs to enter his tree in the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas lighting contest. We discussed the fact how a little snow on the ground would make the tree and its frosty appearance stand out even more.

Chris later told me that the outside temperature didn’t make any difference to the design and that it would work in the summer too. When I asked him if he wasn’t cooling the whole outdoors, he admitted that he was and that it had gotten quite cool in his workshop when he was trying out his design.

Here is a photo of the tree during the day:

Chris Palmer's frozen tree during the day

Several days of frost buildup have added to the tree's appearance.

Chris’s dad is a Heating & Cooling man too as was his grandfather, and his son seems to have the knack for the business, so there may be a another generation building trees in the future. But for now, everyone seems to be enjoying Chris’s vision for a unique Christmas decoration.

After all, it’s the coolest tree on Route 66.

"Frosty the Tree" on Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri

Chris's mom and son Eli enjoy the night view of Chris's tree.


Those are big shoes to fill

Robert Wadlow postcard

This postcard shows the contrast between Robert Wadlow and others.

Cuba,Missouri: Robert Wadlow, known as the Giant of Alton, Illinois, lived from 1918-1940 and was billed as the World’s Tallest Man. Although he was of normal size when he was born, a pituitary disorder caused him to grow to 8’11.1″ tall. He weighed 490 pounds and suffered from a number height-related ailments. At 13, it took 14 yards of material to make him a boy scout uniform.

You might wonder what connection Cuba, Missouri might have with the Giant of Alton. Hayes Shoe Store at the corner of Smith and Washington, along Route 66, has two Robert Wadlow artifacts. At age 20, Wadlow signed a contract with the International Shoe Company. He received free, custom made shoes in exchange for a promotional tour. He traveled the US representing the company, and it is through International Shoe that at least one of his shoes came to Cuba.

Robert Wadlow/Nike shoe

Looking at the Wadlow shoe next to a regular Nike shows that Wadlow's shoes are big ones to fill.

Henry Hayes, the original owner of Hayes Shoe Store, and his wife Audrey purchased the first shoe with the shoe store in 1950. It was a size 35 AA, and it had a hole worn in the sole. Later, Henry had the chance to buy another shoe when the International Shoe Company had a promotion where a shoe store received a Robert Wadlow shoe that they filled with shelled corn and let customers guess the numbers of kernels in the shoe. At the end of the promotion, the Hayes had the option of sending the size 37 AA shoe back or buying it. Hayes decided to purchase the shoe although it is reported that he said he “almost had to take out a bank loan to do it,” which is Henry’s way of saying “it wasn’t cheap.”

Two Robert Wadlow Shoes

The shoes are in the window just for this photo. They are normally kept in a glass display case.

Robert Wadlow Shoes in their glass display case.

Stop by the Hayes Shoe Store on Route 66 to view the Wadlow shoes and buy a souvenir pin.

When Jeff Bouse, the current owner, purchased Hayes Shoe Store, he also became the owner of this piece of history. Hayes, besides being one of the few independently owned shoe stores in the country, is also the site of one of Viva Cuba‘s 12 outdoor murals called “Prosperity Corner.” Many Cubans were measured for their first pair of shoes at Hayes.

Stop by Hayes to see the Wadlow shoes, buy a souvenir pin, and you may also find a pair of shoes that aren’t so hard to fill. 

Souvenir Wadlow pin Cuba, Missouri

You can get a souvenir collector's pin at Hayes Shoe Store.

Cuba Mo Hayes Shoe Store Route 66

Hayes Shoe Store displays the 'Prosperity Corner Mural" by Kelly Pohling on its exterior. All mural images are copyrighted although photography for personal, non-commercial use is encouraged.


To see another World’s Largest in Cuba, go to the Best of the Blog and read about the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.

To read about the oldest motel on Route 66, read about the Wagon Wheel Motel on the Best of the Blog.

Best of the Blog



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