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Ozark Daze: Inevitable Change

Ozark Daze: Inevitable Change

May 2nd, 2012 by By Ray Speckman in News

Editor's Note: Ray Speckman, co-owner of Emme's Attic in Versailles, enjoys Lake Area history. The first Wednesday of every month, he will deliver some fun facts, unique stories and interesting information about historic places, occurrences and anecdotes relating to the Lake of the Ozarks and mid-Missouri. Enjoy this new addition and guest column in The Lake Today's Splash section.

Change is inevitable, DARN IT!

As Joyce and I return to the east side of the lake occasionally, mystified by the new road system curling like a box of snakes through the hills, I think of how everything was.

We exit, backtrack, argue over directions to turn, run into dead ends and try to figure out the one-way byways eventually we reach familiar places.

Sorta.

Memories come easily as recollections of "what used to be there" abound as the lake has been transformed from what was.

About a dozen years ago I wrote a weekly column for a few years for The Columbia Daily Tribune.

One of those columns reflected on a breakfast I had with Mike Craig 15 years prior to that. The scene was set on a bright January day in about 1985.

We were at the FrostTop restaurant just down Highway 54 from Jim Parrish's Phillips 66 station and across from the Stone Crest Mall. The Bank was there then, BOLO, before it became Central BOLO and Jim Franklin was still the major domo.

Behind the bank and the FrostTop was a rather ragged looking trailer park and behind that the old World Wide Church of God structure loomed lonesome but for one week a year.

Lee Mace was still strumming his bass and Bill Atterberry was, well, being Goofer at the Ozark Opry and Denny Hilton had just closed his show and Tom Gumm and Steve West started their new show at the Blair's new village near the hospital.

Dewey Phillips had his bar, Dewey's, across the street from Beabouts fishing store and Carl Williams had just built his second grocery store near the Catholic Church in Lake Ozark.

Over on Horseshoe Bend, sales were booming for raw land and condos and Dean Nelson and others were charming newcomers with the virtues of lake living who had been recruited by extensive phone solicitations by the Lodge of Four Seasons.

Chuck Myers and Jim Simpson had spun off from the Four Seasons sales force and were operating a thriving real estate business, C Myers & Simpson and Tonia Grien was a virtual unknown.

And ever since that morning with Mike Craig at FrostTop, the change has not slowed.

Mike and his wife Linda have now closed their popular restaurant, The Happy Fisherman where each year when they were ready to close for the winter, customers would flock to an everything-you-can-eat from their coolers until the food was gone.

Through several ownerships, what was Osage Village (built by Sherill Duncan), has continued to prosper and remains, next to the Lake itself, the most popular draw for visitors.

Gone now is the time when I could drive down Highway 54 in Osage Beach and know personally all of the business owners. It was a time then when, as it once happened to me, that I walked into Carl's Grocery Store, picked up staples, got to the checkout and I had forgotten my wallet.

"Don't worry, Ray, go ahead and take your groceries and next time you are by you can stop in and pay," they neighborly told me.

The Arrowhead Lodge is now gone, completely leveled and there are only the memories of a special table in the dining room where Jim Franklin and others would sit and discuss business opportunities and actually where loans were approved or divided up among those powerful gentlemen.

Gone along with the Arrowhead was Eddie Jordon who recently also sold a joint he had eventually owned on the Strip.

There is still a real estate company called Al Elam Real Estate but of course, Al, one of the true first lake pioneers and entrepreneurs is gone now.

I wonder how many realize that Al, who went to school with my mother and father in the small hamlet of Perry, Mo., was one of the first land sales persons at the lake, first for Cyrus Wilmore and the times when for a short time Union Electric owned thousands of acres of Lake Area property including Horseshoe and Shawnee Bends.

As I am a bit awestruck at the number of restaurants at the lake now, I reflect of the times when there was no liquor by the drink and a cocktail at any of the few restaurants in the 1980's required carrying a brown bag into the establishment.

I reflect at how risk-takers, Harold Koplar, Burton Duenke and Clarence Ziegler, put fortunes at peril to build Tan-Tar-A, Four Seasons and the Holiday Inn hotels.

I remember the National Governor's Conference during the time of Missouri's governance by Warren Hearnes brought about liquor by the drink necessitated in order to land that nationwide event. After all, the State legislature was persuaded by Hearnes, it is a necessity to have booze available for the hundreds of politicians and media who would attend the event.

I marvel at the number of financial institutions. Long gone is the time when Bank of the Lake of the Ozarks monopolized the financial industry at the lake.

I noticed in The Lake Today that my old friend and family doctor, Otis Mosley retired. I wonder if anyone truly appreciates the work that he did along with BOLO executive Larry Shields in the start-up of the local hospital.

Columbia College has now established itself as a true leader for education in the community. Hundreds of students have found it to be a place of opportunity, with graduates proliferating business and industry and even the classrooms.

Dean Nelson now runs a biker bar on the Strip and has for 14 years. My, my, how time passes so fast.

Things have changed. A lot.

A place "where everybody knows your name" has evolved into an urban, commercialized environment, losing what was a "Cheers" identity.

It was inevitable. Change does not diminish, however, the memories of what was.

Ray Speckman can be found trying to remember old friends names in his hideaway at Emme's Attic or at rayspeckman@emmesannex.com.