Not five minutes from Spencer, MO is the community of Paris Springs, located on a stretch of old Route 66. The weather was perfect for a quick drive – warm, sunny, clear – so I grabbed the dog and my truck keys and pointed old truck toward Paris Springs. I put a new K&N filter on it last week, so I wanted to see if it made any difference in performance, so it was a good excuse to hit the road.
Locals will argue whether the name is Paris Springs or Paris Springs Junction (or both), but I’ll leave that to the experts. What I do know is this stretch of the Mother Road is full of memories, and I thought I would share a few of them here. Just about a mile off of Highway 96 at Paris Springs Junction is a service station along 66 called Gay Parita. It has a long history here in Paris Springs as filling station, café, garage, and motel. The old garage has been standing since 1926, from what I understand. This area was built up in the 1920’s when Route 66 first came through the area. Like most other towns on this highway, it lived and died by the traffic, and when I-44 came through in the 60’s, Paris Springs Junction faded away.
The Gay Parita today is part original and part recreated from old buildings, old cars, old signs, and other old stuff.
I stopped by the Gay Parita a few years ago to look around, get some pictures, and chat with the owner, Gary Turner. I remember finding him sitting on a barrel in the old garage, smoking like a chimney. He took me into his office/service station and showed me around, then signed a black & white picture of the old station for me. I just heard he passed away in January, so I wanted to go up today and pay my respects.
The old stone garage is closed up now, but in its day, it was probably a busy place, full of old cars, old car parts, and smoke. It was built by a man named Fred Mason, and his wife, Gay Mason, was the namesake for the business. Come to think of it, I think one of our fellow hoons might know a little something about the Masons.
The late Gary Turner did a great job restoring and recreating Gay Parita. It’s a cheerful, colorful place. Sadly, the Parita is closed now that he passed way.
After leaving the Parita, I turned back onto old 66 and headed west just a half mile or so to a little access spot on Johnson Creek. This stretch of road, including the bridge, are part of the original Route 66, but is now county road 266. Notice the weight and speed limits – my truck alone is 2 1/2 tons!
It’s not a picture of a car, but it’s a picture taken from a car, so it still counts. Instead of a bridge over the creek, this access just uses a low-water bridge, which is usually under 6″ of water. It’s best to just hit the water and keep driving.
I always enjoy finding and driving the back roads of this area, and this part of Route 66 is hidden from almost all traffic, which is both good and bad, I suppose. I know I can always come back here and not see many people, but it’s also sad to see old towns die off. That’s the enduring legacy of Route 66 – it brought progress and business to remote areas, but it could only last a while.
[Photos Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Marcal Eilenstein]