Ozarks Voices: Layne Morrill, March 3, 2020
Welcome. To another Ozarks, voices oral history interview, a project, of Missouri State University, Libraries, and its Ozark Studies Institute initiative. I'm, Craig Anderson with the University, Libraries and today's, date is Tuesday March, 3rd. 2020. Our special, guest is mr. Lane Morel, and we are at his home in Kimberling, City Missouri thank, you so much for allowing us, to be here and to interview you today thank, you yes, sir, just for the record can you start off by telling us when. And where you were born, well. I was born in Springfield Missouri at the old st. John's Hospital on. North. Main Street. 2nd. 1939. 1939. So. You are the. Great-grandson. Of Levi, Morel also. Known as uncle Ike correct. Who was the postmaster, at knotch in Stone County Missouri. And. Uncle Ike served as the postmaster, there for 30 years is that correct uh yes, he, established. The post office, and then he passed away in. 1926. Okay can you tell us and I'm gonna get back to your your. Story too. Can. You tell us how he landed, that job. And. How did how did that come about I've, done I'm just curious to know that he, petitioned. The. Nearest post office was. Delina, and, so. Okay. And. He. Was the he, was the real-life, inspiration, for, the character uncle, Ike in Harold. Bell Wright snobbish. Eppard, of the hills right correct. How. Did their friendship, develop, well. It's my understanding that. The. Publishing. Of the Shepherd of the hills which. Was written, by Harold, Bell, right right right came, to the area just. Two as many people did in that time just. To see the area because. It was developing. At that time there. Was very little, that existed. The, marvel, cave. Existed. Before. Coming in the Missouri Pacific Railroad was. Coming in and. So. Levi. Had come here, with. A, friend, of his from Lamar. Missouri which. Was Truman, s Powell right, and. They had previously. Been, publishing, the paper and, in the Lamar. When. That Truman and, he came here okay, and, so. He, came first, and then Truman, came after. He did and. How. Did his. Friendship. With Harold. Bell. Wright develop. I mean that to, my knowledge, Wright. Was, interested. In what was happening would. Come and sit around and listen to the people. Around. The post office. Note. That. Sure. Is it, true that Levi served sort, of as a guide to. The area and it's folklore for Harold Bell Wright well, to. My knowledge and. Again, he. Wasn't he passed away in 1926. I wasn't, born until 1939. Right, so. There. This. Is all. Hearsay. From my father and grandfather but. That he, encouraged, people to come to the Ozarks, he loved the Ozarks, and. Needless. To say, the. Shepherd, of the hills is, what caused, tourism. To exist, I'm good I'm going to follow up on that as a matter of fact shortly. Tell. Us a little bit about your, background and. Because. We want, to sort of make that link between your. Great-grandfather, down to you so can, you give us can you fill in some of the blanks of that, time oh you might say starting. In. I, guess. The first picture, that I've seen, them of me. Relating. To the Shepherd of the hills was. I, shown. In a little. Rubber suit, setting. On my grandfather's lap. When. They were a. Local. Group was watching, and felt, they the, Shepherd. Of the hills, movie. That had been filmed, in. Was. Shown in the, early 40s, or. In the. The. Filming was done in California. And the locals, were. Needless. To say not. Pleased, with. What was shown the. Crying quite a bit, of discrepancy between, the novel and that between that film and. That. Is the first time that I've seen a picture of me, related. To the Shepherd of the hills portion. During. Growing, up my. Parents my. Grandparents. Operated. The gift. Shop and and they. Showed me old plastic, post office. Taurus. And. Then when I was old enough I. Probably. 11, or 12 I started. Taking tours. People. To the old post office know right. So that was a tourist attraction even, when you were when you were coming along I was growing up amazing. And, so. I've. Always been connected. With what. Was happening, of. Course new. Marianm. Agenda big village who, operated, the, Marvel. Page I knew. The Powell family. And so. All of the players, you might say were, people that my.
Family, Had been friends. With for. If. Not a lifetime, a. Good, long period of time right well, and how did, people come from from far distances, to. See to see the area and see the places, well. I remember what, having seen her once. They. Lady by the name of Pearl Spurlock, operated. Taxi, service, out, of Branson and. She. Would take people, by, taxi. Old. 65, which. Was to what it was, known as reach, brain Junction then, bringing them back down through, the Shepherd. In the host country back. To Branson. She. Did that because the. Highway do. Evolved. Was so rough that it. Was much easier to, come down over the ledges, with. Her troop with her car I said it was to go up as. We would know it today um I always have a v6 right. And and what was, the post office one of the stops on the there was one of the stops, made, this stuff, at. The post office. To. The cave then. Dome at heaven, and, then back down to to. Branson. In the late. 28. Thirties. Forties, in. The life of course that was when I remember everything, sure, so, we're people coming from far distances, to see. To. See the area to see, the. Shepherd of the hills in its day the, public the, story was that. That. Was the ideal, booked, for. Attempted. Because. It was of a Christian, character. Involved. A number of people and they, always have a pleasant and. Something. That you could your, grandmother, could read or you could read to your dog, and neither would be himself yes. Or embarrassed, yeah it was and. It was an. Extremely, popular novel, correct very, much, right. So. You so, you grew up there. As at, a tourist, attraction basically. What. Happened I mean you went, to school what, else happened with you. Growing, up. One. Of the most interesting things and this. World. You, know various. Factors. Come in some. Strange, people through Chicago, but, the name of Hershey at. Least the, cave. In. The early 50s, or, merriment, Genevieve. For. 99. Years at, the, outrageous, price of, $5,000. A year. Well. Those of us who were natives. $5,000. Was one, heck. And, I used the word heck but, much more than him a lot, of money in the Ozarks, shared the early 50s sure I. Remember. Attending a meeting of the hosel Association. That, the, Powell's, who owned fairy cave. Our. Family. The. Trimble's. Who, operated. The. Shepherd, of the hills farm, as they called it and. The. People. Who had built a little motel down. Next, to the airport, that, the city of Branson known. They. Had, quarterly. Meetings, a walker. Pal. Was. Talking, about how it, was going to be thanks. For going to be very, poor, in the tourist business, because. They had shown this movie, on, television. Of which. Movies. Were television. Was brand new to the Ozarks, and that sure and.
That, Fella. By the name of Floyd Collins had, been pinned. In the cave in Kentucky, and, he died there, and, so. Walker's, contention. Was that there. Would be a few, people coming to tour because. No, one would want to go in the cave mm-hmm. And this fellow, from Chicago, who. Was. There, farted, at a time stood. Up and he says Oh. Cluedo, body be domed it's a publicity. Fellas. Name wish he lowers, you've. Been a vacuum, cleaner salesman in. Chicago, mm-hmm. There. Is nothing, like today's. Silver. Dollar city. Founded. By, a, gentleman. Named. Hugo Hershey whose. Sons and, wife came. To operate, the business while. He went back to Chicago in, the wintertime and, made money sufficiently. For them to, develop, begin. All, we know today as the major tourist, one of the major tourist attractions, absolutely. Yeah, no, one could have imagined, I guess you know I developed. What I have been business since, that time called, the Hugo they're good. Or bad be damned. Exactly. What, we saw happening, meals. Absolutely. Yeah and and, I guess to, a certain degree that. Might have been true with the novel, because some. People might have thought that a, shepherd, of the hills played, on stereotypes, and so forth that weren't exactly accurate, but it wouldn't have mattered because it drew so much attention and, caused people to come, to, see the area yeah. Then. You. Start. His flow business here, and, one thing you've all done top of the net right, there. Just kept building and kept building yeah. Why. Not when for, example the things that I did, after. I graduated. High school I read, spring of 1957. Of, which there were 18, of us graduating. Class I was, in summer stock with. The, summer. Stock theater, that was operated. By Southern. Illinois University. And. Central. Missouri State, in following years, you, know here's a high. School, or. From rich spring who. Went. To summer immediately, gets, thrown in with a number of college, students, that are operating, the summer stock how, was that, idea. It was exciting, for a hill boy yeah. Do. You remember any of the productions, or oh we did a number of productions, one. Was, a. Written. By a. Summer. Central. Missouri State, they, had the old drum. The. Story of. A. One. Farmer, versus, another and, and. A dog being killed and. Which, was in, Johnson, County Missouri well. We, took the the. Play. The. Summer. Stock and took, it to Warrensburg. And did. It there on campus I bet that was that. Was interesting, yeah but various, things that evolved. For example, the, two young boys that, we. Got from Branson, but, in that play were. The sons of the. President. Of the bank there mm-hmm. Ben Parnell, who was one of the most. Another. One that, so influenced. Me as far as business. One. Of them the, elder, son has. Just retired, as, president of during college tracked so these are, the type people, that, I, had the opportunity to, become. Friends. And work, with for you yeah people who really made an impact on the community all of it sure yeah. Speaking. Of impact I understand, that Levi's, son Oscar would, that have been your grandfather, okay.
Wrote, A pamphlet in 1948. Outlining, the transformation. Of Stone County in the decades following the publication, of. Shepherd. Of the hills is that correct right can. You talk a little bit about about, that and that. That. Granddad. Was certainly. No great author but. He had a fella by the name of gh pipes. Gerald. Pipes. Assisted. Him in doing that pipes. Had. Been. In high school with my father. And. My. Father said pipes. Would set and and draw. A, hand or write. Little. Stories all. During, school. And. Some, of them rather. Interesting. Reports, or rather interesting. Characters. Interesting. Can. You talk a little bit about the changes that your your, grandfather, might have might. Have outlined, in that in that pamphlet that occurred. Here the. Same kind of things what you were just talking about or. Granddad. Basically. In the booklet, talked. About how things were when, they came here and, now he, is a child, or, not as a child he was a young man would. Carry the mail from, not. To. Not. Which, quote was only. Five. Four. Square feet. There. Were five but their post offices, to, which. Mail was carrying. And. One. Of the carriers for example, was a young lady but in the name of Fanny. Belle nickel lay, it later was nectar she married her. Daughter, of. Sharing. Her she sherry. Married. Jack Hershey and, they. Were again. Is in their pollution of, an area. Yeah. A lot of a lot of, interrelationships. And, and crossover. And so forth and forth yeah yeah. Well. Do you think. Branson's. Popularity. As a tourist, destination now. Has its roots in the novels a claim whether there's no question, about it yeah the. Table. Rock coming which. Then made, a new life for many, of us for. The entire area but. It started. Out with the, shepherds in the Hills attractive, people and, then, from, there the evolution, has continued. Speaking. Of Table Rock and the legged that was there do you recall resistance. To that, kind of development when, it came through who certainly, there. Were some who didn't. Know what to see the link in. The. Farmland, impacted. The, good land after all we. Were. In. Stone, County for, example, crane, was. A well-to-do. Area. But. The. South end of Stone County was. Was. Pretty poor in meter. Today. You. Will find I. Don't. Know that there is a stoplight. Nor there. Today. I do not know how many stoplights. There are settings, right. Complete. Total. Change, yeah yeah, and and, is, is, due largely to the Table. Rock development, which has its. Genesis, back into, the novel to the novel, yeah. It's. Hard to imagine a, novel. Having, that kind of impact on, a small community. Anywhere. Else in America I mean I it probably has happened, but to this degree I can't imagine. Going. On in real, estate and, other businesses. To. See. A lot of activity, around. Certainly. This, hemisphere, and, others, and, I don't know, not, another, community. Not, another impact, has. Been. Yes. And, it's, speaking we've said that you you you go right into that that's great your, your career. In real estate has. Certainly allowed you.
Insights. Into the, development, of the area. I'm. Sure I'm sure you've seen most you know I. May. Be last, year, and. Still. Leasing. So. So you you're continuing, to see the. Development here but a gosh I bet it has changed. Just. Tremendous. Little, ask me about it then I say well we. Used to sell by, the sections. And. Then. By the, acreage. By the front foot on the lake frontage by the front foot on the highway, today. We, sell by the square foot and, that's preferable. That's. Amazing, in it yeah, and I'm sure that the, lake property is. Sort. Of, excuse. The average, if. We're. Doing the same, we're, doing in California. We're. Tearing down and. Using. The what. Has been a very nice, location, for. A. Multi-million. Dollar properties. And, or commercial, develop, how do you feel about that. It's. Good for the area. And. Well and we've gone through the evolution, of where, we're now coming back and, having. Seen the tourists, the camus, children. Retiring. And coming back or, their. Children, grandchildren and. Great-grandchildren. Coming. Back to enjoy the area and, a family. Type situation. Where we've, gone through the buses and the blue hairs, and. Had. The name. Entertainers. Mm-hmm, where we're now having more, and more families, that are wanting to come and visit the. Big Cedars, and and. Play. Golf and, and, enjoy. Themselves as, a family, unit which, is what. To. That end, do, you think that Johnny Morris has had an impact on that Tramp that transition. Sort. Of like has. Walmart. Headed transition, upon the. Local grocery store sure, local. Grocery, store no longer is this Walmart. As of, last, Thursday had, a new awakening with. The new. Supermarket. In. The Seattle. Where, all you do is walk in pick, up all what you wanted and walk out mm-hmm. Johnny. Morris took what, had been the Jim. Owen day. Of coming, and tenting, and floating, and has, made it we. Will probably be, with the Gulf addition, I would say next year we will be the pepper. Mm-hmm, and. How is that. The. Golf. Impact. And is that a good thing and be these good, in. My estimate, yes yeah because it is providing, employment. For. Local, people. And, we're. Having to have more. And more coming in under, the EAH to visa, area to. Be able to have employment, because. We, do not have enough employees, to. Take care of what's there you, take for example. You. Know I go around looking, at other properties. Atlantis. Is. To, me the most outstanding, resort. Actually, in the world five. Thousand. Rooms. 6,500. Employees, and they, make you feel like. Minute. You walk in there you are their best friend, they, are excited. To see you and to have you there. Yeah. Big impact. Well. That's. Interesting you talked about people. Who had grown, up coming, here and then, they come back have. You witnessed people, who came here, when, they were children as, tourists. And have come back to live here or retire well, and then they. Would come back retired. And left. And they, have their children and. Grandchildren, I'm, coming, back and, living in their property, our, city, administrator.
Here In Kimberling, City for example his. Father-in-law. Retired. Here, we, sold him the property, when he retired, here, 40. Years ago mmm. That's. Pretty good for the real estate business it. It's. Good for all business honey relay lifts, all about two things yep. Let's. See you want. To get back to to your great grandfather Levi Levi. Morel. You said was born in 1837. In Maine is that correct Portland, Maine Portland Maine what. Can you tell us about his life before. He settled into the Ozarks you know the journey from. The. Story. Through the family, is that he, was a printer by trade okay. And he. Contended, that, when. A, horse really said go west young man go west that. He was telling him the story now. Again, that. That's. What, has been said we've been in the family sure I cannot, collaborate, with myself right but. That. Is an example he, printed newspapers. Around particularly. In the Midwest and. Ended, up coming here in. 1993. When, he was ill and. He. Was 56. And just. Married, my, great. Grandmother, who was 18. Right. You. Know it's. Quite different yeah they came to the Ozarks, to live that. Was hide today after his 89th, birthday and. Her, name was Jeannie Dickerson, correct right. And. Do. You know how they met no. Idea. Yeah it's kind of interesting in that because that he, was publishing the paper in the Lamar and. She. Was from Omar but, I do not know how they may I've read that his illness was asthma. But I'm not sure if that's correct, is that correct is what that's what my grandfather said, and, what. Do you do he, settled, on. 160. Acres for homesteaded. 160. Acres that had, probably. As far as if you were looking for anything else outside, of the cave being close by. Yeah. So. Rough you could not farm it mm-hmm but, it had the only pine forests north. Of the White River at that time, he. Made a pillow out of pine needles and. That's what he's like John and, was. That beneficial, for his health as apparently, uh-huh, uh-huh. Going back to one his, Navy, Maine heritage, in the pines but. To the. Pine, needles, and. We. Have today. Which. I've kept protected, behind the old post office. 57. Varieties of. Wild. Flowers. Times. And. Wood. That. Exists. Today. In. That location, and. It's. Only it's. Kept that way because. I want to see. In. Protective, or. Future. Generation. Is that the little post office up here to go in close yeah yeah, right. I've. Read that. Also. That and you mentioned. Truman. Powell. Was. Was a friend and colleague of, Levi. Morel. Dick do you know how they met. All. I know is that. Truman. Had purchased the, paper from. Believe I. Wouldn't. Leave I came here and they truly followed, him. Two. Or three years later if I recall okay. Which paper was that that the the. Paper that Levi, was publishing. In. Lamar okay and, then Truman, came here. Establish. Okay. Okay. Okay. So they had some joint enterprise it was very close. Personal form ends the, families, have been friend, for. Well. My entire lifetime. So. That was the Stone County Oracle, newspaper, that they were correct, that here right he established, that he established I'm, not, sure whether it was the Oracle, or, this don't care, okay. I, believe, it was, Truman, Powell also who. Developed, fairy cave as he, called and then of course changed, in 1969. To talking, rocks cavern, when Silver Dollar City purchased. It is that correct, was, was, Levi involved. In the development of the cave at all do you know no.
Doctor, Your knowledge. And. That. Always brings up and this is not. Directly, related but I always have to ask this question because, it's such, a legend, one of the most intriguing stories. Out of the area is the legend of the Yoakum Silver Dollars and the, Yoakum silver mine I was just wondering do you think there's much, truth to the existence, of the coins and the mind is that just legend as a myth as I have, never seen one mm-hmm, yeah, did. You ever hear about that from your books, I've heard about it but I've never seen right. Has. Truly. Tree, ever seen, one right right. It. Is quite a legend, and it it's. It goes far beyond this area continuing, the legends yeah. Well. The the the, knotch post office. Actually. Started in in the front part of Levi, and genies house correct. That, must have been a little bit inconvenient, at times imagining. That it was. Course. We're. In the process of. Restoring. The, old post office. I. Have, all of the artifacts, those. Were going to be my questions, yeah or. Replacing. Those great. I was gonna ask you if you had any of the original artifacts. Can. You can you describe any of them where's that a secret, early there's no secret, it's. Just as, described. In the book haha rough table, a box. On. Top of it and. That. It. Was simple, very, small building that they built next I suppose they built it next to the house, yeah. And, of. Course it is on the National. Register of Historic Places right. Restored. In. Fact the I, have not met him because I, had. I. Was. Involved, with a. Little. Problem, in that, I. Thought. That I had a. Problem. At the base of my spine and. It. Ended, up to have been a spur, at, the base of my skull, pressing. On my spine oh my, and so. When, November I. For. Surgery. Work. Well and, the. Day after the surgery for, the spine of, which, I came out of a paraplegic. My. Heart gave. A little problem, and I had to have a pacemaker. Installed. So. I've. Been in a. Hospital. Or, a the. Cell to be up until. First. This month when I finally said I'm, going home regardless. You. Can stand in front of Harrods and your father squared. Watch the world go by or. Even sit here and, look out and enjoy Table Rock and. So. That's. That's. What's happened but that sort of put you out of commission with, it with the project I suppose being right, involved. Not easily, get around right, but. I'm. Rather persistent. Well, I that. Project, started back in 2018. Right, with the society, the ozark Ian Hill proctors are they still the ones involved, with the restoration, they are, and I'm on their board and. We. Are working diligently. On. The, number of projects, brought, only historical. But, environmental. And. To. Keep. The ozarks. It. Has. Any. Any projected, date for. The for the completion, of the, restoration. Of the post-ops no we just started roof. Comes first, okay yeah. So that's, a slow tedious process I have time to do it I know I know that the the. Shingles, that we're replacing, it, with our. Shingles, that were. Made part, of. At. Silver, Dollar City. With. The hand you. Fabulous. So, the. Restoration. Will be complete. That's fabulous. And I assume, you're trying to go back as much as possible with the original materials, that you can write that's fabulous.