Bob Mitchell: Shell Knob area nostalgia

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

While traveling through the Shell Knob portion of Table Rock Lake, many of the places provided fond memories of early individuals who were involved with attracting folks to this area and providing them unmatched hospitality.

As in any remembrance such as this, I’ll probably overlook an important individual or two. Most of those who will be mentioned were involved in the fishing competitions between Cassville and Shell Knob. That’s right. The two communities were that close in the early days of Table Rock. So, here goes.

Early resorts

The first real attractions to Table Rock Lake in the era of 1958 involved resorts — most of which were built and operated by people who had never been in this business before.

Early-day operators who I came to know quite well included Cecil Davis, Bert Cook, Charley Myers, Gene Cooper, Curley Powers, Bill Norton, Howard McIlrath, Ralph Lambert, and naturally, Cassville’s Glen Hall, who developed Campbell Point Dock and the motel by the same name, and Bill Brame of JuMarDe.

Davis was the earliest, building Rod ‘n Reel. Bert Cook had Bass Haven with the railroad down a steep bluff, Cooper had Hillcrest Cottages, Powers had Navajo Hills, Norton had Quiet Waters, McIlrath had Hidden Cove, Mel Southard had Pla-Port, and Lambert had King’s Harbor.

McIlrath later sold his motel and went into the insurance business. He also led an area effort against excessive use fees on Corps of Engineers projects via a group going to Washington, D.C., to testify before a congressional committee. The effort was good for a couple of years before the Corps was right back after the charges and was successful.

At this point, it must be emphasized that these men’s wives were also deeply involved in the businesses and operation of the resorts and participated fully in the promotion of the area.

Involvement

Not only was there the annual fishing competition between the two communities, which ended with Cassville winning only once, but the people took pride in putting together the first sports show presentation in Kansas City and St. Louis from this area. It went under the sponsorship heading of Table Rock Lake-Roaring River State Park Playground Association.

To show you how green this group was, the crew who took the booth, designed by the late Kenneth Corn of Cassville, to Kansas City and arrived on a rainy day at Municipal Auditorium. Finding a ramp up the back side, we drove to the floor level. There, we discovered some piano dollies and loaded our gear upon a couple and pushed them to our designated spot on the exhibition floor.

When we discovered there was no electricity in the outlets at our site, Cecil went to the office to see what was wrong. He was promptly informed we had broken each and every rule of setting up an exhibit. What we had done was supposed to have been accomplished by various union workers. We apologized, tipped them and went on about our work.

Revenge

When Cassville built their golf coarse, Shell Knob had to have one, so the late J.B. Gum, Bill Shaffer, Jim Norman and other developers of the Turkey Mountain properties built the Cedar Creek Golf Course. That’s when Cassville excelled, winning most golf competitions between the two communities. The Cassville wins came when they could get their hands on the scorecards from Cedar Creek’s golf pro Skeeter Lewis.

Big draw

Turkey Mountain efforts put the first real pull to the central portion of Table Rock Lake for either vacation or full-time residents. Their advertisement efforts went into metropolitan areas throughout the Midwest and were quite successful.

Turkey Mountain was the first in this area to post rewards for folks to come and hear a pitch and view the property. Others adjacent quickly capitalized on the effort by attempting to outdo the initiators of the advertisements.

The developers even stayed in touch with their customers through the Turkey Mountain Gobbler, a publication, which the Cassville Democrat published for their editor, the late James Coogan, who resided on Green Shores.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.