Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Poplar Bluff

Welcome to Poplar Bluff, the Gateway to the Ozarks! What, you've never heard of Poplar Bluff, Missouri? Don't worry, I hadn't either until I had gone there. :-)

Poplar Bluff has a fairly unremarkable history. It was settled sometime in the 19th century, and chosen as the county seat in 1849, but did not become an incorporated city until 1870. A tornado devastated the town in 1927, but most of the locals held to their roots, and rebuilt their town. Today there are about 17000 people who call Poplar Bluff home.

Here's a fun fact: Scott Innes was from Poplar Bluff. Who is he? None other than the voice of Scooby-Doo!

Speaking of fun, just because a town is small, or relatively unknown, that doesn't mean you can't have fun there! Just keep your eye wide and your mind open to the possibilities! Let me show you some of the fun things I saw while I was there.

Sometimes getting there is half the fun, or at least part of the fun.  You can see all sorts of weird stuff on the road, like this rock shaped like an alligator.

Small towns often survive and thrive due to their connections with mass transport and transit systems.  Poplar Bluff is no exception, being located on the Black River, a tributary for the mighty Mississippi River, and with a system of railroad tracks.  Below are the steps which go down to a train depot.  These steps served as the gateway to the town, so much so that the entire town chipped in $50,000 for their construction back in 1910.  They knew that welcoming visitors would be a boon to commerce and community.

Below you can see the Frisco train depot, which was rebuilt in 1928 after the tornado had destroyed the previous one.  It has now been turned into a train museum.

Here you can see a caboose.  A caboose used to be required on all trains for safety.  A small crew would keep watch on the train to identify problems with shifting loads or malfunctioning brakes, thereby freeing the train engineer in the front to keep his eyes on the engine and the tracks ahead.  For longer journeys, the caboose would also serve as a mobile home, with some rudimentary cooking and sleeping quarters.  With improvements in train car design, and electronic monitoring systems, the caboose has become obsolete.  :-(  It's still cute though.  :-)

Poplar Bluff has its own water park!  It's not very big.  You can tell when Subway has top billing on the sign, it's not going to be big.  Even so, it offers wet fun and refreshment on a hot summer day!  :-)

Like any town with historic roots, there were some kind of quirky, kind of cool old houses, like this one.

Sometimes in a small town, buildings serve a double purpose.  Like here, you can see that the Plaza Motel is also a church!  :-)  (OK, no, actually that's not the case.  The motel is next to the church, hidden by trees in the photo, but isn't their sign a little closer than it should be to the church?)

Poplar Bluff has a College of Design.  Judging by the old-timey black-and-white profiles above the door, they may specialize in historic design.  ;-)

With rivers surrounding the town, arid lands were fully planted to take advantage of the rich soil.  There is something mesmerizing about rows of crops...

One of the great things about small towns is that they often have a lot of non-chain restaurants, like Cuzin's Hill Billy Kitchen here.  Someone may want to tell them that the dumpster near the front door is not inviting to guests, but maybe that's part of the Hill Billy charm.  ;-)

The local mascot is a mule.  You might think that with it being the "Home of the Mules" that there are a bunch of stubborn people around here, but actually they are quite nice.

This little place downtown calls itself "The Hot Spot."  It sure seems popular.  Look at all of those cars parking in front of it!  ;-)

For a lot of small small towns, the local theater was the hub for entertainment, back in the day before 500 channels on TV and the Internet.  Rodger's theater is still in operation today, keeping up that tradition.

This car belongs to the local super hero, Sir Clucks A-Lot.  Bad guys really ruffle his feathers.  And, trust me, you do NOT want to ruffle his feathers!  :-)

Like so many times in life, I am at a crossroad, the junction of Y and N, Yes and No.  I don't know about you, but I am choosing Yes; Yes to my next adventure.  See you then!