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Munger Moss celebrates 75 years

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The Route 66 Festival will be a time of big anniversaries for the Munger Moss Motel.

It’s the 75th anniversary of the motel and Ramona Lehman’s 50th year as the motel’s owner.

Lehman said the 50th anniversary of she and her late husband Bob buying the motel was June 1.

“I say I was destined to be here,” she said. “Bob and I are from northeast Iowa. We both grew up on a farm.”

They married in 1957 and went on their honeymoon in St. Louis.

“We stayed in the King Brothers Motel on Route 66, my first encounter with Route 66,” she said.

The couple had four children. Bob farmed with his father and Ramona was an LPN, working in a doctor’s office. She said they decided to look into a lifestyle change after a severe Iowa winter storm in January 1971.

“When it stopped snowing and Bob got home the next day, his first words were ‘we’re moving south,’” she said. “We talked about it.”

She said they traveled to Springfield to visit a realtor and she remembers coming through Lebanon. They decided against doing business with that realtor, but on the way home they stopped in Lebanon and met Tim Compton, a local realtor. 

“We were gassing up and he told us about this place that was for sale,” she said. “He brought us over here, showed us around.”

She said they talked it over, then made an offer and Compton accepted.

“The first of June, 1971, we were in Lebanon, Mo. signing papers,” she said. “Fifty years ago, Bob and I came here and signed a contract for this place, that’s a long time ago,” she said.

She said she has seen interest in Route 66 increase greatly over the years with work of the Route 66 Society.

“For many years, Route 66 didn’t mean anything to a lot of people but then all of a sudden, Lebanon has taken to Route 66 and I’m very proud of it,” she said. “Our goal is to preserve it and keep it.”

She said COVID-19 has cut back on travel worldwide, but she is looking forward to restrictions being lifted so people can resume visiting the Mother Road.

“There’s a lot of USA people too driving the roads,” she said. “They’ve been penned up with this COVID for so long, they’re ready to get out and go.”

Now, she said Route 66 is recognized as a historic highway in every state.

She said they get visitors from all over the world.

“I remember I had a woman register, she wrote she was from Moscow, Russia,” she said. 

Lehman said she has enjoyed life in Lebanon, operating the motel.

“I honestly feel very blessed, I loved what I did, I liked meeting people, talking to people, I learned from a lot of people,” she said. “I learned there were a lot of countries I didn’t know. You treat them decent, they are good people, they enjoy what they’re doing. Some of them save for   years to come to America. They love America.”  

The motel’s name, Munger Moss, referred to a sandwich shop with that name in Devil’s Elbow built in 1936 by Nellie Munger and her husband, Emmitt Moss.  The couple relocated to Lebanon after U.S. 66 bypassed Devil’s Elbow. They opened the Munger Moss Motel in 1946.

The motel’s history will be celebrated at this year’s Route 66 Festival. From 5 to 7 p.m. on June 19, the Blue Collar Kings will perform on the Munger Moss Motel patio as the Lebanon Route 66 Festival celebrates the 75th anniversary of the motel from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 19.  

Other events will include a cruise-in, a hog roast, funnel cakes by the Laclede County Shrine Club and an inflatable slide and bounce house.

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