Hank Billings’ column today in the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, often filled with interesting historical tidbits, struck me as a bit of unseemly whining.
He makes the dubious claim that “Does Joplin have a better press agent than Springfield or what?” by citing just two examples:
- A “Beverly Hillbillies” television episode in which Granny and Jed crosses a busy New York City street. Jed says: “Doggies, this is as big as downtown Springfield!” Granny adds: “Or even Joplin.”
- That Bobby Troup’s classic song “Route 66” quotes “Joplin, Missouri” instead of “Springfield, Missouri” as one of the listed cities. “He could have written — he SHOULD have written — ‘Springfield, Missouri,'” Billings wrote. “The two cities have the same number of syllables in their name. More significantly, Springfield is the birthplace of the 66 title that inspired Troup’s song.”
On point No. 1, Billings notes that Springfield’s population has always been bigger than Joplin’s, which is true. However, Billings ignores the fact that Granny always was a bit addled, so it’s hard to take her pronouncements seriously.
As for Troup, I always figured that he chose “Joplin” over “Springfield” for his song simply because it sounds better. That brings us back to the “Beverly Hillbillies.” The scriptwriters chose Joplin for Granny’s punchline because it’s punchier.
After Billings gets that off his chest, he does a good job reviewing each town’s history. But considering that Springfield is one of the fastest-growing and dynamic towns in Missouri, you’d think he’d come up with a better strawman to knock down.