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Totem Pole Trading Post marks 80th year August 3, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, History.
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The Totem Pole Trading Post in Rolla, Mo., is marking its 80th year on Route 66, although the current longtime owner may not hold it for much longer, reported the Rolla Daily News.

A bit of history from the newspaper:

“We are the last original mom and pop store left on this historic road,” said owner Tim Jones who literally grew up in the family store.

Jones’s father, Ralph, bought the business in 1933. It contained a gas station and some tourist cabins. It was located at that time nine miles west on Arlington Hill. Its namesake came from a homemade totem pole which stood atop the main building. When  Interstate 44 came to town in the late 1960s, the plan had the highway running right through the Totem Pole.

“It was either quit or start all over again. There were 28 other mom and pop stores on that stretch of the highway at that time. We were the only one to relocate and start all over again,” Jones related with much pride.

The Totem Pole moved again, to Martin Springs Drive (aka Route 66), in 1977 with the arrival of Interstate 44.

Jones says he’s seen his share of celebrities stop into the store over the years, including singer Pearl Bailey, country-music star Buck Owens, Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, and the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

The Totem Pole spent many years as a Shell gas station, but it dropped the brand several years ago because of credit-card fees got too rich for Jones. He also says business has fallen, so he put the Totem Pole up for sale this spring. Jones’ two sons don’t have any interest in the family business, and he wants to retire soon.

The Totem Pole sold before — in 2007, the owner of a local car-restoration shop announced he’d bought it, but the deal fell through at the last minute.

For years, we’d always appreciated Totem Pole Trading Post for its clean bathrooms, sugar-cured bacon sold in burlap sacks, a good choice of snacks and soda (including Route 66 Root Beer), lots of Route 66 and Ozarks souvenirs, and plenty of antiques, too. The Totem Pole even sold genuine corn whiskey in Mason jars — years before the stuff got trendy again.

(Image of the Totem Pole Trading Post sign by velo_city, via Flickr)

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