We began our next morning by bidding good-bye to the city of St. Louis. Some of the boys looked ragged and took advantage of the long bus ride to sleep on the bus. Our bus ride was an ear-popping experience as we ascended the Ozark mountains. As you may know, the Ozarks were not formed by continental collision or volcanic activity, but by the erosion and land movement of the glaciers. We stopped at a rest stop and again the boys played some Frisbee outside. Branson and the Ozarks gained popularity first in 1907 when Harold Bell Wright’s novel, ‘Shepherd of the Hills’, first started attracting visitors to this area. Then when the Ozark Beach Dam and Table Rock Dam created Lake Taneycomo with plenty of fishing and boating opportunities. Then entertainment opportunities such as the outdoor pageant based on ‘Shepherd’, Silver Dollar City and then the Baldknobber’s jamboree in 1959 drew larger crowds to the area. Then many big name stars such as Roy Clark, Box Car Willie, Lawrence Welk and Andy Williams built large theaters and created the family centric atmosphere and music activities for which it has become famous. Now it has more than 50,000 hotel rooms and hundreds of entertainment options along the strip, albeit more wholesome than Las Vegas.
We arrived in Branson and ate at the motel restaurant, Whippersnappers and then headed for the ‘ducks’. We all received noisemakers called quackers and were encouraged to blow them whenever we saw another duck or whenever the mood hit us. We saw both of the dams which made Branson so famous, and got a ride on Lake Taneycomo. Each of the boys who wanted to, got to drive the duck and our driver Bubba entertained us with tall tales, Branson trivia and the standard stock of corny jokes. After that we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and change for the Baldknobber’s jamboree.
After dinner we rehearsed at the venue which seats almost 1100 persons. Their performance was for the pre-show prior to the main show. The boys hobnobbed with the performers backstage and got to see how a major production is put together with a professional stage hand, instrumentalists and comedians. Our show was well received with whoops and hollers and the stage manager told us we were head and shoulders above any that he had seen. Afterward, we sat through an extravaganza of country and gospel music as well as goofy comedy sketches reminiscent of Hee Haw and the Grand Ole Opry. The boys actually seemed to enjoy the kitschy humor and the live music. After the show, we headed for the hotel and enjoyed what was billed as an ice cream social in the lobby. Well it was one guy with a scoop and two barrels of ice cream and a bottle of root beer, but the boys enjoyed it nonetheless.